NEW laws on how disabled people are treated at work and when they apply for a job come into force this month and for the first time 1.1million small businesses will be affected.

One in five people of working age is disabled -- from having arthritis or diabetes to being hearing or visually impaired. In fact many of you who run a small business will already be employing a disabled person, possibly without knowing it, as many disabilities are not obvious. Changes to comply with the new law are just part of getting the best out of people.

My message to employers is don't panic. The new laws mean small businesses need to make 'reasonable' changes to the way they employ people to ensure that the many disabled people who want to work can do so.

Most adjustments are simple and low-cost or no-cost, and job centre access to work schemes may be able to help financially with any changes that need to be made.

For more information and to obtain a helpful free guide -- 'Top Tips for Small Businesses' -- visit the DRC website at or phone the DRC helpline on 08457 622633.

STEPHEN ALAMBRITIS, Federation of Small Businesses and Disability Rights Commission.