A WARNING to hold back on reforms intended to help working mums has been welcomed by the small business watchdog.

The Federation of Small Businesses fears Government plans to revamp maternity and parental leave could put firms under more pressure.

Now the organisation has welcomed advice offered to the Government by former Social Security Secretary Harriet Harman to slow the process down.

The FSB, which represents more than 150,000 small businesses, said Ms Harman's comments were realistic.

"Small employers have been overwhelmed by the amount of legislation with which they have had to cope over recent months," said Steve Collie, chairman of the West Midlands policy committee of the FSB.

"Maternity leave has already been increased from 14 to 18 weeks, together with the right to 13 weeks parental leave.

"This means that, for a small business employing up to four workers, having one person absent is equal to 25 per cent of the workforce missing."

He said the cost of training replacement staff was depleting a million small firms' resources.

"We welcome Ms Harman's comments which are an injection of realism into the debate on increasing these rights and demonstrate an understanding of the problems facing small businesses."