The legal requirements for starting a business can seem intimidating but obviously these are things you cannot afford to ignore. As well as damage to the business reputation, there are potentially fines if you fail to comply with legislation, even if unintentionally. Ignorance is no excuse in law. A great deal of the regulations involved will depend on the nature of your business and some sectors are more regulated than others.
One important thing to remember is that as well as having to comply with the legislation and regulations, these are also in place to protect your business from illegal acts by employees, competitors, customers (think about terms and conditions including payments) and suppliers.
Depending on the nature of your business, you may need a licence from your local authority. Check their websites for full details in your area, but these will include: taxis, animal businesses, restaurants/food businesses, tattooists, alcohol sales, hairdressers, street traders, environmental licences inc. waste disposal etc.
Childminding and day care facilities will need to register with OFSTED (in England) and this can take several months.
It's always a good idea to find out which licences are legal requirements for starting a business in your chosen sector.
If you are going to employ staff you will need to ensure you have covered all employment law issues from terms and conditions to staff handbooks and written contracts, as well as ensuring the person is entitled to work in the UK. Many businesses employ the services of a HR Consultant to give peace of mind, as employment law is constantly changing and you will need to keep ahead of the game. Have a look at the ACAS website for further information and find out more about what options you have when taking on staff here.
Gain an understanding of tax law. VAT registration is not optional once you have reached the revenue threshold, this changes year-on-year so ensure you are up to date. If you are a Limited Company then corporation tax rates need to be checked. If you employ staff, the new PAYE reporting regulations will apply to you. To gain further information on the legal requirements for starting a business in terms of your taxes, have a look at the Gov.uk website in relation to HMRC.
Some insurances for your business are not compulsory but advisable, others are compulsory such as Employers Liability Insurance. Always seek advice to ensure you have the appropriate insurance for your business. There are many specialist insurance brokers you can talk to, speak to trade associations who often have special member deals.
If you play music that can be heard by members of the public, you may need a licence from the Performing Rights Society, to find out more information look at www.prsformusic.com.
Whilst you may have Intellectual Property for you business, you do need to ensure you are not breaching that of any other business by trade mark, design, copyright infringement (think about your business name), even down to the images you may use on social media. A business was recently fined £7,500 for putting an image on her social media that she did not have permission to use. Check out www.ipo.gov.uk for further information and take a look at our article for protecting your business.
Health and Safety
Health and Safety for your business is a must, visit www.hse.gov.uk - this site has a wealth of advice and information on it, including how to carry out risk assessments. There is a minimum standard for health and safety no matter what the nature of your business is. If you have five or more employees it is a legal obligation to have a written risk assessment. Ensure you have a policy in place that considers the health, safety and welfare of staff, customers and suppliers, ensure you have an accident book available and if appropriate a first aid kit. Check out our tips for workplace health and safety.
Environmental issues must also be considered and there are no ceilings to potential fines. If you use a contractor to remove your waste, it is your responsibility to ensure they are legally permitted to do so. Disposal of electrical goods and equipment must be done so under the WIEEE regulations. Have a look at our tips for protecting your business against pollution.
The Data Protection Act gives clear guidance on how customer and employee information should be used, stored and retrieved. Their website gives a lot of guidance and advice which we strongly suggest you look at to ensure you understand the regulations. There is also a self assessment tool so you can see if you need to register with them.
Consider your obligations from the outset, speak to an Enterprise Agency such as BSYNY for initial support and advice on your particular venture and this could avoid problems further down the line. You should get all of the important advice and support now, rather than when things go wrong and your reputation is damaged, or even worse you are in breach of legislation.