Driveways and patios legal issues

Sorting grey patio bricks for a drivewayThere is a range of legislation which may apply to your paving business, particularly in the areas of health and safety and (if applicable) employment law. Some of the work that your business carries out may also be subject to building control legislation, particularly if you undertake general building work.

The following is an outline of some of the areas which may well be relevant to you.

What licences do driveway and patio businesses need?

There are no specific licences that you will need to work as a paver, so if your business activities are going to fall within the usual range of services offered by this type of business you may not need to do anything further.

Building waste

If you are going to transport building waste (which is classified as a controlled waste and includes material such as old concrete, rubble and asphalt planings), you will need a certificate of registration as an upper tier waste carrier (or the equivalent in Scotland). This is issued by the Environment Agency in England, Natural Resources Wales, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, or the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). It currently costs about £155 (a bit more in Scotland, a little less in Northern Ireland) for the initial registration fee and a further renewal fee of about £105 every three years. Note that a single licence is issued to your business covering all of your waste transporting vehicles.

Other licences

You should also be aware of the following:

  • if credit finance is offered to private customers you will normally need consumer credit authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) (interest free credit agreements can be exempt from the authorisation requirement under certain circumstances)
  • skips placed on a public highway require a Skip Permit from the local authority. Certain conditions may be attached to the licence. Normally the skip hire company will arrange the necessary licences, but it is worth making certain of this
  • if you offer an insurance backed warranty - even if you make no extra charge for this - then you may be covered by general insurance legislation administered by the FCA. Businesses whose activities are covered by the legislation need to be either directly authorised by the FCA or an 'appointed representative' of a principal FCA authorised insurer
  • if your business operates goods vehicles with a gross plated weight of more than 3.5 tonnes (or unladen weight more than 1,525 kg for unplated vehicles) then it will need a goods vehicle operator licence in England, Scotland and Wales. In Northern Ireland you may need a goods vehicle operator's licence from the Transport Regulation Unit (TRU) of the Department for Infrastructure (DfI). More information about goods vehicle operator licensing is available from the Gov.uk website - and from the DfI in Northern Ireland

Voluntary certification

Many would-be customers and particularly main contractors will want to satisfy themselves that your business does good quality work using suitable materials. One way of demonstrating your commitment to quality is to gain certification for your workmanship. Various different certification schemes exist, including the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS), British Standards Institution (BSI) 'Kitemark' licences and the ISO quality standard. Relevant British Standards include BS 7533, which covers the laying specification for block paving. Some main contractors may also stipulate that paving sub-contractors belong to Interlay, the Association of Paving Contractors. Interlay offers approved member contractors its Seal of Approval certification and requires them to stick to its code of practice.

Although it's not mandatory for operators of plant machinery to hold a skills registration card, it's a good way of showing that your business complies with the requirement under the Health and Safety at Work Act for plant operators to be suitably trained. More and more contractors, clients and sites only permit plant operatives who hold a valid skills registration card or 'ticket'. The skills development body CITB offers one of the best known card schemes, the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS). You can find out more about the CPCS on the CITB website.

Paving businesses that want to demonstrate to would-be customers that they are honest, professional and take fair trading and quality seriously can apply to join a certification scheme such as TrustMark or Buy with Confidence - Trading Standards Approved.

Building Regulations

This is a general term for different pieces of legislation in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Certain aspects of your work may be covered by Building Regulations - for example where the work affects ground levels and accessibility around a house, or where impermeable surfacing is laid in a front garden. Details of the Building Regulations are available on the Planning Portal website and on the Building Control Northern Ireland websites.

The environment

Environmental protection legislation applies to the transport and disposal of building, demolition and excavation waste. Environmental legislation also covers a range of other matters, including potential pollutants and nuisances like noise and dust. More information and guidance on environmental protection legislation is available on the Gov.uk website.

Health & safety, fire

The Construction (Design and Management) Regulations specifically cover health and safety issues within the construction industry. Some key areas where health and safety regulations affect your business, particularly if you employ staff, include:

  • lifting heavy items
  • use of electrical equipment (power tools and so on)
  • use of drilling and cutting equipment - and tools which vibrate
  • access to first aid equipment
  • adequate provision and use of protective clothing and equipment
  • reporting of any accidents and injuries at work

The Health and Safety at Work Act and regulations made under it require operators of machinery like construction plant to be properly trained and qualified. Skills registration card schemes like the Construction Plant Competence Scheme (CPCS) run by CITB enable employers to show that their plant operators are properly qualified. You can find out more about the CPCS on the CITB website.

You must comply with workplace health and safety and fire safety legislation.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important areas of legislation include:

Recruitment and employment contracts

Pay and pensions

Working time: hours, leave, flexible working

Employment policies

Sickness and sick pay

Maternity, paternity and adoption

Discrimination

Managing home workers, remote workers, lone workers

Discipline and grievance

Dismissals and redundancies

Employment tribunals

Consumer credit

If you offer consumer credit to your customers you must normally obtain consumer credit authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and comply with consumer credit legislation (interest free credit agreements can be exempt from the authorisation requirement under certain circumstances). You can find out more on the FCA website.

Consumer protection

Most people have heard stories about 'pushy salespeople' and there is consumer protection legislation to protect customers from unscrupulous sales tactics. Legislation covers general fair trading and specific areas - such as 'cooling-off periods' to allow customers time to think about whether they really want the items that they have agreed to buy on their doorstep or over the phone, accurate pricing and bargain offers being genuine, contracts being fair, goods and services being of adequate quality and so on. Make sure that your own products, sales techniques and terms of trade meet all the necessary legal criteria - this should go without saying in a sound business!

You can get more information about consumer protection and fair trading legislation on the Gov.uk and Trading Standards Business Companion websites. Your local Trading Standards Department should be able to advise you if you have any specific queries about how the rules affect your business.

Vehicles, towing and drivers' hours

Be aware that if you use a trailer in your business - perhaps to carry an item of plant like a mini-digger - and you tow it behind something like a pick-up or 4x4 then there's a good chance that the combined weight of the 'vehicle train' will be over 3.5 tonnes, meaning you'll need to fit a tachograph and observe the drivers' hours rules. There's more about this on the Gov.uk website.

Other matters

If you think that your business is likely to do work on public highways, or on listed buildings and those located in conservation areas, then it would be useful to become familiar with relevant legislation including local planning regulations and any local bye-laws. Your local authority planning department and highways department should be able to advise you on these matters.

Sources of further Information

Most trade associations can advise their members about regulatory issues that affect them. Interlay - the Association of Paving Contractors, for example, keeps its members up to date with relevant changes in legislation.

The 'employing people' section of the Gov.uk website includes information and guidance on all aspects of employment legislation. Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Business Info website.

Insurance for a driveway and patio business

When you start up in business you will need insurance cover. Contact an insurer and explain how your business will operate. They will be able to recommend what cover you should have, which might include:

  • employer's liability
  • public liability
  • professional and contract indemnity
  • product liability
  • legal expenses cover
  • tools, plant, equipment and materials on site
  • motor insurance (for business vehicles), possibly with cover for goods and equipment carried in your vehicles
  • personal cover - accident and injury, loss of earnings and so on
  • business interruption
  • premises, premises contents (if you have any premises)

When taking out personal and employer's liability cover it is particularly important to give precise details of the types of activity that you and any staff will be engaging in. Be prepared to answer questions about the type of materials and equipment you will be using, your health and safety policy and so on.

Some trade associations offer their members competitively priced business insurance that's tailored to meet the needs of their particular industry. For example, the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI) offers specialist business insurance services to members through BALI Insure - find out more on their website.

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