Office based legal issues

Colourful sunny office in a high rise building with a view of the cityThe specific rules and regulations that apply to your business will depend on the type of business it is and the activities which you engage in. The following is an outline of areas where general legislation is likely to affect your businesses. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, and it's wise to seek specialist advice on legislation that applies to your specific type of business. Trade associations and professional bodies are often a good source of information on legal and regulatory matters.

What licences does an office based business need?

The licensing and registration requirements - if any - that affect your business will depend on the nature of the business and the activities it undertakes. For example, authorisation is required to carry out certain business activities involving consumer credit. And certain types of business need to register for anti-money laundering purposes with their regulating authority (which varies according to industry sector).

In many cases a professional firm (or at least the individuals working within it) will need to obtain authorisation from a professional or regulatory body.

Trade associations and professional bodies are a good starting place for finding out more information about licensing requirements. The Trade Association Forum website contains a directory of trade and professional associations.

Data protection

Businesses that keep computerised records which could enable individuals - either staff or customers - to be identified may need to register as data users with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). There is a small fee for registering. From May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation has introduced additional protection for personal data. You can find out more on the ICO website.

Selling general insurance

Anyone who sells, advises on, arranges or assists in selling general insurance may need to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) even if insurance is only a small part of their business. If this applies to your business you can either become directly authorised by the FCA or act as an 'appointed representative' of an authorised principal. Contact the FCA for further information.

Employment matters

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important pieces of legislation which you must be aware of include:

  • The National Minimum Wage Act
  • The Working Time Regulations
  • The Employment Rights Act

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.

Money laundering

If appropriate, you should familiarise yourself with the requirements of the Money Laundering Regulations. Among other requirements they specify the customer identification procedures to follow, the records that must be kept of those procedures and the internal reporting procedures that must be set up to make sure that your business is not used for money laundering purposes. You will also have to train your employees in those procedures, in recognising money laundering transactions and in the law relating to money laundering.

Health & safety, fire

You must also make sure that you 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

Staff facilities

Workplace health and safety regulations require you to provide a certain level of staff welfare facilities at your office premises. Modern buildings should comply with these regulations anyway, but if you're converting an old building or constructing a new one from scratch then you will need to be familiar with the requirements. These cover matters such as providing:

  • enough toilets and wash stations for the number of staff you have
  • drinking water supplies
  • storage facilities
  • eating and rest facilities

More information is available from the HSE.

Website information

You must include certain information on your company website and on any business emails that you send. The website must clearly display the company registration number, place of registration and registered office address. This information should also appear on any company order forms and in emails.

Insurance for an office based business

When you start up in business you will need insurance cover. Contact an insurer and explain exactly how your business will operate. They will then be able to recommend what cover you should have. This will obviously be affected by the nature of your business, but might include:

  • employer's liability
  • public and product liability
  • professional indemnity
  • key-person cover
  • loss of earnings
  • premises, premises contents
  • business interruption
  • motor insurance

As with many other items of business expenditure, you can often save money by shopping around. Although many insurers can offer a complete package of business insurances, often at a competitive price, remember that you don't have to take out all of your insurance policies with the same insurer. Trade bodies and professional associations often offer specially tailored business insurance policies to their members at discounted rates.

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