Plasterer legal issues

Plasterer working in living room next to the windowsThere is a range of legislation which may apply to your plastering business, particularly in the areas of health and safety and employment law. Some of the work that your business carries out may also be subject to building control legislation.

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

What licences does a plasterer need?

There are no specific licences that you will need to work as a plasterer, 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), you will need a certificate of registration as an 'upper tier' waste carrier (or just waste carrier in Scotland). This is issued by the Environment Agency in England, Natural Resources Wales, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) in Scotland. It currently costs about £155 for the initial registration fee and a further renewal fee of about £105 every three years (slightly more in Scotland and a bit less in Northern Ireland). Note that a single licence is issued to your business covering all of your waste transporting vehicles.

Other licences

Skips placed on a public highway require a skip permit/licence 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.

Before erecting a scaffold on or over a public highway, you are obliged by law to obtain a permit from your local highways authority. Some local authorities also require you to obtain a scaffolding permit before putting up a scaffold in a public place. If you use a specialist scaffolder, they will often take responsibility for arranging any scaffolding permits needed. For more information, contact your local authority planning department or environmental health department.

If you offer an insurance backed warranty - even if you make no extra charge for this - you should be aware that you may need to be regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Contact the FCA for further information. 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 you think that you may do any work involving asbestos (this might include removing old wall cladding and partitions, for example) you may need a licence from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Asbestos Licensing Unit - or from the Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI). The cost of a licence is currently about £3,200. Further details are available from the Health and Safety Executive.

Often a more practical alternative to undertaking licensable work yourself is to contact a licensed asbestos specialist and get them to do the work for you.

Voluntary certification

Many would-be customers and particularly main contractors will want to satisfy themselves that your business does good quality work. One way of demonstrating your commitment to quality is to gain certification for yourself, your employees and your workmanship. Various different certification schemes exist, including the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS), British Standards Institution (BSI) 'Kitemark' licences, the ISO quality standard, Buy with Confidence - Trading Standards Approved, and the government-backed TrustMark scheme.

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. In particular, hacking off and re-rendering a substantial percentage (25% or more) of the outside walls of a house may trigger a requirement under Building Regulations to add extra insulation such as rigid foam panels to improve the thermal efficiency of the building. Similarly, replacing the screed on 25% or more of a solid floor may necessitate an insulation upgrade where this is practicable.

The Building Regulations documents are available from the Planning Portal website. More information about the Building Regulations in Northern Ireland is available on the Department of Finance website. Local authority Building Control Officers will also be able to advise you if you have a specific query.

Planning rules

In many areas of the UK, most or all of the work undertaken by a specialist plasterer/renderer is unlikely to need planning permission (although it can be wise to check if the external appearance of the house is going to be altered significantly). However, in certain areas, including National Parks and Conservation Areas, planning permission is needed before rendering, dashing or otherwise cladding the outside of a building. Listed buildings will require listed building consent for any significant work whether it's external or internal. It is generally the responsibility of the building owner to obtain permission, but it would be helpful to have an understanding of the planning rules which apply in your area if you undertake this type of work.

Consumer protection

Most people have heard stories about 'cowboy' trades-people who do shoddy work and rip off their customers. Legislation covers areas such as pricing being accurate and genuine, contracts being fair, services being of adequate quality and so on. There's more information about many different aspects of consumer protection and fair trading legislation on the Trading Standards Business Companion website.

The environment

The Environmental Protection Act and regulations made under it apply to pollution prevention, and to the transport and disposal of building and demolition waste. Special provision is made for hazardous waste products such as asbestos.

The website includes guidance for businesses on various aspects of environmental management and pollution prevention.

Health & safety, fire

Working at high levels (for example when applying external render) is potentially a hazardous activity and it is very important that you keep up to date with health and safety regulations.

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:

  • working at height (the Work at Height Regulations apply to both employers and self-employed workers)
  • lifting heavy items
  • use of electrical equipment (power tools and so on)
  • access to first aid equipment
  • adequate provision and use of protective clothing and equipment (cement, for example, is potentially hazardous if not handled correctly and suitable protection should be provided and used where appropriate)
  • reporting of any accidents and injuries at work

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


Managing home workers, remote workers, lone workers

Discipline and grievance

Dismissals and redundancies

Employment tribunals

Illegal workers

As an employer it's your responsibility to check that someone you take on is entitled to work in the UK. There are fines for employers who employ illegal workers because they've failed to make the necessary checks. You can read more about preventing illegal working on the website.

Sources of further Information

Most trade associations can advise their members about regulatory issues that affect them. The FIS, for example, provides members with access to information about the latest technical and legislative developments. You can find out more about this and other membership benefits on the FIS website.

The employing people section of the 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 plasterer

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

  • employer's liability
  • public liability
  • contractor's liability/contractor's all risks
  • unfixed materials, plant and equipment on site
  • combined property
  • 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 height at which you will be working, the type of materials and equipment you will be using, your health and safety policy and so on.

Business insurance policies for construction firms can be very costly and it would be a good idea to get some quotes at an early stage in your planning. Shop around to obtain the best cover at the most affordable price.

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