Window fitter legal issues

There is a wide range of legislation which may apply to your glazing and installation business, particularly in the areas of building control, consumer protection, employment law and health and safety.

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

What licences does a window fitter need?

Building Regulations self-certification

Almost all domestic window installations are covered by the UK Building Regulations. If you want to be able to self-certify that your replacement window installations comply with the requirements of the Regulations then you will need to register with a competent person scheme like the Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme (FENSA). To become a scheme member you will need to meet certain entry criteria.

There is also a cost associated with joining and operating under a competent person scheme. For example, FENSA charges an annual registration fee of up to £300 plus VAT. Once you're registered, around 1% of your installations will be inspected annually (with a minimum of two a year and a maximum of 100), at a cost of £120 plus VAT per inspection. There is also a small charge made each time details of an installation are entered into the FENSA database. For more information visit the FENSA website.

Other competent person schemes for the glazing industry include those run by:

  • Certass
  • The British Standards Institution (BSI)
  • Exova BM Trada
  • Assure

You can find out more about these schemes on their websites.

Individual installers and surveyors working in businesses which operate under a competent person scheme must be able to demonstrate that they have the 'minimum technical competencies' (MTCs) needed to do their jobs properly. Several card-based assessment schemes exist to enable operatives to demonstrate MTC compliance.

Other certification

Many would-be customers will want to satisfy themselves that your business is competent and does good quality work using suitable products. One good way of demonstrating your commitment to quality is to gain certification for your products and your workmanship. Various different certification schemes exist, including the British Standards Institution 'Kitemark' licences, the ISO quality standard and the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) TrustMark scheme.

You can also register as a supplier of window energy rated products with an organisation like the British Fenestration Rating Council (BFRC).

Building waste

If you are going to transport building waste (which is classified as a controlled waste), including your own, 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, and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). It currently costs about £155 for the initial registration fee and a further renewal fee of about £105 every three years (a little less in Northern Ireland, and a little more in Scotland). Note that a single licence is issued to your business covering all of your waste transporting vehicles.

Other relevant licences

You should also be aware of the following:

  • if you offer credit terms to customers you will need consumer credit authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). You're likely to need full permission rather than just limited permission authorisation to cover any credit activities you engage in because the supply of goods and services associated with the credit broking is likely to take place in the customer's home, meaning you'll be acting as a 'domestic premises supplier'
  • 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
  • before erecting a scaffold on or over a public highway, you are obliged by law to obtain a permit from your local highway 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 - then you will be covered by general insurance legislation administered by the FCA. You may need to be either approved by the FCA or an 'appointed representative' of an FCA approved insurer
  • if you use copyright music in your business - for example background music in a showroom or workshop - then you will need a Music Licence from PPL PRS Ltd. There is an annual fee for this which you can pay online on the PPL PRS website
  • businesses which keep computerised records of customers' personal details - for example for credit purposes - may need to register as data users with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). From May 2018 the General Data Protection Regulation has introduced additional protection for personal data

Building Regulations

This is a general term for different pieces of legislation in England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Almost all window and door installations must comply with Part 'L 'of the Building Regulations which, among other things, lays down minimum specifications for insulation performance. Other parts of the Building Regulations cover matters such as safety glazing, ventilation and fire safety. Installers who are members of competent person schemes like Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme (FENSA) or Certass are permitted to self-certify that their replacement installation work meets this standard (several other competent person schemes exist for window installers). Non-registered installers must gain approval for each installation from the local authority building inspectorate or an independent building inspector (windows and doors installed in new buildings, including new extensions, are inspected and signed off along with other things as part of the wider building control process).

Be aware that different minimum standards apply to new builds, extensions, and replacement installations.

Details of the Building Regulations are available from the Planning Portal and the Department of Finance Northern Ireland websites.

Consumer protection

Most people have heard stories about pushy double glazing salespeople and there is consumer protection legislation to protect customers from unscrupulous sales tactics. Legislation covers 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, accurate price information 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! More information about consumer protection and fair trading legislation is available on the Gov.uk website and from your local trading standards department. There is also detailed information on the Trading Standards Business Companion website.

Under regulations which cover customer disputes and resolution, you'll need to be able to give your customers details of a certified 'alternative dispute resolution' provider for your industry sector. And you'll need to inform them about whether or not you intend to use that provider in the event of a dispute.

Be aware that people are legally entitled to opt out of unsolicited telephone calls under the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). If you 'cold call' people - or have this done for you by a marketing agency - then you have a legal requirement to screen numbers against the TPS registration list before you call them, and to avoid calling TPS registered numbers. More information on privacy regulations covering unsolicited marketing by telephone, email, fax and text messaging is available on the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) website.

The environment

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

Health & safety, fire

Working at high levels (for example when installing upstairs windows and fascia boards) is potentially a very hazardous activity and it is very important that you keep up to date with health and safety regulations.

The Health and Safety at Work Act and the numerous regulations made under it cover all aspects of health and safety. The health and safety aspects of construction based activities are specifically covered by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations.

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 (glass, for example, is potentially very dangerous if not handled correctly and protection such as wrist cuffs and gloves 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

Discrimination

Managing home workers, remote workers, lone workers

Discipline and grievance

Dismissals and redundancies

Employment tribunals

Insurance for a window fitter

When you start up in business you will need insurance cover. Contact an insurer and explain to him or her exactly how the business will operate - they will then recommend what cover you should have. This might include:

  • premises, premises contents
  • employer's liability
  • public liability
  • contractor's liability/contractor's all risks
  • unfixed materials, plant, tools and equipment on site
  • combined property
  • motor insurance (for business vehicles), possibly with cover for goods (including glass) and equipment carried in or on your vehicles
  • personal cover - accident and injury, loss of earnings and so on
  • business interruption

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.

The Glass and Glazing Federation's specialist insurance company, GGFi, offers a range of specialist business insurance products to installers, including professional indemnity and employer's liability cover. GGFi also specialises in insurance-backed guarantees for home improvement businesses like window installers.

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