When you set up a small business, you tend to have a whole lot on your mind. Whether this is product development, market research, marketing, or networking with other professionals in your field. However, it’s important that you do commit time and effort towards sorting out the legalities that come hand in hand with running a company. This will help to ensure that everything goes swimmingly and that others cannot carry out actions that are detrimental to your business’ progression and success. Here are just a few areas to focus on as you start out!
When you want your business to be a separate legal entity to you, you are going to have to go through Your Company Formations to register your business as a limited company. This process is generally referred to a “company formation”, “company registration”, or “company incorporation”, so don’t let the different jargon used by different people confuse you along the way. So, why would you want your company to be legally separate from you as an individual? Well, this will ensure that your professional finances, liabilities, contractual agreements, and your professional ownership of property and assets are distinct from your personal ones. If you find that your business isn’t generating enough profit and that you are unable to keep up with agreements or payments, company formation will ensure that your personal finances and property cannot be repossessed. The same goes vice versa. If you find yourself in personal financial difficulty, the property, assets, and finances that you use to maintain your business (which is likely to be your main source of income) cannot be affected. It essentially helps to separate your personal and professional lives, which should always be welcome!
Protecting Your Tangible Property
Business owners tend to have to be extremely vigilant when it comes to protecting tangible property associated with their business. If someone were to damage or steal anything belonging to your business, you need to be in a position to provide legally valid evidence or proof of individuals doing this. This will help insurance claims to be processed faster and it will also help to bring the criminals who have wronged you to justice. Perhaps the best investment you can make is CCTV. CCTV cameras will generally ward people off from committing a crime in the first place, but if they go ahead, you will be able to easily identify them and put your case through court.
Protecting Your Intellectual Property
Remember that you have more to protect that tangible property when your business starts to experience success – you have intellectual property to protect too. Intellectual property is essentially anything that you have come up with (or paid someone else to come up with) for the sake of your business and its establishment or progression – whether this is a product concept or design, or a logo, brand name, colour scheme, jingle, or theme tune. If it’s something that sets your business apart from the crowd, chances are that you can legally protect it. Most business owners will opt to do this by taking out copyright or trademarks. You will generally have to apply for these through regulating authorities. Once copyright or trademark has been granted, others won’t be able to copy you and profit from your ideas. If they attempt to, you can legally send them a cease and desist notice. If they then continue to profit from your ideas, you can then pursue legal action, which will see them shut down and they are also likely to face fines of some sort.
As your business grows and expands, chances are that you’ll start taking on part-time or full-time employees to help keep the wheels of your company in motion. However, this is a huge responsibility and it’s extremely important that you are familiar with employee rights in order to ensure that you are treating everyone properly. Not only will this benefit your relationship with your employees, but it will prevent you from finding yourself on the receiving end of a court case too!
Legal minimum wages are in place to ensure that you are paying your workers a decent amount for the tasks that they are carrying out on your behalf. The minimum wage that employees are entitled to will generally vary depending on their age and whether they are employed or whether they are an apprentice. Apprentices tend to be entitled to the lowest rates of pay. Then under eighteen (who do still have to be over the legal working minimum age) tend to receive a little more. 18 to 20-year-olds are entitled to a little more and they can expect a further rise between the ages of 21 to 24 years old. The standard minimum wage then tends to kick in for employees aged 25 and over. Make sure to check in with government guidelines for exact and up to date figures regarding minimum wage.
Working time regulations are also in place to ensure that you do not overwork employees or demand too much of them. Generally speaking, an average of 48 hours a week is deemed acceptable at the moment. There are, of course, exemptions for individuals working in specific fields. So, again, you will have to check in with government guidelines for up to date rules regarding working hours.
Your employees are entitled to let others know if you are carrying out the illegal or immoral activity within your company. The process of reporting these types of behaviour is called whistleblowing. Seeing as it is generally carried out in the public’s interest, it is legal and you cannot reprimand any employees for engaging with the practice. If you do, they may be able to take legal action against you.
There really are a whole lot of different legalities involved in running a small business. These few areas just scratch the surface. So, start to familiarise yourself with different laws, rules, and regulations, and ensure that your business toes the line!