Business law — 5 awareness areas for SMEs

SMEs aren’t exempt from complying with a host of legal requirements — but a lack of resources and expertise means they might not be as cognizant as larger counterparts.

In late 2017, a study of 250 small businesses by insurance form DAS revealed that all of them had struggled with at least one common legal issue like recovering debts or taking care of tax over the preceding 12 months.

If you want to bolster your business law knowledge, here are some awareness areas for SMEs — as well as relevant resources that help with crime prevention and regulatory compliance.

Minimum wage

A national minimum wage has been enforced in the UK since 1998 and regular rises are well publicised — so there’s no valid excuse for failing to pay it. 

Despite this, the law is regularly flouted by errant companies — in March 2018, the British government publicly named 179 employers who had underpaid more than 9,000 minimum wage staff by £1.1 million.

The government recovered all backpay for the workers and imposed £1.3 million in fines. If you want to keep pay practices above board, use the minimum wage calculator from the UK government.

Health and safety

Following the philosophy of ‘safety first’ is essential for a business of any size — taking shortcuts can lead to tragedy. 

You should be familiar with the vocabulary of risk assessments and method statements to keep your staff, customers and the public safe from harm as you operate and minimise the likelihood of accidents.

And Health and Safety Executive guidance states that companies are responsible for protecting employees against conditions like stress as well as physical injuries — check their website for customised advice for your business. 

Fraud

The damaging effects of fraudulent activities are compounded in small and medium businesses that lack the wherewithal to sustain operations while they recover — ‘business as usual’ isn’t practicable.

A recent study carried out by YouGov in behalf of Barclays bank revealed that 23 per cent of UK SMEs had fallen victim to fraud and it’s caused over 50,000 jobs nationwide because of redundancies made to recoup losses. 



If you fear you’ve fallen victim to a scam , seek advice from fraud specialists like Switalskis Solicitors.

Data protection

Data protection has hit the business headlines this year thanks to the introduction of the EU General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018. 

Both pieces of legislation are driven to preserve privacy in the digital age and robust data regimes protect businesses against cyberattacks as well as securing sensitive personal information of clients and staff.

If you’re unsure about your approach to these pieces of legislation, study the guidance for small organisations on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) website.

Gender equality

In the UK, companies with more than 250 staff have been  legally required to publish information on their gender pay gap since 2017 — in theory, this should make it easier to eventually close. 

And in April 2018, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) started enforcement proceedings against 1500 companies who had failed to do so. 

If your company is obliged to publish this information, but you’re unsure how to make the calculations, follow the gender pay gap reporting guidance from ACAS.

Familiarise yourself with these five business law awareness areas for peace of mind and the confidence that comes from operating by the book — forearmed is forewarned.

Is your SME confident about legal issues? Share your thoughts in the comments section.