Small businesses need to be aggressive and dynamic to prosper in an ailing economy, but failing to address basic legal issues can destroy even the most ambitious and determined of enterprises. Provided below is a summary of some of the most common legal issues that affect small businesses.
Employment laws can be complex, but small business owners need to make an effort to understand them. Hiring an experienced managerial team can help to ensure that employment issues are kept to a minimum, while outsourcing the hiring process can avoid mistakes made during recruitment. Among the most common employment-related legal issues for small businesses are those pertaining to discrimination. No employer can discriminate against prospective or existing employees on grounds of gender, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, ethnicity, nationality, race, disability, religion or age. Failure to abide by equality laws can result in an employer being taken to tribunal. Other legal issues involving workers that employers must consider include equal pay, overtime, breaks and disciplinary proceedings.
Tax and Insurance
Most small companies aim to turn a profit as soon as possible. Although the pursuit of increasing turnover is a quality that ought to be encouraged among small business owners, overlooking necessary or critical expenses is simply unacceptable. All small firms should address legal issues involving tax and insurance. Many small business owners adopt multiple roles: the proprietor of a small firm might also be its accountant, secretary and human resources manager. Though often unavoidable, this situation is always inadvisable. Tax errors can prove very costly; indeed, many small firms have filed for bankruptcy after becoming swamped by taxes. Small firms should always hire a professional accountant to manage the books. On the issue of insurance, all small businesses should be sufficiently indemnified. Employers in the UK are legally required to purchase sufficient employers' liability insurance, while most firms should also be protected by public and professional indemnity cover.
Copyright or Trademark Infringement
In their effort to launch a successful company, many entrepreneurs and small business owners make the critical mistake of infringing another firm's copyright or trademark. The problem is usually only apparent some time after a fledgling company has found its feet and gained a share of the market; indeed, how else would another firm become aware of the alleged infringement? Copyright and trademark issues are often settled out of court, but the threat of court action can cause problems from the outset. Intellectual property (IP) should always be respected; small business owners can acquire free access to copyright, trademark, IP and patent databases to ensure their ideas are original. Failure to carry out basic checks can prove costly in the long run.
Health and Safety
Small or start-up companies sometimes operate on the basis that they are different from other firms. All companies, however, are subject to health and safety laws in the UK. Employers must take all reasonable steps to when it comes to the health and safety of all their employees. Companies must also protect members of the public from suffering illness or injury as a result of their activities. Overlooking health and safety is one of the most common mistakes made by small business owners, who risk being called to account in the civil or criminal courts should their oversight result in death or injury.
This guest post has been written by legal blogger Zoe who has contributed this post on behalf of Burton Copeland. Click here for specialist criminal solicitors.
I'm Louida from Atlanta, Georgia and I'm a mother of two daughters, blogger, and full time working mom at a Business Consulting Firm.
I love helping others learn how to start working from home on the internet free to supplement their current income.
I also blog at Productreviewmom.com
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