The legislation affecting your trade

September 2, 2011

–Joe White is COO of Moonfruit.com. The opinions expressed are his own.–

Legislation affecting your business can seem like one of those extra things you just shouldn’t have to worry about, but it is real and does matter. Some of it is a real pain, and some of it is a good discipline with real benefits.

The main kinds of legislation that affect the running of your business are:

  • Employment law – the relationships between you and your employees, from payment rights to varying types of discrimination
  • Consumer protection – to ensure that consumers are treated fairly by businesses, such as ensuring product quality is satisfactory.
  • Tax and regulations – anything from payroll tax, VAT and coporation tax, to filing accounts and statutory documents.

It’s your responsibility in your business to make sure you adhere to all these things. But it doesn’t mean you have to do it yourself. My first advice would be to make sure you have an accountant who is looking out for the day to day stuff, particularly around payroll and other taxes. The Inland Revenue isn’t particularly sympathetic to people paying incorrect tax, and a competent accountant will make sure you do.

On the legal and employment side of things, take advice when you need it. Treat people with respect and fairly and you’ll be OK in most cases. If you find yourself in a tricky situation, then take advice. There are several business services that will offer standard contracts and process documents (e.g. dismissal), so you can use these to save money. Barclays and RBS both have business software bundles that include legal and accounting software (as does Moonfruit), so they can be helpful here.

Most importantly, don’t be afraid to do something for fear of regulation or concern that it’s all too complicated. Seek to do things the right way and take advice if you’re unsure, but don’t get paralysed. Most government agencies want you to succeed and will work with you to help you comply, even if it’s tidying up after the event.

Some laws can even lead to a benefit for your business. Understanding that EU law requires us to give customers a 60 day right of refund for digital purchases has allowed us to promote this effective 60 day money back guarantee to our customers – so it’s not all bad.

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