Legalities for Small Businesses: What to Expect
You didn't come this far in business to be hit with awkward legal disputes. The best way to deal with them isn’t to panic or crawl under a rock – but to prepare beforehand (just in case).
Here are a few tips to help you be ready for any tricky legal situations that may come your way:
Avoid DIY Methods
Many small businesses try to take on legal disputes themselves in order to save money. There are certain websites, for example, that will help you access the relevant documentation. Tackling things head on like this is admirable, but in the long run, it could end up costing you more, simply as a result of the process becoming drawn out.
A lawyer offers so much more than the preparation of paperwork. They offer professional, tailored advice that can’t be obtained for free – not to mention skills and services in negotiation, mediation and arbitration. Plus, they have access to all sorts of useful contacts.
As a business owner, it’s important to have a good grasp on legalities, even if you do have a lawyer taking care of the logistics. It could help to do some research about the sorts of issues that can lead to legal disputes (for example, conflicts over working hours, health and safety prosecution, contract disputes).
Some schools, colleges and universities also offer part-time courses where you can learn legal basics. Don’t underestimate the power of networking either. The Citizens Advice Bureau often hold networking events where you can meet business people who may have had experiences with legal disputes. You could even host a networking event yourself to get bring business owners together who can share their stories and advice.
Remember our first tip though – don’t feel the need to DIY. Just make sure you have a good grasp of the basics.
Prevent Employee Disputes
Such disputes could come from a current employee, or an ex-employee. They could even come from a prospective employee. Disputes can arise due to alleged discrimination, conflicts with contracts and pay, and unlawful working hours to name a few. It goes without saying then, that prevention is better than cure.
To avoid falling into trouble in any of these areas, make sure you’re fully aware of your legal obligations as an employer. The gov.uk website has a really useful overview of these.
The government site also offers lots of information on what to expect if there is a dispute. “You’ll be contacted by the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) if someone wants to make a claim against you. They’ll offer to work with you and the claimant to try to solve the problem without it going to a tribunal – this is called ‘conciliation’.
“The tribunal will send you a letter (known as a ‘response pack’) if a claim has been made against you and conciliation hasn’t worked.”
An obvious one – but whether you find yourself dealing with a staff dispute, or need compensation for an employee taking time off for jury duty, there are several reasons why legal expenses insurance will come in handy. Being covered means that your business can keep its cool in times of trouble.
Learn from It
All entrepreneurs know that nine times out of ten, when something goes wrong in business, it’s an opportunity to learn. Even if you’re hit with a dispute that wasn’t your fault, you can learn a lot about yourself and your company in terms of how you handle the pressure.
More Small Business Guide
Managing daily challenges is a key part of any small business owner’s job description. These tips can help you keep business on track no matter what happens.
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