With an ever changing - and growing - amount of legislation, and the red tape that confines it, business law can present quite a challenge. Let's get back to basics, and ask what exactly is business law?
Why do we have business law?
It's all about protection. Business law is there to protect businesses large and small. It is designed to stop businesses themselves from being harmed, a type of insurance against any possible illegal acts by customers, suppliers, employees, competitors - and even the government. On the other side of the coin, business law exists to protect the consumer, and the health and safety of employees from sometimes unscrupulous business owners. So, in short, asssurance for everyone; a marker of fair play for all.
Is it all for one, and one for all?
Yes, all companies must comply with business law. But, the government recognizes the negative impact this sometimes has on small business, and the financial burden this might carry. So some small business owners in the UK may be exempt under the new Small and Micro Business Assessment law. Once assessed, if the regulations in place are found to have a disproportionate impact then that business may be exempt.
Who can qualify for exemption? Any business with up to 50 employees - previously it was only up to 10, but now it's been increased.
What are the key points of business law?
In brief, there are certain key aspects to consider when either starting up a new business or embarking on a career in business law. Failure to comply with the regulations can result in large fines for ignoring all or any of these points, so most firms will employ a business manager to ensure that their business follows the letter of the law.
What's in a name?
Naming a business sounds like the best part - coming up with a catchy handle to print on business cards and splash across the internet, and all that. But it's also a legal minefield. Is this a limited company? Is the name already in use? Checks will be required at Company House. IP Law must also be observed at this stage, to check whether the impending trade name, logo, visual impact of the business is correct. A costly mistake can be infringing an existing Intellectual Property.
An important factor of business law, no matter how you come at it. In fact, it's probably the most important, as no two people are the same and man-management is not an easy task. So recruitment, HR, contracts, employment policies, health and safety and discrimination laws are all important modules of business law. Every business must be aware of employees' rights, maternity pay, hours, holidays and the minimum wage.
Sometimes it's necessary to come over all Sir Alan Sugar - as in 'You're fired!' But in real life it's not as easy as walking away from a table and getting into a waiting limo. Unfair dismissal is another minefield that no business owner ever wants to encounter.
When is a dismissal unfair? A dismissal is unfair if it is for one of a number of particular reasons, including whistleblowing, health and safety activities or any type of illegal discrimination. Any business must comply with proper dismissal procedure.
Data protection act
Running a business will require books. Journals and ledgers of the past have of course been replaced with computers and today it's possible to retain all sorts of information on competitors, suppliers and, most importantly, the consumer. A business may know more about you than you know yourself... Business law, however, dictates that the subject must have given permission first, and that any information retained is correct, current and held securely. This is where the Data Protection Law comes into force - which is when things go wrong quickly. But a good business manager, au fait with business law, will ensure this never happens.
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