A new year (a new decade!), a time for fresh starts and good intentions. When people talk about new year’s resolutions it is usually about being more active, finding another job, managing their finances better etc. You don’t hear of many people talking about making positive changes to increase business success.
We asked some of our heads of departments to share some tips on best practice and help businesses achieve their goals this year.
Suggestions from our corporate and commercial team:
Look at your data policy and shed some weight
We all over-indulge from time to time and now is a great time to start getting back to where we should be. Why not lose the extra weight and become fitter, more agile and healthier?
Businesses need to gather data, but each business has its own needs. Has yours gathered more than you should? Overindulged and now feeling a bit bloated? Are you carrying a bit of extra paperweight? (sorry).
Data has a cost associated: How much space are you paying for to keep this data, both office and digital? It also takes time to manage and store, taking focus from your business; if it is not generating a return it is just holding you back. But most concerning is the risk associated with data. GDPR puts obligations to only collect, process and retain data for proper purposes; and a data breach can be expensive both in fines and reputational damage.
Review your business’s terms and conditions
It is an expensive time of year and many of us will be wondering where all the money went. Why was it my credit card used to pay for the meal, drinks and all the extended family’s presents? And now being last in the taxi means another trip to the cashpoint. Next time, how about setting some ground rules so we keep the costs in check, and everyone knows where they stand?
A good, up-to-date set of terms and conditions keeps your business costs and risks under control while also avoiding any damaging fallouts. If everyone agrees who pays for what, when and how, at the start, everyone can plan properly, and relationships stay cordial.
Learn a new skill or hobby
If the idea of starting a new year with all your old routines is not appealing, it could be the time to get a new skill or hobby. What is going to really grab you? What is it that is drifting into your thoughts more and more? Learn a language? Take up a sport? Art? New year, new decade, new start.
Or maybe it is an idea for a business? A new branch to your current business or a complete about face and something new? If you have an idea, or something that has the potential to be an idea, then it could be that just a little extra motivation is all you need. Somebody else may be thinking along similar lines and you wouldn’t want to miss out.
A chat about the most appropriate business structure, the important points to cover off and taking the first steps to get the formalities in place and the whole thing will become very real and very exciting.
Will you choose a new start for your new year’s resolution?
Suggestions from our employment team:
Comply with employment law
Businesses, as ever, should resolve to ensure that they have in place written contracts for their staff, or at the very least a written statement for each member of staff containing the information which employers are required under the Employment Rights Act 1996 to provide to employees within two months of their employment commencing. This is particularly pertinent in 2020 given that with effect from 6 April, the Employment Rights (Miscellaneous Amendments) Regulations 2019 will extend the right to a written statement of employment particulars to all categories of ‘worker’, not just employees, and make this obligation applicable from the first day of work. There are also subtle changes to the information which must be provided, such as days of work, details of training and any applicable probationary period, meaning even the most conscientious of employers will need to review their contracts to keep abreast of this development in the law.
Employing contractors and IR35
Any contractors undertaking work for clients via personal service companies in the private sector should be reviewing their arrangements ahead of 6 April 2020 when changes to the IR35 legislation will shift the responsibility for deciding whether IR35 applies, and if it does for paying the relevant income tax and NICs, from the intermediary to the client. This may result in more business opting to employ individuals or engage them directly, which could significantly affect your income if you are affected and have been operating a self-employment basis.
Create a healthy and happy workplace
Increasingly prevalent in recent years, mental health in the workplace is now a red-hot employment topic affecting employers and employees alike. Employers can clearly do more to avoid situations which could trigger or exacerbate mental health conditions amongst staff, however, this also requires individuals to be realistic about workloads and open to discussions about factors which could be affecting their work.
Suggestions from our commercial property team:
Does your EPC need renewing or improving?
If you are planning on selling or letting your property in the next 12 months, then you must have an EPC in place before the property is put on the market, once an EPC has been put in place this is valid for 10 years. Since April 2018 landlords are not able to let a property with a rating less than band E and therefore if your property falls within band F or G it will be unlettable unless improvement works are carried out to upgrade the energy efficiency of the property. It is recommended that property owners wishing to sell or let their property review their EPC certificates, particularly if it may have expired or is about to expire. Even if your property fell within the required band A-E when the EPC was granted, if no work has been carried out on the property since, it may no longer meet the requirements.
Know where you stand if you wish to break your lease
If you are a landlord or tenant and you are aware that your lease contains an option to break within the next 12 months, then now is the time to check the terms of the lease to establish the mechanisms around the break clause. A lease will usually stipulate how an option to break can be actioned which includes dictating how the break notice is to be served, how much notice is to be given and any conditions on the break. These provisions in the lease need to be strictly adhered to otherwise the break may fail and you may be bound by the lease terms for the remainder of the term. A break clause will usually be “of the essence” and time limits will therefore need to be strictly complied with.
It is recommended that a break notice is served in advance of the latest date upon which the break can be exercised so that arrangements can be made for the break notice to be served and preferably leave ample time for it to be re-served should the need arise.
Register your land!
Although around 85% of land in the UK is now registered at HM Land Registry, it is common for farmland to form the remaining 15% which is not yet registered as this land often remains in the same ownership for decades and therefore does not trigger registration which is compulsory upon the sale or transfer of land. The benefits of registering your land include having absolute proof of ownership and a clear plan showing the extent of your land as well as registering any rights of way or restrictive covenants which are connected to the land, once the land is registered the Land Registry holds an electronic title which means if old deeds become lost or destroyed this is not critical. It also provides greater protection from adverse possession claims and fraud which may occur with ambiguity of ownership.
Suggestions from our Health & Safety team:
Review your Fire Risk Assessment
The person responsible for the workplace must carry out and regularly review a fire risk assessment of the premises. This will identify what you need to do to prevent fire and keep people safe. You must keep a written record of your fire risk assessment if your business has 5 or more people. It is good practice to review fire safety arrangements annually as buildings and the activities within them can change during the course of the year.
H&S training requirements for staff
The start of a new year is a good time to consider what safety training will be required by staff. As well as regular refresher training such as first aid and fire safety, staff may be undertaking new roles or activities which may require new safety training. When arranging training check the Health and Safety Executive website (www.HSE.gov.uk) which provides details of the training requirements and minimum content for many safety training courses.
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t achieve all your new year’s resolutions, not many of us do! Whatever you decide to do we wish you a very healthy and prosperous 2020!