Stay on the right side of the law with these small business essentials

horizontal-1010894_640By Henry Brown

When you start a business, it’s important to consider a range of legal issues. Many people jump into running a business without considering how they might accidentally end up on the wrong side of the law. If you don’t start off by informing yourself and remaining informed as you grow your business, it could cause a lot of trouble for you down the line. Some laws apply to any business, regardless of the industry or size. However, other companies will need to pay particular attention to laws that apply to only them. If you want to keep your business on the right side of the law, remember these essential moves.

Have a company lawyer

Having a lawyer on hand can help you out of some sticky situations, as well as help you navigate through routine business processes. Obviously, most small businesses aren’t going to have a fully developed legal department. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t have easy access to legal help when you need it. When dealing with legal issues in business, you might need lawyers with a range of expertise. Fortunately, there are attorneys and legal experts who are knowledgeable about a number of different areas of business law. You might have a lawyer on retainer, or perhaps develop a relationship with a legal firm that has already helped you in the past. Note that laws differ in different parts of the country. If, for example, you need to know how to establish a business in Denver, CO, it would be best to hire a firm that is familiar with Colorado rules and regulations.

Get familiar with different areas of law

Running a business means thinking about a number of different areas of law. Commercial law can cover a wide range of topics, depending on what type of business you run. Your first thoughts might be matters such as employment law, or perhaps financial law. However, there are other issues to consider, such as environmental law or intellectual property. When dealing with these different areas of law, it can be useful to look for lawyers who are experts in individual fields. An attorney who is familiar with the intersection between business and environmental law might not know much about filing patents.

Consider the law in all things

Whenever you make a move with your business, it’s important to think about potential legal issues. Often, any legal problems you might encounter aren’t obvious right away. You may need to do some research or consult an expert to find out what you need to do to comply with the law, if anything. From the very beginning of your business’s creation, you need to think about the laws you should be following. When you create products, buy property or file your taxes, you have legal issues you need to consider. Don’t assume that anything is plain sailing when it comes to dealing with the law.

Be especially aware of employment law

When it comes to business, employment law is one of the most essential areas to be aware of. Looking after your staff and making sure you treat them in compliance with the law is vital. It begins when you’re conducting your recruitment process. From the minute you begin creating a job ad, you need to ensure that you’re following the law. It’s important to be aware of laws regarding equality, for example. When you interview potential employees, there are certain questions you need to avoid asking. You can’t ask candidates about their religion, family status, or disabilities.

Of course, employment law goes far beyond the hiring process. You also need to be aware of the rights and protections that your employees have. This can involve a number of responsibilities that you have as a business owner to keep them safe. There are several important pieces of legislation it’s important that you understand. However, you also need to know when they apply to you. Many small businesses do not need to follow the law in the same way as larger ones. For example, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) applies to private-sector employers with at least 50 employees. That’s why it’s important to do your research or to consult with a lawyer.

Understand regulations for your industry

As well as knowing about the laws that apply to businesses of your size, you also need to know about your industry. Different industries have various laws or concerns that are relevant to them. For example, a business that deals with hazardous materials needs to be aware of the safety and health rules surrounding how they should handle them. Finding a Business Law expert familiar with your industry can help you to navigate these issues. However, you can also find relevant information from your local or federal resources. You can often find material online that will help you understand your responsibilities and how you can comply with the law.

Emphasize health and safety

Keeping your staff and customers safe is one of the most important things you need to do to stay on the right side of the law. If you fail to do so, it could have consequences such as lawsuits, fines from regulatory bodies or perhaps even jail time for serious transgressions. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) sets the laws and regulations for these matters in the workplace. It’s essential to check with this federal agency to find out what your business should be doing to keep people safe. They can provide free consultations to small businesses to help you make sure you comply with the law. It’s also important to check local laws that could also affect you. Also, if you have particular concerns, it might make sense to contact an OSHA Compliance Consultant, who can do onsite consultations and conduct both employee and management training on customized safety and health programs.

Keep data secure

Any business that handles sensitive information from customers or clients needs to be careful. Data protection laws can be complicated, however, so it can be helpful to consult with an expert on how to comply with regulations. There is no single, comprehensive piece of legislation at the federal level. However, there are both federal and state regulations that may apply to your business. Whichever laws might apply to you, keeping the data that your company collects safe is important. Strong IT security is one of the ways you can ensure that your business is complying with the law. IT experts will often have some knowledge of the law and how to protect the data that your business handles.

Understand consumer protection

Looking after your customers’ sensitive information is just one way you should be protecting them. You also need to understand consumer protection law and how it applies to your business. Make sure you know the rights that consumers are given in your state and how you can help to fulfill them. There are several issues you might need to think about in regards to your products or services. Customers might have rights to certain quality, pricing, or other allowances, such as fair returns policies. It’s essential to make sure that you meet the requirements of how you should treat your customers. Check out the regulations at the state level and information about how to comply with them.

Comply with financial laws

Money can get individuals and businesses in a lot of trouble if they aren’t careful. When it comes to finances, it’s often financial experts you need and not legal experts. While you might sometimes need a financial lawyer, there are other jobs you need people to perform too. Even just hiring an accountant to do your taxes can help you to ensure that your business complies with the law. It’s also useful to conduct financial audits and do other things to ensure your finances are accurate.

As you can see from this list, there are lots of things you need to do to ensure your business conducts itself legally. Make sure you take the right steps.


Henry Brown is an online marketing executive. When he isn’t talking shop he’s roaming the streets of London, uncovering the extra-ordinary in the ordinary.

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