16 Dec 2020
As our associate commercial solicitor, James Young, explains, while business planning for 2021 and preparing for the new challenges that lie ahead, it’s a great opportunity to get your business into good shape from a legal perspective.
A good contract does not stay good for long. With the unprecedented events of 2020 bringing with them all sorts of new business trends and working practices, there is a good chance that many of your standard terms and conditions will need updating to reflect the changed circumstances we are all now operating in.
From partnership agreements and contracts with independent contractors and suppliers to intellectual property, all contracts will have some effect on your business, some big, some small. Your terms and conditions should be updated whenever you make significant changes to your business and you should always include the effective date.
Many businesses have had to make big changes to their workforce this year, either putting staff on furlough, changing employees’ working hours or, in the worst case scenario, having to make redundancies.
Remember that any reduction in salary will constitute a variation in an employee’s terms and conditions and so will have to be agreed in writing. Employers will have to be able to produce written agreements confirming an employee’s agreement to these changes, if requested by HMRC, so take this opportunity to review all the relevant paperwork and make sure all staff members’ contracts are up to date.
As we start a new year, it’s worth checking that you still have all the necessary business insurance in place. You’ll already have all the compulsory cover in place but it is worth reviewing them to check whether any of them need updating? For example, does your employer’s liability insurance need to be updated if most of your workforce is now working remotely? What if a member of staff were to return to the workplace in the New Year, catch Covid-19 and then bring a claim against the business. Would you be covered?
It’s also worth considering taking out insurance that you’ve previously not needed. For example, with the increased risk of data protection breaches with more staff working from home, it might be worth thinking about taking out cyber insurance which is designed to protect against hackers and cyber attackers.
From data protection and maternity to health and safety and absence, it is essential that your business has policies in place to explain the ground rules. However, some businesses, particularly those that start small and grow quickly, don’t have their company policies in writing and can get caught out. It is good practice to have a comprehensive staff handbook which outlines them all in one place and the start of the New Year is the perfect time to compile one.
As a business leader, it is really important to think ahead and have an effective succession plan in place for when you are no longer in charge of the company. Of course, none of us likes to dwell on the unpleasant things that could happen to us as we get older, but as this year has shown, we simply don’t know what is around the corner so you should always plan for the worst case scenario.
In case you are unfortunate enough to lose their mental capacity in the future, you should consider putting in place a Business LPA for financial decisions to appoint Attorneys in relation to your business affairs. Consideration must be given to your business’ own separate legal documentation, for example, your Partnership Agreement or your company’s Articles of Association, which may need to be amended to allow an Attorney to act in relation to the business if necessary.
If you would like any legal support for your business, give our commercial team a call on 01633 244233 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harding Evans is a trading name of Harding Evans LLP, a limited liability partnership, registered in England & Wales (registered number: OC311802), authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA number: 419663).