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Legal Documents Every Business Should Review Every Year



In December 2023 I ran a special 12 days of Christmas LinkedIn series in which I highlighted some of the key legal things to think about at the end of each year. All included here in one summary blog!

 

Day 1 of my 12 days of Christmas

Happy December 1st and welcome to my very special new LinkedIn lightbulb series! 💡This December, there'll be 12 posts (for the 12 days of Christmas) every working day and these are going to be very useful tips for business owners. 🌟


Each post will focus on a legal document or compliance check the business should be doing once a year. December and/or January are ideal times for this. So, here’s your first one -


Q. What is something every business needs to update on January 1st? 🗓


A.    Your copyright legend! ©Don’t forget to update your copyright legend on your website and any other updates to signify that the IP is protected in the current year. Whether or not this is up-to-date, if you have created the work then you own it. However, a copyright legend is an effective signifier to others that the images/design/copy is protected and that legal action will be taken if the copyright is infringed upon. 

 

Day 2 of my 12 days of Christmas

Q. Are Your Companies House Filings Up To Date? 🗃


A.          It is a legal requirement to keep Companies House records up to date. Annual   accounts must be filed 9 months after the company’s financial year ends and tax must be paid on time. Find out more about annual accounts, company tax returns and payment deadlines here - https://www.gov.uk/prepare-file-annual-accounts-for-limited-company 

 

There is also a requirement to update companies house with other changes to your business. This includes any changes to the personal details of directors and/or the company secretary as well as any new appointments and/or removing directors from the listing who are no longer with the company. 👨‍💼 👩‍💼 

Companies House also need to know about any changes to your company name and/or location. 🏢 🌍 

Any changes to your Companies House listing should be made as soon as possible so you must review your listing often to ensure that it is up-to-date. Not only is this a requirement of Companies House but it also makes your business accessible to potential clients and other businesses that may want to work with you. 🔎


 

Day 3 of my 12 days of Christmas

Q. Does your business need to pay (or renew) the ICO data protection fee? 🗓 🔓

 

A. If your business processes personal information then you may need to register with the  ICO and pay a data protection fee. This applies both to limited companies and to sole traders. 👨‍💼 🏢The data protection fee is annual so you must pay this every year. Is yours due? 🤔Some businesses may be exempt from paying this fee and the ICO do have a handy quiz on their website to quickly assess whether you need to pay the data protection fee - https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-fee/self-assessment/



Day 4 of my 12 days of Christmas

Q. Is your insurance up to date? 🛡️


A. Out-of-date information can make your insurance policy invalid. This means if anything happens to your business and you need to make a claim, you might not be able to, even though you’ve likely been paying a monthly or annual fee for cover. 🛑You need to inform your insurance provider of any changes to your business. Therefore, it is a good idea to review your policy every year and check the records your insurer has on your business are still accurate. Depending on the type of insurance you have, this may include details on the size and location of your business, how many people (if any) you employ, business assets, operating territories, etc.



Day 5 of my 12 days of Christmas

Q. Should you look at trademarking in the New Year? 🛡️


A. There is no legal requirement to trade mark your logo, name, or other organization identifier. However, for some businesses, it is highly beneficial to do so. 👍


A trade mark can provide legal protection for your brand, help consumers distinguish your products from others, enhance market recognition, increase the value of your assets, and boost your credibility. 🌐📈


If your business has grown this year or you have plans to expand or build on your brand in the New Year, it may be time to consider trade marking.Unsure of whether your company needs a registered trade mark? Or wondering what you're able to trade mark? Feel free to direct message me if you need any guidance. 🤝💬


Already have a registered trade mark? It might be worth reviewing this to check if it still covers you for all the regions and marketplaces you operate in. 🌍🔍



Day 6 of my 12 days of Christmas

Q. Are your business terms and conditions up to date? 📜


A.               Late December/early January is an ideal time to check your T&Cs, especially since you may be putting up your fees/rates. 💷


The New Year is also a time when many freelancers and business owners will review the past year’s challenges and achievements and may, as a result, tighten up processes and/or adjust working practices. This may mean being firmer regarding invoices being paid on time, introducing cancellation fees, reducing hours spent travelling for work, etc. Making practical changes in your business may mean you need to update your terms and conditions agreement so this accurately reflects your business and how it needs to operate in 2024, both with new and existing clients. 🌐 🤝


Please do contact me if you would like a review of your terms and conditions or if you would like new terms and conditions drafted. 🔎 📝#Freelancers #BusinessOwners #Founders #TermsAndConditions #TermsOfBusiness #BusinessContracts #NewYear #UKBusinessLaw


Day 7 of my 12 days of Christmas

Q. Do I Need To Tell Clients If I’m Using AI In My Work? 🤖


A. The UK has no specific AI policy (yet) and there is no legal obligation to declare use of AI in the course of your work. Unless, you are using AI tools to collect and process data, in which case you would need to state this in your Privacy Policy. This is because under UK Data Protection Law you are legally required to inform customers/clients as to why and how you collect their data. 💼


However, although you are not yet obliged to inform clients if you are using AI to assist in your work, it’s probably a good idea to do so, perhaps in your terms and conditions. Transparency is always adbvisable and I recommend stating how you do and do not use AI in the course of providing your services. Besides, this is likely to become a requirement at some point in the future anyway. 🤷‍♀️



Day 8 of my 12 days of Christmas

Increasing Your Rates In 2024? 📈

 

Here’s What You Need To Do -

 

You must give clients plenty of notice if you need to increase the rates they pay. You should first inform them of fee increases 60-90 days before they come into effect. This should be in written form and you should request confirmation of receipt.

 

Of course, since a fee increase makes your contract/terms and conditions agreement no longer representative of the working relationship, a client can choose to surrender your services.Hopefully, this will not be the case but there are a few things you can do to increase your chances of securing business at your new rates. Including, explaining the reasons for your new costs and highlighting the value you deliver as well as the successes you’ve had for the client to date. 🏆

 

Following agreement of the new fees, it's also a good idea to send a reminder of the fee increase 30 days before the higher rate comes into effect.

 

You may also need to update your terms of business terms/terms and conditions, as well as marketing materials and information on your website, to reflect your new rates. 📝 

 

 

Day 9 of my 12 days of Christmas

Q. Does My Website Need To Be Accessible? 🌐


A.               The New Year is a great time to review your website to ensure it is up-to-date and legally compliant. Yet, it can also be a good time to ensure your website is accessible for disabled or neurodivergent users. ♿️The Equality Act 2010 dictates that those with disabilities should have the same access to services and information as anyone else so your website needs to be accessible. 🌍Meeting level 2 of the internationally recognised Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is essential in the public sector but it's also advisable in the private sector.When reviewing and/or testing your website to ensure it’s accessible you may want to check if your website is:


  • Compatible with screen readers

  • Can be navigated using a keyboard

  • Includes proper alt text that accurately describes images

  • Includes transcripts, audio descriptions, captions, and other multimedia alternatives

  • Is easy to read with clear images (high res, good color contrast so text is readable against the background)


Make sure you are operating your business in a way that's truly inclusive by ensuring your website is accessible. 🖥️ 



Day 10 of my 12 days of Christmas

Q. Are you Up-To-Date With The Legal Or Regulation Changes In Your Sector?  📆📜 


A. It's not always easy to stay up-to-date with changes in legal requirements or regulations in your sector. Particularly if you're a business owner or are self-employed. Still, it's really important that you do.


As the New Year approaches, here are four ways you can keep up with legal need-to-knows that could affect your business:


1.     Join Professional Bodies - If your sector has professional bodies or associations, then these will usually ensure members know about any changes in sector-specific legal compliance 🛡️

2.     Set Up Google Alerts - Did you know you can get weekly or monthly updates from Google to send you recent news based on your keywords? For example, you might set up an alert for 'UK Construction Business' 📢

3.     Follow Industry News And Network - Many business owners and entrepreneurs find themselves working mostly alone, so make sure you network with others in your sector. You'll support one another, potentially collaborate, and share sector-specific knowledge and information 🤝

4.     Subscribe To My Newsletter - The simplest way to know about changes in business law is to subscribe to Aubergine Legal's newsletter, which you can do here - https://www.auberginelegal.co.uk/contact  📬


 

Day 11 of my 12 days of Christmas

Are Your Sustainability Statements And Commitments Accurate For 2024? 🌍🌿

 

Misleading information by a business regarding their sustainability practices is not directly unlawful, yet there are legal risks for having outdated or inaccurate information about environmental commitments. 👌

 

Though commonly known as greenwashing, it’s fair to say that many businesses aren’t intentionally misleading when it comes to their sustainability commitments and track record. 

However, climate impact is a complicated issue and it can be difficult for businesses to calculate their carbon impact. This can lead to claims about green practices which could be disputed. 🛑

 

Whether a business does this implicitly or explicitly, they still may find themselves breaching Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations. They may also find themselves in contention with the Competition and Markets Authority, Green Claims Code and/or the Advertising Standards Authority.

 

Of course, some businesses may be doing a lot to operate sustainably and promote environmental practices but are failing to make this public. 📢

 

The problem is that green policies and sustainability mission statements are often drafted, published and then forgotten about. Meanwhile, a company's carbon footprint may change due to various factors (whether for better or worse) and this can mean the policies and commitments are no longer accurate.

 

This is why it’s essential to review your climate commitments and green business policies every year. Potentially, it's an opportunity to renew your pledges and consider future targets but, most importantly, it's a time to ensure they are transparent and able to stand up to scrutiny. 🌳

 

 

Day 12 of my 12 days of Christmas

How Will Your 2024 Business Plans Affect Your Legal Documents? 💡


The New Year is an exciting time to dream big and make plans when it comes to your business. 🎉


Will you expand into new sectors, or open up new locations? Will you grow your company or to develop additional products or services. 


As you make these plans and embark on your 2024 adventures, don’t forget that changes to your business can mean changes to your legal documents and contracts are required.


These might include:

·        Terms and conditions (especially if fees or policies are changed) 💼 

·        Trade mark registrations (updating them or registering new trade marks) ™️ 

·        Privacy policy (if any changes impact the way you collect and/or process data) 🔐


During times of change, your focus will be on the projects themselves but make sure you don’t forget the legal side of things. Failing to update documents and contracts is one of the most common reasons for businesses finding themselves legally unprotected. 


 

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