It often seems like there’s a never-ending stack of things to consider when you’re first starting a business. Factors include which product you should to stock, which services you should offer, who to employ, where to locate your work premises and how you should structure those salaries. When doing so, you must also ensure that you are adhering to the rules, regulations and legislations that are involved with both launching and operating a profitable business in the UK.
Here are six questions to ask yourself when you get started so you don’t fall on the wrong side of the law.


1. Are you registered?

When you start a business in the UK, you must ensure you register with the proper authorities to ensure you remain within the law. If you’re setting up a limited company or Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), you should register with Companies House and follow the relevant rules. If you’re a sole trader, you should register for self-assessment with HMRC and complete an annual tax return. You might also need to register with a relevant professional body or trade organisation where appropriate. Always do your research to find out which these are.


2. Have you checked the requirements for an office building?

If you’re designing or using an office or other working space, you must ensure that you stick to the regulations. This ensures that your employees stay comfortable and safe, and helps maintain privacy, adhere to health and safety rules and meet legal requirements when it comes to energy efficiency and sustainability.

Factors you should consider when designing your office include:

  • Your brand and culture
  • Location and access to amenities
  • Furniture and equipment requirements
  • Future expansion
  • Budget and potential costs
  • Energy efficiency
  • Environmental requirements such as light, ventilation, temperature and noise
  • Access to fresh air and green space
  • Security and privacy


It’s also vital to consider specific legislation that guides the planning of office space such as Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, as well as the Energy Performance Certificate (EPC), which rates how energy efficient your building is. Introduced in 2007, the EPC is a rating (from A-G) that indicates how energy efficient a building is. It’s a legal requirement for all commercial and residential buildings to have this certificate and to be on the EPC register.

Furthermore, consumers are now ‘placing a greater emphasis on the consciences of the companies and organisations they connect with,’ according to EPC provider Nexus Energy Solutions, which suggests that, by investing in an energy performance certificate, you will be making a start towards not only helping the environment but also becoming more attractive to potential customers. The EPC is straightforward to get if your building doesn’t already have one. There are numerous companies across the UK that can help you do this.


3. Do you need to hold a license?

If you don’t hold the correct licenses for your business or it hasn’t been registered with the appropriate professional bodies, your business could be closed, you could be fined, and you might even face a criminal conviction. You can avoid this by checking legal requirements and licenses in your local area and then applying before you open your doors and start selling your product or service. Don’t make the common mistake of thinking that this doesn’t apply if you’re not selling food, alcohol or gambling products. Many other industries also require that you hold a license. In the UK this includes:

  • Childcare
  • Ear piercing
  • Pet shops
  • Security guard
  • Sports coach
  • Credit and financial services
  • Goods haulage
  • Coach operators
  • Taxi drivers
  • Engineers

Always check with trading bodies before you start your business and apply for the licenses necessary. Most of them are affordable and can be applied for in your local area.


4. Do you need insurance?

The correct insurance can help protect your business when problems arise and can often make the difference between staying afloat or going bankrupt. This includes public liability insurance, business contents insurance, employers’ liability insurance, professional indemnity insurance and many others besides. Many businesses are legally required to be covered by these insurances, so be sure to do your homework and find the correct level of cover for you.


5. Do you need to protect your intellectual property?

As well as protecting your stock, supplies, tools and employees, it’s also vital that you protect your intellectual property. The term ‘intellectual property’ refers to the things you create such as your brand name, your products or something you’ve invented and can involve copyright, trademarks and patents. To do this, start by listing your intellectual property assets, checking whether they are indeed original and keeping records that provide this. Once you’ve done this, seek registration as soon as you can. Here in the UK this can take as long as 2-4 years, so it’s important to start your application early.


6. Have you done a risk assessment?

According to HSE (Health and Safety Executive), businesses of all sizes are required by law to conduct a workplace risk assessment to help ensure your employees, contractors and the general public are safe when on your premises. If you have fewer than five employees, you aren’t required to write down your risk assessment, provided that you use your findings to keep everyone safe.

You should ensure that you:

  1. Identify potential hazards
  2. Identify who might be harmed and how
  3. Evaluate the risks
  4. Decide on what precautions you can take to prevent this from happening
  5. Record your findings (if you have more than five employees)
  6. Operate your business according to your findings.

Starting a business is always going to be a risk. But with the right preparation, you can improve your chances of achieving success. Ensure that you register your business, have the right licenses and insurance, understand the legal requirements for an office building, have done a risk assessment and have trademarked any intellectual property and you’ll avoid many of the headaches that can come to haunt new business owners.

Article by Ruby Clarkson

Writer, editor, animal lover and coffee enthusiast
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

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