Small business legislation 2012 – a look ahead


Small businesses are being advised to prepare for the impact of new and upcoming legislation in 2012. Experts at Clydesdale Bank have identified three key pieces of legislation that they strongly recommend small businesses pay attention to this year.

Among the most pressing pieces of legislation for the sector in the coming year are: The enforcement of the Olympic Act; changing employee rights; as well as the UK government’s new ‘Green Deal’ on energy efficiency.

The Olympics are something which will be impossible to avoid this year and many businesses will be looking to capitalise on the event given the exposure and interest it is certain to receive. The influx of tourists, athletes, officials, sponsors and international media offers a potential source of business.

However, the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 (Olympics Act) creates uncertainty for those who would seek to make the most out of business opportunities arising from the games, as it severely restricts the ways in which businesses that are not official sponsors can associate themselves with the games.

For example, it is forbidden to use any of the Olympic trademarks such as the Olympic rings, while companies are banned from using certain words or phrases like ‘Olympic’, ‘London 2012’ and ‘gold’ to ensure they are not creating an association with the games.

Will Lindsay, Regional Director South at Clydesdale Bank, said: “Small businesses should carry on with their normal marketing activities but ensure they are careful with the ways in which they try and benefit from the Olympics, as breaches of the legislation can give rise to unlimited fines and criminal liability.

“The Act will disproportionately damage small businesses who cannot afford the penalties that breaching it could bring in comparison with larger firms, where the threat of a fine can sometimes seem worth it for the exposure that they might receive.

“It is essential that smaller firms fully understand the Act’s restrictions while also being extremely careful not to violate any of its conditions.”

The second area of employment legislation which small businesses should take into consideration concerns the issue of employee rights, and specifically the matter of parental leave.

Parental leave is a benefit separate from maternity and paternity leave and gives parents the right to take unpaid time off work to look after their children.

Parental leave may be taken simply to allow you to spend more time with your child and can be taken in blocks of a week or longer immediately after your maternity, paternity or adoption leave, providing the correct notice is given.

Currently both parents of a child have the legal right to take up to three months parental leave up until the child’s fifth birthday. However, after the adoption of a new EU Parental Leave Directive on 8 March 2012, this right will increase to four months for both parents and will be applicable up until the child’s eighth birthday.

Will Lindsay said: “Smaller businesses find it more difficult to plan around staff taking parental leave. They simply do not have the HR departments necessary to deal with the complex administration of issues relating to family leave. It is therefore essential that employers take time to research this change in order to fully understand the implications for both employees and the wider workforce.”

A third piece of legislation that small businesses should look out for in 2012 is an environmental initiative which forms the centrepiece of the 2011 Energy Act.

The Green Deal is expected to launch in autumn 2012 and is the Coalition Government’s flagship policy for improving the energy efficiency of buildings in Great Britain. It offers businesses a comprehensive assessment of how to maximise energy efficiency, with the measures paid for either up front or through installments on energy bills through an agreement reached through all affected parties.

Will Lindsay said: “Businesses that use the Green Deal should follow a three step process. Firstly, they should obtain an independent energy survey on the property which will provide them with the best energy efficiency options.

“Secondly, property owners will be able to access Green Deal finance, provided through a range of accredited providers.

“Finally, businesses will receive their energy efficiency package delivered by qualified installers; through government accredited schemes.”

Will concluded: “There are several significant pieces of legislation that small businesses should look out for in 2012 which range from employment to environmental issues as well as the country hosting the world’s biggest sporting event.

“It is vitally important that small businesses know when these pieces of legislation come into effect, are aware of their implications and can identify the best ways of adapting to them.”

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