Crime risks and compliance issues affect businesses large and small — but the potential impacts on SMEs are sometimes increased due to more meagre resources.
And at the moment, small and medium firms are contending with the discordant background music of a potential no-deal Brexit as well as evergreen issues like tax transparency and workers’ rights.
If you keep a keen eye on business law, you’re already ahead of the curve, but the following contemporary SME legal issues to consider for Brexit and beyond should sharpen your strategy.
As part of its latest Brexit ‘tracker’ study, Reuters has reported that the commercial property market is performing better than industry insiders predicted 12 months ago.
The cost of real estate rental in the City of London fell six per cent in the first half of 2018 to £75 per square foot.
But rental prices are still one per cent higher than they were when the UK voted to depart the EU in June 2016.
Across the UK, real estate group CBRE’s monthly index reveals that UK commercial property capital values rose by 0.1 per cent in August, rental values in the industrial sector increased by 0.2 per cent and capital values in the office sector rose by 0.2 per cent.
Tip: For some companies, buying a commercial property in a pension scheme makes sense — read this guide to property, SSAS and SIPP pensions from FT Adviser.
In April, research from Barclays bank revealed that over half of telecoms and IT SMEs are targeted by cyber-fraudsters — with each case costing businesses an average of £1000 and two-thirds of these businesses not offering staff cybersecurity training.
Another area of concern is payment fraud, which costs UK SMEs £18.9 billion according to the UK Action Fraud Agency.
Card fraud is perhaps the most easily recognised, but smaller businesses are also vulnerable to CEO fraud, invoice misdirection and mandate fraud.
Data analytics products offered by banks and private companies can bolster fraud prevention, but once you’re aware your company has been targeted, it’s vital to act immediately to minimise damage.
Tip: if you’re worried you may have fallen victim to a scam, secure professional legal advice from fraud experts like Switalskis Solicitors.
One of the criticisms of EU institutions over the years has been the reams of red tape they produce to regulate everything from data protection to car CO2 emissions.
But onshoring these rules to British laws that are still aligned closely enough to facilitate frictionless trade might keep civil servants, lawyers and bureaucrats busy for decades.
In terms of the transfer of personal data in a no deal scenario, the UK Government is advising companies to include model data protection clauses in contracts with EU clients that have been approved by the European Commission — in case absorbing EU legislation like GDPR into British law isn’t seamless.
And a study by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has revealed that 10 per cent of smaller firms say they’d have to stop exporting to the EU altogether if customs declaration costs proved prohibitive, with 59 per cent overall saying their trade plans would be seriously impacted.
So businesses are definitely crossing fingers, toes and anything else available that the PM and her team can smooth the transition path prior to the 29 May 2019 departure date.
Tip: If you’re not sure how you’re business should navigate Brexit, study this preparedness plan from the UK government.
This brief overview of contemporary SME legal issues should give any entrepreneur plenty to think about for Brexit and beyond — let’s hope that the potential risks are outweighed by emerging opportunities.
How are you preparing for Brexit? Share your thoughts in the comments section.