After Christmas, it’s time to embrace that New Year’s energy. The New Year is an opportune time for businesses to set their legal affairs in order and proactively address potential challenges. Whether you’re a small startup or a well-established corporation, here are four actions businesses should consider to start the New Year right and invest in your business’s long term success.
1. Review and Update Contracts and Agreements
Contracts are key to setting out obligations and managing expectations for strong and transparent business relationships, while minimising risks and protecting your interests. At the start of the year, it’s advisable to review and update existing contracts and agreements. This can include:
a. Client and Vendor Contracts: Ensure that the terms are still relevant and negotiate changes, if necessary, to adapt to evolving circumstances.
b. Employment Contracts: Review employment agreements including non-compete and non-solicitation clauses. Make sure these reflect your current business needs and comply with legal changes.
c. Shareholder Agreements: a review of the Shareholders Agreement to ensure it accurately reflects the roles and responsibilities of each shareholder and expectations around dividends.
2. Evaluate Compliance with New Laws and Regulations
Laws and regulations change, and what was compliant last year may not be this year. Evaluate your business’s compliance with new legal requirements to help you avoid penalties, litigation, and reputational damage. Requirements vary but most companies should consider the following as a minimum:
a. Data Protection: Ensure your data handling and privacy practices comply with the latest data protection laws, including privacy and cyber security requirements.
b. Competition and Consumer Law: Stay abreast of changing competition and consumer laws and regulations, particularly if your business sells direct to end consumers or engages in any way with competitors.
c. Employment Law: Review your human resources policies and procedures to ensure compliance with any new labour, safety and anti-discrimination laws.
3. Create or Update Your Company’s Handbook
Having a comprehensive handbook can serve as a valuable resource for both management and employees, promoting a harmonious work environment and minimising legal risk for your company. If you don’t already have one, consider creating a handbook. If you have an existing handbook, use the new year as an opportunity to update it. Key areas to address include:
a. Company Policies: Document your company’s policies regarding employee behavior, workplace safety, diversity and inclusion, and anti-harassment.
b. Compliance Guidelines: Include information on legal and regulatory compliance specific to your industry, as well as procedures for handling compliance violations.
c. Dispute Resolution: Define processes for resolving internal disputes and issues, reducing the likelihood of costly litigation.
4. Plan for Risk Management and Asset Protection
Risk management should be a core aspect of your business strategy. Fortify your business’s resilience by updating your risk management and asset protection plan. Consider the following:
a. Intellectual Property Protection: Ensure that your trademarks, patents and copyright are protected. This may include trademark registrations, patent applications and copyright enforcement.
b. Insurance Review: Review your insurance policies, including liability insurance, cybersecurity insurance, and business interruption insurance. Make sure your coverage is adequate for your business’s needs.
c. Risk governance: Review your risk register for gaps and consider your current processes for risk management including risk assessments, risk reporting and board oversight.
As the name suggests, this isn’t advice, it’s just a story. If you’re looking for legal advice to invest in your business’s long term success, please get in touch to discuss how we may be able to assist you.