According to statistics, over 90% of businesses in Greater Manchester diversified their products and services in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The survey by Talk Talk indicated that 75% of owners increased their business’ online presence during the past year – with 30% having done so significantly.
Whilst trying to keep up with the ever-changing restrictions and rules over the past 18 months and adapting their businesses alongside these, some business owners may have overlooked putting the supporting business documentation in place. Here we look at some of the most important documents that a business needs to have in place and up to date.
General Terms and Conditions
Terms and conditions of business are key in protecting any business and avoiding unnecessary risk. As a business develops, ensuring that terms and conditions and relevant and provide clear definitions and descriptions of what products or services will be provided is important. Particular elements of terms and conditions that may require review include payment terms and consequences of failure to pay, the term of the contract and what notice is required to exit it, any guarantees or warranties offered in respect of the products/services to be supplied and conditions relating to delivery or performance.
The rules relating to the sale of products, services or digital content to consumers rather than other businesses differ, so if you have changed the model of your business in this respect, or sell to both markets, relevant documentation will need to be in place for both.
Websites that allow transactions rather than those that act simply as information resources are two very different things. Any website that has evolved into an ecommerce site during the course of the pandemic will need to have appropriate terms and conditions in place. For example, distance selling regulations will apply to online sales, which give consumers the right to cancel their purchase within a specified time. Outside of this, businesses will often choose to have their own policy on the return of goods, and information regarding any extra costs or fees, such as delivery charges, must be provided up front before the contract is entered into.
It’s important to note that the definition of distance selling is very wide and can apply to the sale of any goods or services ‘at a distance’.
Both Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policies are important to have in place on websites and provided that these are tailored to your business’ specific needs, can act as an important means of protection.
Businesses that lease premises may have had to negotiate temporary amendments to payment terms with their landlord during the course of the pandemic. When it comes to renegotiating the terms of a lease, it may be possible to include a pandemic clause to set out how payments would be dealt with in future lockdowns. Our blog specific to pandemic clauses in commercial leases explains this in more detail.
Statistics also show that 40% of companies have created jobs over the last 18 months. Ensuring that employment contracts are relevant and up to date is an important means of protection for both employees and employers. If any employees have changed roles during the pandemic, a review of their current contracts may be warranted. This is especially important for employees who have received a promotion or gained more responsibility. Particular note should be paid to notice periods, data protection and restrictive covenants in these cases.
Even business that have not changed their working practices during the pandemic may benefit from a review of their business contracts to ensure that they take account of legislative changes or new case law. All too often, business contracts are only reviewed by companies when a dispute arises, by which time it may be too late. Well thought out and well drafted contracts and agreements can be crucial to the success of a business.
For further advice in relation to business contracts and agreements, or to arrange a review of your business documentation, contact James O’Donnell.