Legal Considerations for Business Owners

Whether your business is new or well established, offering products or services, serving ordinary individuals or large corporations, you need to comply with a raft of legislation regulating such areas as how to set up and run the business, how to treat employees and how to make tax returns. While it may seem daunting at first, it is essential to take a little time to understand the legislation and what it means for you.

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Sole Trader or Limited Liability Company?

One of the first decisions that a business owner should consider is whether to trade as a sole trader or through a limited liability company. The decision depends on a number of factors including current and future ownership, likely funding requirements, projected profitability, owner’s attitude to risk and taxation. But where does the budding business owner start?

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Insurance for Small Business

Business insurance can be a bit of a minefield with a wide range of products available to suit a wide range of needs. In essence insurance provides peace of mind that should something go wrong the finance will be available to help deal with it. But there are situations where insurance is necessary for legal, regulatory or accreditation reasons. For example, motor insurance is a legal requirement, building and contents insurance can sometimes be required to take out a lease and public liability insurance may be a prerequisite for membership of a trade association. So what are the typical insurances relevant for a small business and what do they mean?

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Simple Safety for Small Business

Every single business owner, whether a sole trader or a limited liability company, whether working on their own or with many employees, must comply with the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005. The Act details the responsibilities of employers, the self-employed, employees and various other parties in relation to providing a work environment that safeguards the health and welfare of all involved. Businesses can be audited and non compliant business owners are subject to penalties.

The Health and Safety Authority (HSA) have introduced the Simple Safety Series, a series of practical tools designed to help small business owners improve workplace health and safety and reduce accidents.

It boils down to four key areas that I have extracted from the HSA's Simple Safety toolkit:

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Employers Legal Obligations

Employment law has changed dramatically in recent years. Employees have been given greatly enhanced rights and protections in the workplace. Legislation has been introduced to ensure that employees are treated fairly and equally. Discrimination and harassment are outlawed. Basic working conditions and minimum wage levels have been prescribed. Employees are entitled to information and consultation. Family and personal circumstances are recognised and provided for.

When setting up a new business with paid employees, employers must be familiar with a number of basic provisions under Irish employment law. Here is a brief guide for employers starting a new business which has been extracted from, the website of the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA).

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Employers & Pensions

Employers who do not operate an occupational pension scheme, or, who operate an occupation pension scheme where there are certain membership restrictions, are required under legislation to ensure that their employees have access to at least one Standard Personal Retirement Savings Accounts (PRSA). This is to ensure that, to the greatest extent possible, all employees can save for retirement. To comply with the legistation, employers must:

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