We’re here with practical legal information for your business. Learn about employment law, company law and more.

Setting up a business involves complying with a range of legal requirements. Find out which ones apply to you and your new enterprise.

While poor governance can bring serious legal consequences, the law can also protect business owners and managers and help to prevent conflict.

Whether you want to raise finance, join forces with someone else, buy or sell a business, it pays to be aware of the legal implications.

From pay, hours and time off to discipline, grievance and hiring and firing employees, find out about your legal responsibilities as an employer.

Marketing matters. Marketing drives sales for businesses of all sizes by ensuring that customers think of their brand when they want to buy.

Commercial disputes can prove time-consuming, stressful and expensive, but having robust legal agreements can help to prevent them from occurring.

Whether your business owns or rents premises, your legal liabilities can be substantial. Commercial property law is complex, but you can avoid common pitfalls.

With information and sound advice, living up to your legal responsibilities to safeguard your employees, customers and visitors need not be difficult or costly.

As information technology continues to evolve, legislation must also change. It affects everything from data protection and online selling to internet policies for employees.

Intellectual property (IP) isn't solely relevant to larger businesses or those involved in developing innovative new products: all products have IP.

Knowing how and when you plan to sell or relinquish control of your business can help you to make better decisions and achieve the best possible outcome.

From bereavement, wills, inheritance, separation and divorce to selling a house, personal injury and traffic offences, learn more about your personal legal rights.

The Freedom of Information Act and your trade secrets

Public bodies now have to release information they hold on you - even to your competitors - unless exemptions apply. Follow the tips in this article to make sure your confidential business information doesn't inadvertently end up in the public domain 

All in the public domain

If a public body has dealt with you - corresponded with you, investigated you, issued you with a licence or contracted work to you - it will have information about you. The Freedom of Information Act means anyone can ask to see that information, including your competitors, suppliers, customers and employees, unless you can claim confidentiality under one of the legal let-outs.

Know your let-outs

There are two important exceptions, when your information won't be given out:

  • Information can't be given out if you have legal rights to prevent it, for example, if you are a supplier to a public body and your contract says it can't disclose information it has about you because of that relationship.
  • 'Trade secrets' and information that would prejudice your commercial interests can't be given out. So, information about special equipment you use would probably be a trade secret - though not its state of repair.

Even if the let-outs apply, the public body can still disclose your information if it's in the public interest that it does, for example, where disclosure would show that it is spending public money wisely. So, details of pricing in your tender for work from a public body might be kept secret during the tender, but not necessarily afterwards.

Keep it out of the wrong hands

Protect your interests by knowing the information public bodies hold about you and whether it will be disclosed by:

  • Checking the information you have provided to public bodies in the past - is any of it sensitive? If so, prepare contingency plans in case it is made public.
  • Getting the public bodies concerned to tell you if they are asked for information about you (they are encouraged by government guidelines to consult with you in case an exemption applies, though they don't have to).
  • Asking them for a notice period before they reveal information about you, so you can plan to protect.
  • Specifically appointing someone to make sure future information you give to public bodies is vetted and managed.
  • Agreeing, when dealing with a public body, which information is commercially sensitive or a trade secret. Provide that information separately in a document or schedule clearly marked 'trade secrets'. Ask it to acknowledge that there is no public interest exception that will let them disclose that information.
  • When you contract or tender for work with a public body, getting specific agreement that information about you is confidential.

Find out more about the Freedom of Information Act on the Information Commissioner's Office website.

If in doubt, take legal advice.