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Running a business can be exciting and rewarding, but keeping track of the latest legal requirements is often a challenge. With new rules and updates constantly coming out, here are four things you should consider to put your business in the best position – both for now and the future.

1. Integrate ESG into your business for a competitive advantage

If you want to develop your company’s corporate social responsibility, you should consider how you can integrate an environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach into your business.

One way to do this is by getting “B Corporation” or “B Corp” status from B Lab. A non-profit organisation, B Lab certifies companies that voluntarily meet high standards of social and environmental accountability, performance and transparency.

While there are no tax benefits to obtaining B Corp status, it can add value by attracting new clients and investors – and help with your long-term growth plans.

Certification normally takes between six and ten months to process, and the requirements will depend on your company’s size and structure. To maintain certification, B Corps must update their B Impact Assessment and verify their updated score every three years. Find out more about B Corp certification here.

2. Introduce a workplace menopause policy

Women over 50 are now the fastest growing demographic in the workforce, and many will experience menopause symptoms. As awareness of this issue continues to grow, businesses can no longer ignore menopause and its impact on female staff. In fact, recent research released by the Menopause Experts Group shows that employment tribunal cases citing menopause rose by 44% in 2021.

By introducing a menopause policy and cultivating a supportive workplace environment, you can retain female talent and improve the wellbeing and productivity of female employees. You’ll also protect your business from the financial and reputational risk of employment tribunals, which are often on public record.

3. Prepare for the new minimum EPC rating requirements

From April 2023, a commercial landlord will not be allowed to continue letting a property if it has an EPC (Energy Performance Certificate) rating of F or G. What’s more, the government consultation on energy efficiency for privately rented non-domestic buildings proposes further gradual changes to regulation – so that by April 2030, all privately rented non-domestic buildings must meet a minimum EPC standard of B or have a valid exemption registered.

We don’t yet know the results of the consultation, but if you’re a landlord you should start assessing your buildings now so they’re ready to comply with the proposed requirements. If the EPC rating is less than C, you should also consider the implications of granting a property lease for longer than five years, as you may have to pay for the costs of such work during the lease term.

If you’re a tenant, your landlord may restrict you from making alterations that could reduce the EPC rating. Alternatively, they may include provisions in your lease requiring you to pay increased services charges to cover the cost of improving the building’s energy supply – these provisions should be resisted.

Gov.uk provides guidance for landlords on minimum energy efficiency standards.

4. Resolve commercial rent disputes post-pandemic

On 25 March, the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Act 2022 was enacted. This new law provides a legally binding arbitration process to resolve certain outstanding commercial rent debts related to the pandemic. It applies to commercial rent debts of businesses, including pubs, gyms and restaurants which were forced to close (in full or in part) from March 2020.

Commercial landlords and tenants are now encouraged to negotiate settlement agreements using the 2021 Code of Practice. If you’re a tenant who can pay their rent debt in full, you should do so. Otherwise, you should negotiate with your landlord – they might share the burden by waiving some or all rent arrears, or giving you more time to pay. If you cannot agree a settlement, a new binding arbitration scheme can be used as a last resort for eligible businesses.

The new act also prevents landlords from taking rent recovery action pending the outcome of the arbitration process. This means that no enforcement action can be taken by the landlord for six months (i.e. until 25 September 2022) or until the arbitration process is concluded – whichever is later.

If you’d like more advice on the topics covered in this article, please contact:

James Brawn for corporate transactions and commercial contracts
Louise Attrup and Michael Kerrigan for employment law
Jonathan Foy and Neil Mercer for commercial property
Juliet Schalker for commercial disputes.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.