Most changes to laws and legislations produce groans from small business owners – its one more box to tick, one more thing to add to your ever-increasing To Do list or one more thing to lose sleep over.

But last week, new legislation came into place that will have around 1.7 million small business owners breathing a sigh of relief.

It has nothing to do with book keeping or VAT, so why are we talking about it?

We’re not just number crunching accountants. We offer small business advice in Gloucestershire to people just like you. An important part of our work is sharing the latest business news that might affect you, hence today’s post.

From 1st October 2015, if you are self-employed and your work activity poses no potential risk to the health and safety of other workers or members of the public, then health and safety law will not apply to you. (Source)

Of course, there is the small print to consider…

This new exemption from Health and Safety legislation only applies to self-employed people who don’t employ anyone else.

What does this mean, exactly?

According to Health and Safety Executive (HSE) “For health and safety law purposes, ‘self-employed’ means that you do not work under a contract of employment and work only for yourself.”

Even they admit it’s not clear cut by adding “you’re self-employed and employ others the law will apply to you. You may be self-employed for tax purposes, but this may not be so for health and safety. This is a complex area and HMRC have produced employment status guidance.” (Source)

How do I know if my work poses ‘no potential risk to the health and safety of others?’

First, check out the Health and Safety at work act. In it you’ll find a list of the sorts of business that require Health and Safety laws to be in place. The list includes any work with asbestos, work carried out on a construction site and any activity where the Gas Safety Regulations apply.

The second area is less clear cut. HSE say “If your work activity poses a risk to the health and safety of others, then the law applies to you.”

What exactly is a ‘risk to the health and safety of others’?

The HSE explain “This is the likelihood of someone else being harmed or injured (e.g. members of the public, clients, contractors etc.) as a consequence of your work activity.”

They add, “Most self-employed people will know if their work poses a risk to the health and safety of others. You must consider the work you are doing and judge for yourself if it creates a risk or not.”

So if you’re a self-employed hair dresser using bleach or chemicals on your client’s hair the law applies to you. But if you only wash and cut hair then the laws no longer apply (just make sure you don’t stab someone with those scissors!).

If you’re a VA working from home and you’re writing a manual which someone will use to operate machinery then the law applies. However, if you’re working on a client’s accounts – even if that client visits your home – the law no longer applies.

If you’re a landlord renting properties and rooms to tenants then you have specific responsibilities under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations.

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