How to comply with legislation

Over three-quarters of Britain's small businesses are not confident that they are complying with mounting legislation, according to research from information technology supplier Dell.

Only 8% of those surveyed claim to be fully aware of their compliance obligations and the penalties for not following legislation such as the Data Protection Act and Freedom of Information Act. Penalties can range from a court summons to substantial fines.

Increases in legislation and lack of awareness, time and resources are some of the main reasons why businesses are falling short of meeting legislation requirements.

“There is a lot of confusion around legislation and many companies don’t see the business benefits that can be linked to compliance. It should be seen as an opportunity rather than a threat,” believes Steve Lewis, enterprise systems director at Dell UK.

Although legislation currently only affects UK organisations in a limited way, corporate governance legislation is set to become the norm in Europe within the next few years.

“If applied effectively, policies to meet regulations and legislation should have positive effects on the efficiency and morale of an organisation. Yet, through lack of understanding, many boards see only the negative side of protection against litigation and corporate punishment,” claims Ian Rickwood, chief executive of the Institute for the Management of Information Systems. It is currently carrying out a survey to gauge the effectiveness of corporate policies and the current cost of compliance in the UK.

To ease the pain of compliance, consider the following tips:

  • Consolidate all your data in a central system, so that you have more control over how it is managed
  • Think strategically when you are purchasing systems, such as storage solutions
  • Systematically archive financial data, email and other important records
  • Ensure your employees know how to manage their data. Too often, individuals are left to administer their own mailboxes and to decide what they do and don’t delete

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