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Mission impossible: How can SMEs make sure they’re hard FM compliant?

By James Bradley – Director, Churchill Complete Compliance

From auto-enrolment of pensions and the new National Living Wage, to GDPR, gender pay reporting and the apprenticeship levy, the legislation affecting small businesses is growing.

And with many small business owners focusing on running their businesses, rather than looking at the realms of legislation they need to meet, it’s easy for SMEs to find themselves on the wrong side of the law.

As a recent article in City AM shows, SMEs often find ever-changing legislation and jargon filled manuscripts a confusing and costly chore to get on top of.  As a result, it’s likely that a large number of these companies are unaware they are actually breaking the law.

And no more so than in the FM space. I have discussed in previous blogs how hard FM compliance is enough to send even the most experienced FM into a cold sweat. How do they know what is required to be done by law and what is good practice? For the small business manager, it’s an even more impossible feat. If the FM sector cannot agree which hard FM activities are statutory and which are not, then the SME cannot be expected to. And yet they are.

Earlier this year, we started working with a small business owner who had recently moved into new leased premises, after spending the first seven years of their existence in serviced offices. They were thrown into a new world of fire risk assessments, water testing, and health and safety regulations. The landlord and previous tenant (also a small business) had done nothing, so the fire extinguishers, and sprinklers were way past their testing date and fixed wire testing hadn’t been done in decades. With several other tests needed to be done to get them up to date, it was a costly business – and unexpectedly so. The office manager, who had no previous experience of managing an office of that size and dealing with FM compliance, asked our team whether there was a central repository of legislation that small businesses have to follow when it came to their premises. “Just tell me where I need to go to find out what I should do,” she said.

And of course, there isn’t such a place. As an FM sector, we need one source of information to go to, so the industry (and SMEs) can be certain they’re hard FM compliant, keeping their people and property safe.

Moreover, SMEs need to be careful they don’t fall into the trap of doing too much, costing them their hard-earnt profits which need to be re-invested to help their business grow. Often statutory obligations have varying parameters when it comes to applicability.