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Company policies are essential, even for start-ups

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Right now all your energy is consumed on building your service, MVP’s, winning pilots, initial sales and building towards your next investment round.

The last thing you need is to spend time writing company policies, right?

Wrong. Prospective clients and investors don’t care that you are a startup or that you are all working flat out and wearing various hats, they are still going to require evidence that your company is being governed in a way that protects their data and reputation.

Policies are also a great way for the founders to communicate to their team about the culture, frameworks and expectations they have for success. Teams work better when an operating framework is defined.

Spoken instructions are never enough. When everyone involved is working hard to get things off the ground, establishing clear ground rules will help your staff understand how to operate and to avoid conflict or dispute; then if you can’t avoid legal dispute, a well-written policy will limit any damage.

… so where to start.

There are 6 Essential policies listed below that we advise start-ups to put in place from Day 1.

  • Open Source Software Policy

You’ve started development and want to reach MVP as soon as possible. Like most FinTechs, you take advantage of the Open-source software (OSS) available to reduce development costs and in some cases improve the reliability of the software being developed.

Are all your team aware of the risks that using externally developed OSS may present to your company?

Imagine the impact of finding out your codebase is reliant on OSS that has a restrictive licence, requiring it to be made freely available. OSS licences differ but it is key that all those involved in the development and approval of its use fully understand the implications. This policy should educate the team on the risks and set out the processes they should follow before any OSS is utilised.

  • Health and Safety Policy

UK law states that every business must have a policy for managing health and safety. It’s imperative that your staff work within a healthy and safe workplace.

If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write down your occupational health policy but it’s good practice. Accidents and unsafe conditions can land you in court.

  • Home and Remote Working Policy

The workplace for most software companies, at least at the outset of operations, is the founder’s home or a garage, but health and safety obligations still apply, so we advise putting in place a home working policy from the outset. The policy outlines home working arrangements, equipment and safety for remote working.

Longer-term, offering the flexibility of home or remote working can help to increase staff morale and improve staff retention. Software companies being open to remote working can also unlock access to a large pool of offshore talent that may be hard to find locally at a cost-effective price point.

  • Equal Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion Policy

There is no specific legal requirement to provide a written equal opportunities policy at work. Nonetheless, under the UK's Equality Act 2010, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone in the workplace and setting out your company’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion from an early stage makes it clear that equal opportunities are a reality at your company.

  • Website Privacy and Cookie Policy

Key to marketing your software services is your website and it’s often one of the first things you will develop. It is important that you outline the procedures your company has in place to protect website visitors’ personal data. Your policy should be aligned with data protection regulation(s) and inform visitors of the type of data you may collect, how you might use it and the processes in place to protect that data.

As well as reassuring website visitors, it also ensures that you have their permission to store cookies on their computer.

  • Employee Grievance and Disciplinary Policy

Under UK law and in many other jurisdictions, employers are required to set out a grievance procedure and share it in writing with all employees. This will help demonstrate that you are a responsible employer, meet your legal obligations and ensure problems, complaints or concerns that employees may have are dealt with fairly, consistently, and in a timely fashion.

Occasionally problems will arise at work and dealing with them is much easier with a clear disciplinary policy in place. Employees must understand how, and under what circumstances, they will be disciplined. A standardised step-by-step process will help you ensure fair and appropriate treatment, even if you don’t formally disclose the entire procedure. It will also show that you are an employer who does not tolerate serious violations but also values remedial actions in the case of minor offences.

Providing procedures to ensure employees are treated fairly will mean your company is less likely to encounter expensive, time-consuming tribunal claims.

Adopting policies and being able to evidence good governance will mitigate risks and win you more business.

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This content is provided by an external author without editing by Finextra. It expresses the views and opinions of the author.

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