Industry sector: Retail and wholesale

Office goods supplier: Legal matters


Some of the key areas where legislation is likely to affect your business are listed below. The list is not intended to be exhaustive.

Waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE)

The WEEE Regulations aim to minimise the impact of waste electrical and electronic equipment on the environment. If your business sells electrical and electronic products to domestic customers, then you're required to give customers information about WEEE, provide a free like for like take-back service for waste electrical goods or join the distributor take-back scheme. This is to allow customers to return old appliances when they buy new equipment. You can find out more on the BOSS website.

Waste batteries

If your business sells more than 32 kg of portable batteries in a year you must take back used batteries from customers to be recycled. You must provide this service free-of-charge. DEFRA has produced a calculator to help businesses work out whether they sell enough batteries each year to be affected by the regulations. You can use a tool based on the DEFRA calculator on the Waste Support website. If you do need to take back used batteries, you can use a free battery compliance scheme to collect the batteries from you.

Retailing and selling

There is a wide range of legislation that applies to retail outlets to protect the interests of the consumer. For example, goods and services must not be misleadingly described and the price of goods must be clearly and appropriately displayed. You will be responsible for making sure that all goods or services are fit for their intended purpose and of satisfactory quality.

Carrier bag charge

Retailers in Wales and Scotland must charge customers at least 5 pence if they supply them with a single-use carrier bag. This applies to all types of single-use bag, whether they are made of plastic, paper or plant-based starch. In Northern Ireland retailers must charge customers a 5 pence levy on all bags with a retail price of less than 20 pence (including any bags that would otherwise be free of charge), whether they are single-use or reusable. You can get detailed guidance about when the charge applies and your legal responsibilities as a retailer on the Carrier Bag Charge Wales, Zero Waste Scotland and NI Direct websites.

A 5 pence charge applies in England, but small and medium-sized businesses (with fewer than 250 full-time equivalent employees) are exempt.

Health and safety

You must also make sure that you comply with health and safety legislation. This covers all aspects of work place health and safety. Employers have a duty to ensure the health and safety at work of all their employees. Those with five or more employees must prepare a written health and safety policy statement. You should contact your local authority health and safety section for advice and guidance.

Employment legislation

Anyone employing staff must comply with employment legislation. Important pieces of legislation that you must be aware of include:

  • The Employment Rights Act
  • The National Minimum Wage Act
  • The Working Time Regulations

Further information and guidance leaflets on all aspects of health and safety are available on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and Health and Safety Executive Northern Ireland (HSENI) websites.

The employing people section of the Gov.uk website includes information and guidance on all aspects of employment legislation. Information for businesses in Northern Ireland is available on the NI Business Info website.

Equality and discrimination law

You must not discriminate against anyone because of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion, sex or sexual orientation. This applies to every aspect of your business operations, from taking people on to dismissing them. You may need to make reasonable adjustments to your premises and working arrangements so that you don't unfairly discriminate against disabled people.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission and Equality Commission for Northern Ireland websites contain further information on your legal duties.

Other legislation

There are other pieces of legislation that may affect you, such as those that regulate trading online and special regulations - known as REACH Regulations - that control the distribution and use of chemical substances. The BOSS Federation provides details of many regulations that may affect its members. More information can be obtained from the BOSS Federation website.