Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Working From Home – The Legal Stuff

By Chris Green on May 03 2010 • Filed under Chris Green's Legal Basics
Why is it when ones hears the words "Woman Entrepreneur" that one automatically thinks "Home-Based Business?" Well, probably because it is so often true. Home-based entrepreneurship is a viable and logical solution to the many competing demands made upon today's businesswoman, wife and mother.
Make no mistake, you may be working from home, but you are still very much in business, with all the legal baggage that entails. Is your property zoned to permit your type of business? Most residential zoning allows some business activity to be conducted from home, but there are often restrictions concerning parking, signage, noise and nuisance. Each municipality has its own rules, so a discrete inquiry, on a "no name" basis might be in order. Don't automatically assume, for example, that your local bylaws will permit your staff or clients to park in the neighbourhood.
You will require a business licence, and applying for one will often trigger a visit from the bylaw inspector or fire marshall. For that reason, as well as for general security, you may wish to use a packaged office as your official address. Remember, too, that business licence applications are open to the public, and many businesses use lists obtained from City Hall to troll for business.
Just as it is in every workplace, security is an increasing concern, and your security arrangements deserve careful thought. Should you see clients in you home, or publish your home office address? What about having a separate phone, fax and email address? Do you have an alarm system or a means of calling for help?
Home offices tend to accumulate a fair stash of electronic gear which can be a beacon for thieves, and your home insurer would love to find a way to wiggle out of paying your claim, so do they know you are doing business from home? Proper insurance is a key to protecting yourself from many of the risks associated with running a business from home, from couriers slipping on icy steps to the loss of work, product or inventory when the basement floods, and proper insurance coverage is based on disclosure.
Do you have a separate, secure area within the home that is designated as your home office ? CRA wants to know, if you are claiming a business write off for the space. The rules ca n be quite complex, and srtringent, so make sure you discuss it with your accountant
And while we are on the topic of computers, please tell me that you aren't using the same computer for business your feckless teenager uses for facebook, internet gaming and illegal music downloads. Lets face it, your kid's computer is a toxic waste dump of malware and viruses just waiting to trash your business files. Your business deserves its own password-protected computer, internet connection, and authentic business software.

The Personal Information Protection Act contains no exemptions for home-based Mompreneurs, so you have to comply with the act by having a policy related to the collection, release, safeguarding, and eventual destruction of personal information collected by your business. You have a legal duty to safeguard your customers' and employees' personal information, and you can be held liable for a breach.

All this isn't meant to dissuade anyone from home-based work, since it is a great option for many. But if I may be permitted one non-legal piece of advice: if you work at home, join at least one "adult" organization – a chamber of commerce or a business networking group – that forces you to to don business attire, put on your game face and go out in the world on a regular basis, just to remind yourself that you really are in business.

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