EleVAte speaker Annabel Kaye from Koffeeklatch shares her top tips for getting your legal ducks in a row.

When the legal scene changes rapidly (as it sometimes does) it is easy to get confused.  Social Media is full of people who read something somewhere and are firmly telling everyone, this is the way it is.   Most of them are well-meaning but don’t really understand what is going on or what is necessary.   Some people know a lot about what is going on, but want to scare you into making long term expensive commitments to work with them.

Do you remember the GDPR frenzy?

When we hit peak ‘GDPR frenzy’ as I think of it now in 2018, we had Virtual Assistants being cold-called and told by would-be consultants “you will be fined and unable to trade if you don’t pay us £1,000 to audit your data handling”.

You have to be pretty long in the business tooth, and have a level business head, not to be bothered by that.   And of course, if you have not been in business that long you probably weren’t compliant with the ‘old way’ so a lot of chat about how things are changing is getting you more muddled up, rather than less.

It can be tempting to ignore it all and hope it goes away, or that somehow you are uniquely exempt from it all because you run a very small business and no-one will notice what you do. But as professional Virtual Assistants, you can’t afford to be all over the place.  Your customers are confused enough without you adding to the mix.

2021 is going to bring changes

2021 is going to be a time of rapid legal and regulatory change.  If you get yourself properly organised this can be a useful source of income for you – ask some of the VAs on this virtual conference how they created income streams out of GDPR.

Though it may seem a bit contra-intuitive, the best way to get ready for change is to take stock of where you are in relation to current legal requirements and then measure ‘the gap’ between today and tomorrow as clear and actionable information becomes available.  It is easy to get caught up in speculation and anxiety, but often the best thing you can do is to measure the gap and identify where particular changes may affect you and be prepared to move rapidly (and effectively) when the details are known.

Things to check now

Recent decisions at the European level have called into question the validity of the US Data Privacy Shield regime.  At the time of writing, we do not know if the UK will independently affirm the validity of this (which would mean we are most likely not going to be an  ‘approved’ country for GDPR purposes as far as the EU is concerned).   What we do know is that many big platforms store data in the USA under this system.

Do a little mini data audit and work out if you or your clients are storing any special category data in the USA (health, political, ethnically related data) and make a list.  Add to that list if you are storing ordinary personal data in the USA.   Be ready to remove any unnecessary data from USA based storage systems.

While we are in GDPR mode, have a look at whether you are sending or receiving personal data of any kind (even viewing it for a client) that is being stored in the EU.   In the absence of any other agreement, you will need to make sure you have the appropriate EU clauses in your VA terms of business/VA Associate Hiring agreement and the appropriate data processing agreement.   For VAs who trade across borders, this is a must-do.

Further changes to our data privacy regime can be expected in 2021 – it’s going to be an interesting year.  Alongside data privacy decisions and Brexit (which has already affected how we do ‘cross border transfers’ of data as it is viewed inside and outside the EU, we are also having legal changes in the UK.

The revised assessment regime for IR35 is going ahead on 6th April 2021.   Most Virtual Assistants are not clear on how the existing system works.  There are parallel systems already for putting sole trader VAs onto PAYE.    Now would be a great time to check that your contract allows for substitution and that you have used an associate (and documented that you have) on any accounts you expect to be active in April 2021.   This is a great time to get those ducks in a row.  It will take a lot more than up to date contracts to get you through this one.   During the winter, we will be helping you educate your clients on how this works.  As with so many other legal issues, the problem of the law and contracts is one thing, but getting your client to get to grips with it is another.

We have reviews of gig economy worker status, changes to the tax regime and more to look forward to in 2021.   All years are busy legal years, this 2021 one will be busier than most as it combines the post Brexit diversification of our data privacy regime, with pre-planned changes to our tax and regulatory framework.

If all of this has given you a big headache – don’t worry.  We spend our entire time thinking about how to make this work for you and your clients.   Join me live in September at Elevate – I promise to bring the virtual rubber ducks.   We will help you work out what is the best way to navigate these changes and help you get your legal ducks in a row.

Find out more about VA Business Agreements from Koffeeklatch on their website here