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Data protection for small businesses

Don't be nervous about GDPR. By acting on it, you can keep your customer's and business’s data safe. Find out how to ensure data protection for small businesses with our free GDPR checklist for small businesses!!

In this digital age, the significance of data protection cannot be overstated, especially for small businesses. For small businesses, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is not just a legal obligation but a step towards establishing customer trust.

In this guide, we’ll outline everything you need to know about data protection for small businesses. We’ll demystify your responsibilities, the key aspects of GDPR for small businesses, and much more.

Your responsibilities as a small business or sole trader

We know your blood, sweat, and possibly a few tears, have gone into building your business from the ground up.

The last thing you want is for a data protection breach to compromise the reputation you’ve worked so hard to build.

With customer and employee data on file, it’s easier than you might think for someone to get access to private information.

Typical examples of a data breach include:

  • Sending an email to the wrong person
  • Sending an invoice to the wrong customer or address
  • A company laptop being stolen
  • A cyber scam (fraudsters getting hold of your private information)

GDPR compliance folder

What are the UK data protection laws?

The UK has several laws that require businesses to process personal data in a responsible and safe way:

Failure to comply with these laws could result in a hefty fine and a serious dent in your company’s reputation.

So as a small business owner, how can you make sure you protect the data in your company’s hands?

GDPR overview

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is the toughest privacy and security law in the world. It came into force in 2018 to help protect the vast personal data collected by organisations.

Whatever the size of your trade business, you are subject to GDPR law. If your business processes personal data, you need to register with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

You will also need to pay an annual fee. These range from £40 to £2,900. But for most organisations, it will be £40 or £60 per year. Failure to pay the fee can result in a fine of up to £4,350.

Tip: Pay your fee by direct debit and you’ll receive an automatic discount of £5. There is no VAT charged on these fees.

It’s more straightforward to do than you might think. You can register with the ICO and pay your data protection fee now.

GDPR for your small business

The UK’s data protection laws apply to all businesses that process personal information – big or small. However, GDPR for small businesses is not just a legal requirement. It is also a way of preserving reputation and avoiding fines.

After registering with the ICO and paying the annual fee, you need to tell customers and employees how you’ll process their data.

Data protection notice for small businesses

UK law requires “data controllers” to tell people how their data is being used.

A data controller is the organisation processing the personal data we mentioned earlier. For example, this includes peoples’ names, email addresses, contact information etc.

The best way to do this is to create a Privacy Notice, outlining the way you handle the data. That is how the information is collected and used. It also informs people how to contact you or the ICO.

  • Make sure you have your Privacy Notice on your website or available when you first contact a new customer
  • Share your Privacy Notice with all existing staff, and any new starters when they join

To help with your small business data processing, the ICO has created an easy-to-use template. You can use this to make your own Privacy Notice.

Create your own Privacy Notice now

Cookies

Cookies are small text files that are downloaded onto computers or smartphones when a user accesses a website.

If you use cookies to collect people’s data, you need to make this clear. For example, if you track visitors to your company or link to your social media accounts, you need to tell website visitors that you use cookies. You must also give website users the opportunity to accept, reject, or manage the use of cookies.

Don’t worry, most platforms like WordPress have plug-ins that will automatically create a cookie banner on your website. You’ve probably experienced Cookie Banners yourself when using the internet. It’s the message that pops up on a website when you visit for the first time to ask for permission to load cookies.

Read about Cookie requirements here

Don’t get stung – download our GDPR checklist for small businesses

Whether you’re looking for information on data protection as a sole trader or a small business, the same rules apply.

Download our GDPR checklist for small businesses and become a data protection-compliant business that homeowners can trust. If you’re a Checkatrade member, download it for free in the community – no need to fill in the form below.

The GDPR checklist will guide you on:

  • How to register with the ICO and what annual fees there are to pay
  • Creating a company Privacy Notice for customers and employees
  • Creating a Cookie Banner on your website
  • Individual Rights – what to do should a customer or employee ask for copies of their personal data or for their data to be deleted
  • How to protect Special Category Data, is particularly important if you employ staff
  • Your obligations should a Data Breach occur
  • The rules around electronic marketing, such as email, text messages or calls for marketing purposes
  • How to keep personal data safe
  • How to stay compliant when data sharing or entering into an agreement with contractors or temporary staff
  • How to train your employees on their responsibilities for the personal data in their care

While this may seem overwhelming, it is a legal requirement. You could land yourself in hot water if you fail to meet your obligations.

To help you, we’ve put together a helpful download. This contains advice on what you need to do to make sure you’ve ticked all the data protection boxes for both your business and your customers.


The good news is you can also use your compliance with data protection legislation as a competitive advantage. The ICO register is a public document that anyone can access to see which organisations are registered.

Being on the ICO register gives customers, contractors, and employees reassurance that your trade business is responsible and trustworthy. It could even be a deal-breaker for large organisations looking to subcontract work to your small business.

GDPR for small businesses and sole traders

FAQs

What are the rules on electronic mail marketing (email-type communications)?

The rules on electronic mail marketing are explained in detail on the ico.org.uk website.

You must be sure that when you send any emails to your customers, you have specifically asked for consent to do so.

If you want to send marketing information to existing customers, you must have offered an opt-out on initial collection of their details. Check you always include an ‘unsubscribe’ option in your mailing every time you send them an email.

As a tradesperson with a growing email database, don’t be tempted to send a blanket email to all previous customers. That is, unless you have checked you have their explicit consent to do so.

If you encourage your customers to share your marketing, you must comply with the rules outlined in PECR ( Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations).

How does GDPR affect small businesses?

GDPR makes sure that small businesses process the personal data they hold in a responsible and safe way. This personal data can relate to both customers and employees. It covers elements such as peoples’ names, email addresses and contact information.

How to comply with GDPR as a small business

To comply with GDPR as a small business, you’ll need to ensure your business is compliant with data protection law. You can also assess your level of compliance on the ICO website.

In an era dominated by digital landscapes, the importance of robust data protection for small businesses cannot be overstated. Safeguarding sensitive information isn’t merely a compliance requirement but a fundamental pillar upon which to build the trustworthiness of your business.

Find out more about how to build trust with your customers.

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Content disclaimer: This content has been created for general information purposes and should not be taken as formal advice. Read our full disclaimer here.

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