Nobody has less time than a self-employed tradesman or tradeswoman. Yet the amount of unavoidable paperwork increases every year, with more responsibilities stacked up on the desk. But no plumber, electrician or builder can be successful with just a pocket diary and a receipt book. And this year, there’s been a big change. GDPR hit us just a month ago, and already it’s been the biggest change to data protection laws in over 20 years. But what exactly does it mean for you and your trade business?
What Is GDPR?
GDPR is an EU regulation designed to strengthen and unify data protection for the citizens of all EU countries. It came into effect earlier this year in May and replaced the old Data Protection Act. At its core, GDPR governs how the data of EU citizens should be handled, stored and destroyed at every point. Some headline statistics about the regulation include;
- Hefty fines for non-compliance,
- Mandatory security notifications
- New rules around user consent
- A clearer definition around what could be personal data (such as IP addresses)
- Greater rights for people to access – or request deletion of – the information companies hold on them.
But despite all the talks of launch dates and a sudden mad panic to get everything in order now that the regulation is in effect, GDPR isn’t all that new. The EU (and by extension the UK) actually officially adopted GDPR in April 2016, and the May date was simply the end of a 2-year transition period designed to give businesses and other organisations time to get their systems ready and their house in order.
How Does It Affect Trades?
So now that we know what GDPR is, how will it affect your trade business? In terms of practical, everyday tasks like doing the physical work, a lot won’t change. Instead, it’s more about the beginning and end of jobs, where you collect data from your customers and use it to inform decisions, to market your services or provide information. This means you need to know what data you hold on who, where it is stored and why you have it. After all, under GDPR your clients, customers, contractors, and any other data subjects, have the right to:
- The right to access their data at any time, free of charge.
- The right to know why their data is being used.
- The right to remove their data and permanently delete it.
- The right to transfer their data to another provider.
- The right to be informed that their data is being collected.
- The right to amend/correct their personal data.
- The right to restrict what their data is used for.
- The right to be notified within 72 hours if a data breach occurs.
The GDPR applies to any business that collects and processes data belonging to individuals living in the U.K – regardless of the business size. This means that even small construction businesses and self-employed tradespeople will have to comply with GDPR. Do you store contractor details in an app on your phone? Do you use a spreadsheet to log customers’ details? However you collect or process an individuals’ data, the GDPR applies.
Are There Any Tools To Help?
Of course! GDPR has been a big change for businesses across the country, and so many tools have been developed to help you comply with the new legislation. One of those tools is called OneTrust, which is a self-assessment tool that guides you through a series of forms and helps you understand where you are at the moment, and what you need to do to comply. Since the cost of a compliance assessment by professionals can go over £1000, this kind of tool significantly reduces the financial; burden of compliance. OneTrust also offers free privacy monitoring for your website, and a whole host of resources to help you understand GDPR and its implications to the fullest.
Remember, the ICO isn’t looking for perfection. They are looking for a sincere effort to comply – so as long as you are trying to do the right thing, those heavy fines probably won’t come your way just yet. And you’re not alone. At Cove Accountancy Services, we specialise in working with trades to ensure their processes are compliant and effective. And while we might focus on your accounts and finances, we have access to a wide network of resources, events and experts that you can use to ensure your own compliance. For more information, or to book your free consultation, just get in touch with us today.