As a Canadian small business owner, you need to wear many hats. You are an entrepreneur who comes up with creative ideas, a manager who takes care of day-to-day operations, and a financier who sources loans or applies for government grants.
You also need to learn how to safeguard your business against potential threats, from hazardous materials to cybersecurity breaches. Learn the basics of small business protection laws in Canada.
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Protecting Intellectual Property
Developing an original business idea often involves intellectual property tools such as trademarks, copyright, or patents. Inventions, new technologies, new software, original business brands, and more all count as intellectual assets in Canada.
To keep unscrupulous competitors from taking advantage of your hard work, take care to secure your intellectual property. Here are some key elements:
- Keep it quiet. Exchanging ideas is exciting, but you need to protect your innovation. Employ confidentiality agreements where applicable.
- Learn about intellectual property and patent protection.
- Make sure your intellectual property strategy aligns with your business goals.
- Register your original products, industrial designs, or brand name.
Trademark registration deserves extra care as trademarks and brands are crucial in every business strategy. Your brand is what helps your business stand out, fosters customer loyalty, and streamlines your marketing efforts. Consider global brands like Coca-Cola or Nike — consistent use of logos and trademarks have earned these brands worldwide recognition.
Trademarks can include various elements such as logos, slogans, product names, and more. Before you register your trademark, make sure it’s sufficiently different from the trademarks of existing Canadian businesses. Registering your trademark gives you exclusive use in Canada for ten years, with indefinite renewal rights.
Privacy Law in Canada
To protect the private information of consumers, employees, and businesses, Canada has decreed federal privacy laws concerning the private sector. Additionally, some provinces have enacted separate broad and industry-specific business privacy legislation.
On a national level, the PIPEDA (Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act) controls the gathering, use, and divulgence of personal information. “Personal information” includes almost any information concerning identifiable individuals. In British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec, the PIPA (Personal Information Protection Act) largely overlaps with PIPEDA but broadens its scope.
Here are the main guiding principles of Canadian privacy protection laws:
- Organizations may only collect, use, or disclose personal information with the individual’s knowledge and consent
- Organizations must only collect the personal information strictly necessary for specific purposes
- Any collection of personal information will only employ fair and legal means
- Collection and use of private information must comply with “standard of reasonableness”, i.e., organizations cannot collect, use, or divulge information beyond what is reasonably appropriate
One example of inappropriate personal information use would be anything that violates credit reporting legislation. For example, a landlord association cannot legally operate and publish an undesirable tenant list. Moreover, organizations must notify relevant individuals or regulatory bodies of known privacy breaches.
To stay on the safe side, a business owner should seek appropriate legal advice to make sure their company complies with Canadian privacy law.
Avoiding Cyber Attacks
Advanced cloud storage systems have revolutionized data management for organizations. However, investing in cyber-security is essential to protect your business from data theft, guard your clients’ privacy, and comply with small business protection laws.
Canadian business owners must understand how to reduce the risks of cyberattacks or mitigate the consequences of such attacks. Poor cybersecurity management could have serious financial and legal ramifications.
Here is a brief checklist for protecting sensitive information and avoiding cyber threats:
- Secure your passwords and employ multi-factor authentication
- Limit and compartmentalize access to sensitive data
- Take appropriate precautions against phishing, malware, and hacking
- Protect your private networks by choosing a VPN with data encryption
- Keep encrypted data backups in a secure external location
- Provide employees with relevant cyber safety training such as safeguarding passwords, using approved software, and identifying malicious emails.
About half of all web traffic now passes through mobile devices. However, it is imperative to separate business and personal data to keep devices secure. As a business owner, you should ensure that all your team members only download trusted apps and use secure Wi-Fi networks.
If your business still falls prey to cybercrime, report the attack to the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Hazardous Materials in the Workplace
Many industries involve the handling, transportation, and use of hazardous materials. If your Canadian business involves any contact with hazardous substances, you must comply with the WHMIS (Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System).
The key principles of WHMIS are as follows:
- Hazard classification
- Cautionary container labelling
- Providing (material) safety data sheets
- Relevant employee training and education programs
For example, let’s say you run an industrial cleaning and disinfection business. As the organization manager, you must ensure that all cleaning products and disinfectant containers carry proper and accurate labels and that your employees or contractors use, store, and dispose of these products in a safe manner. You must educate your workers on wearing proper safety gear while handling chemicals and provide information on any new products or changes in working conditions.
Disaster and Emergency Plans
You never know when a workplace accident, a severe ice storm, or an urgent policy change may disrupt your business. Setting up an emergency plan can help keep your business running even when you face supply shortages or transition to a different work model.
The COVID-19 crisis and its accompanying logistical challenges have given many Canadian businesses a taste of what an emergency may look like. The companies who had enough flexibility to switch to work-from-home models or online orders overnight had the upper hand over those who were slow to adapt to change.
A comprehensive disaster or emergency protocol typically includes:
- Identifying essential functions. What are the basics your business needs to keep running? What activities can you suspend for a while?
- Allocating responsibilities. Who is responsible for what in case of an emergency? Key team members must know what they should do when disaster strikes, from IT backup to employee support.
- Preparing for different situations. A cyber-attack calls for different actions than a natural disaster. Do you have a plan for several common emergency scenarios?
A trial run of your emergency plan will help you recognize any weak spots or missing details.
Employee Group Insurance
If your business employs workers, at a minimum, you must provide your employees with the statutory benefits provincial and federal laws outline. These include paid time off, sick leave, and contributions to the Canadian Pension Plan.
However, most Canadian employees also provide extra benefits to their employees. Health, dental, and vision insurance, including drug coverage, have become almost standard in workplaces, with telehealth coverage gaining popularity since the onset of COVID restrictions.
Employers who want to foster company loyalty and attract valuable workers often expand and diversify their benefits packages. Disability insurance, travel insurance, flexible health care spending accounts (HCSAs), and wellness spending accounts (WSAs) can all add value to a position beyond a basic salary.
Group benefits plans can:
- Make desirable talent more likely to choose your company over a competitor
- Increase employee satisfaction and reduce attrition
- Improve employee health and productivity
- Create a positive business image and reinforce company values
Well-chosen employee benefit programs can have exceptionally high long-term ROI. For example, mental health coverage has an ROI of about 200%, which means that in the long run, employers can expect to earn $2 for every $1 they invest in their workers’ mental health.
It is important to understand the mistakes of others to prevent the same thing from happening to you. Learn how to further protect your small business with this article!
Group Enroll: Sourcing Affordable Insurance for Small Businesses
Are you a Canadian business owner looking for employee insurance? Group Enroll can help you understand small business protection laws and source insurance quotes from leading Canadian providers.
Whether you need group life insurance, extended health care, or a retirement savings plan for your team, we’ll work with you to find the plan that suits your business needs. Simply fill out our brief online form and get started today.
You can also email us at [email protected]. We are located at 10 Great Gulf Drive, Unit 5, Vaughan, ON, L4K 5W1.