Law firm Tozers provides advice to SME businesses in London and across the country, when they relocate their businesses as well as their families and homes to the beautiful West Country. Here three of the law partners give perspectives from a property, corporate and employment standpoint offering practical advice on how to go about such a wholesale relocation of both business and home, avoid the pitfalls, navigate the hazards, and how to make it a success and a dream come true.
Staycations remain the preferred type of holiday for many, with a recent survey revealing that 72% of Brits are planning their holidays closer to home in 2023. These holidays can also often be revelatory for people, showing them the true beauty which they have on their doorsteps and we’re also seeing, post-pandemic, an increase in people looking to move out of the cities to reconnect with nature, escape the hustle and bustle and generally improve their own work life balance. But if your recent holiday has inspired you to move, as a small business owner, how achievable and realistic is it for you to lift and shift your entire life to the coast, business included?
In short: it’s a very doable move and we often advise SME owners looking to relocate within the UK – beachside or otherwise. Through this work we’ve identified six common issues which business owners often encounter. Here’s how to navigate them to ensure your business can enjoy a successful relocation and you’re surfing after work:
1. Carefully consider WFH Many successful relocations are based on the fact that countless businesses nowadays have hybrid workforces with elements of working remotely, and depending on your current model, a relocation might not be too disruptive. However, it’s a mistake to assume everyone will want to work remotely – if you currently have an option for in-person days in the office and this relocation will remove that option or make it too difficult for many employees they may reconsider their role. This model certainly can work, it just needs careful thought – it’s important that a hybrid workforce is managed sensibly and teambuilding and support is still factored in, even if people are based far and wide. Clearly explaining how a relocation will impact everyone’s arrangements day-to-day and ensuring regular face-to-face touchpoints are offered is a good way to ensure a workforce still feels connected and grounded.
2. Redundancy options Of course, not all businesses can work remotely – for e.g., retail or leisure. In these instances, it’s worth checking the employment contracts which can include mobility clauses, allowing the employer to require the employee to work from other places. However, these tend to be quite limited and need to be applied reasonably. It is unlikely in most cases to be reasonable to require an employee to move across the country. People can be unwilling to relocate their lives for a job and in these instances, you need to consider your redundancy options, as this would be the employer’s next step if an employee wouldn’t or couldn’t relocate. This of course can be costly and a lengthy process, and best to seek legal advice in these situations. You could be surprised though – a Moneypenny survey showed two thirds of people have moved for a job, or would be willing to.
3. Exiting your current lease The other chief consideration around a relocation after people, is property. Once the decision has been made to relocate, it’s important you look at how tied in you are into your current premises and how you can exit the lease, or if you can sub-let in order to expedite the move. This issue is hugely pertinent for ensuring cashflow remains healthy, as you don’t want to be spending on superfluous rent.
4. What do you need? A relocation can create a great opportunity for a business to reassess what it needs. As mentioned, post-pandemic more people are working from home and this has created less need for some businesses to have large or permanent offices. Consider, when
relocating if a flexible serviced office for instance might be a better fit. Essentially it is a balancing act to ensure you get a space which works for your business, allows for any planned growth but also, when it comes to the lease, gives you a degree of long-term security whilst also giving sufficient scope to exit if needed.
5. Rent costs Given the cost-of-living crisis, rent will be a significant outlay at the forefront of many businesses’ minds. It’s worth asking if there is a rent-free period on any new property and also when the rent is reviewed.
6. Home and office combined? Of course, you’ll also be considering where to live post-relocation. A new house with a home office element, even one large enough for colleagues to also work from, can be a great option. However, this will require careful consideration of planning restrictions or restrictive covenants to ensure you’re not inadvertently breaking any rules.
Considering all these issues carefully and speaking to trusted advisors before making your holiday dreams of a permanent relocation can ensure the grass is indeed greener.
Authors: Lawyers Rebecca Roberts (Corporate specialist), Stephen Jennings (Employment) and Joshua Gilbert (Rural Property), all partners at South West regional law firm Tozers LLP.