Do I need a legal register?

I’ve spent the majority of my career developing and updating legal registers for companies in the UK that operate environment, energy and health & safety management systems.

The first question, and one I get asked most often is ‘what is a legal register?’ followed quickly by ‘do I need a legal register?’

Lets get into answering those questions straight away.

Firstly what is a legal register? Very simply it is a collection of titles of relevant legislation to an organisation, and accompanying information about those titles. Registers usually are topic specific, so commonly an organisation might have a register of environmental legislation, and a separate health & safety register, although they are sometimes combined, so I often see energy and environment registers combined together. Registers are also often split into subjects such as waste law, water law nuisance law etc. to make it easier to navigate.

A legal register is much more than simply a list. It provides a critical function in providing useful information to the organisation and its staff on how it NEEDS to comply with said list of Acts, Regulations and Orders, and evidence of how the organisation IS complying, with actions raised if there is work to do.

There are also many formats of registers, from Word or Excel documents, to databases and online systems. It’s important you choose the format that fits your work processes, and that it is accessible to staff who need to use the register as a reference document / tool.

Information accompanying each title or reference may contain headings such as:

  •       Title.
  •       Summary or aims of legislation.
  •       Requirements to organisations, or ‘how must we comply’.
  •       Compliance status, or ‘how are we complying’.
  •       Actions.
  •       Updates.

The last heading , ‘updates’ is important. It’s one thing to compile a list of all relevant legislation to your organisation’s activities, but law doesn’t stand still. If you are having trouble sleeping, visit the website to see how may laws are added or amended daily, and you’ll get a feel for how dynamic the world of UK legislation is. So it’s important that a legal register is kept updated with any changes to relevant legislation which might affect how your organisation needs to comply. Typically this is reviewed monthly to give organisations time to react to changes.

The second question is ‘do I need a legal register?’ The simple answer is actually No. However if you operate to an ISO management system, particularly ISO14001 or ISO45001, the clauses around compliance state that you shall determine and have access to compliance obligations (or up to date legal requirements in the case of H&S) relative to your activities, aspects or risks, and that you determine how those obligations apply.

Further it goes on to say that you shall evaluate your compliance periodically and take action if needed, whilst maintaining knowledge and understanding of your compliance status. Finally the standards state that this shall be recorded / documented. So really a legal register is the perfect way to demonstrate compliance to those clauses, and build processes in order to maintain your register(s).

So if you decide that you do need to legal register, what are the important factors to consider?

First ensure you have (or acquire) the competency to understand which titles of law are relevant to your activities. Ignorance is no defence, so you need to be aware of which laws apply, and what your obligations are.

Secondly make sure the information content of the register is understandable. The way law is written can still be complicated to understand, or may reference several other laws so its important you understand what your compliance obligations are, as well as any staff who have specific responsibilities with compliance obligations, e.g. activities related to permits, or maintenance of work equipment.

Finally keep your register up to date. Set a timescale by which you will review and update your register, and ensure information related to updates is communicated effectively to those who need to know.

For more information on setting up, maintaining or auditing legal registers and to see how we can help, please get in touch on 07764302858 or drop us a line here.