Rules and Regulations
At present you do not need a licence to operate as a general plumber but there are some important exceptions to take note of. If you are dealing with any kind of gas appliance, which includes boilers, cookers or gas heaters, then you must be CORGI registered. It is illegal to carry out any work involving gas appliances without the appropriate training and certification.
You also need to have thorough working knowledge of the Water Regulations and Building Regulations in the UK. And while you don’t need a licence to fix a leaky tap or install a toilet, any plumber worth their salt will have been properly trained with appropriate qualifications under their belt.
The CIPHE does not recognise anyone as a member unless they are qualified to at least NVQ Level 2 standard. The NVQ qualification is a mixture of practical and theory work and most colleges require at least a grade C in Maths and Science GCSE’s to enrol you. A level 3 NVQ qualification will cover the profession to a higher standard and is the recommended level to reach before thinking about starting your own venture.
However, it’s important to make sure your training provider is a reputable one, and that the qualification they’re offering is recognised by the industry. “There are a whole series of people out there offering short courses that purport to turn you into a plumber in a very short period of time, but the industry doesn’t collectively recognise that as qualifying,” warns Blane Judd of the CIPHE. Judd also recommends taking courses in water fitting regulations from reputable training suppliers such as BPEC.
For work involving solid fuel and oil appliances you should seek accreditation from HETAS and OFTEC. It’s also important you receive appropriate training for any work carried out on newer ‘green’ technologies such as solar thermal and air or ground source heat pumps. Training for these kind of installations can often be obtained through the manufacturers of the technology themselves.
You must make sure you have the appropriate public and product liability insurance to protect you against any claims that may arise from damage or injury during the course of a job. If you employ any other staff you’ll need employers’ liability insurance too.
Another important regulation to remember is that you must be VAT registered if your turnover is over the threshold. Check here to see if you’re likely to need to register.
You should also be aware of HMRC’s Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) which governs the handling of payments for anyone working in the construction industry. For more information on how this could affect your plumbing business click here