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Employment remains as competitive as ever – the majority of law firms field dedicated employment teams, and new boutiques are entering an already crowded market on a regular basis. International work still dominates, with cross-border transactions and team moves becoming ever more common. At a more domestic level, the effect of the introduction of tribunal fees in 2013 continues to be felt, however some firms report signs that claims are slowly beginning to pick up. Whistleblowing claims and restrictive covenant issues have risen sharply throughout 2015, while more niche areas of employment, driven by wider social issues of gender equality, mental health discrimination and equal pay, as well as the introduction of the Modern Slavery Act and the Senior Managers Regime, have grown in prominence. Stricter anti-tax avoidance regulations and new market abuse regulations designed to clamp down on the financial services sector has resulted in increased calls for advice arising from these areas.

Following changes to Tier 1 investor application rules in late 2014, firms have noted a rise in entrepreneur applications from high-net-worth individuals, particularly those from China, Russia and Cyprus. In addition to stricter immigration rules across the board, the uncertainty of the EU Referendum has resulted in a wave of instructions from EU nationals seeking permanent residency. On the corporate side, firms continue to advise employers on sponsoring Tier 2 visa immigrants amidst upcoming amendments, which will see the salary threshold for experienced workers increasing from £20,800 to £25,000 in autumn 2016, and rising to £30,000 in April 2017.

A number of law firms have experienced an uptick in corporate support work as well as an increased number of buy-ins and buyouts affecting the pensions sector. Defined benefit schemes continue to face deficit issues and an increasing number are closing to future accrual. On the other hand, defined contribution schemes are seeing further investment into these plans. The main talking point of the last year has been the establishment of new boutique ARC Pensions Law, which was established in mid-2015 by the highly regarded Anna Rogers and Chris Mullen. The team focuses purely on non-contentious issues, and many view it as the first real competitor for Sacker & Partners LLP

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Legal Developments in London for Overview

  • Companies should plan now to minimise their pension protection levy

    The amount that pension schemes have to pay to the Pension Protection Fund (PPF) for the year 2006/07 may have increased by as much as five times the previous year's levy. Employers who ultimately bear the cost of many pension schemes will need to make plans now to ensure the levy payable for the year 2008/09 is kept to a minimum.
    - Stephenson Harwood

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