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Social movements and national events have shifted the human resources focus briefly away from the impending Brexit fallout.  In employment, initiatives surrounding gender equality and worker status dominated both the legal and national headlines.

The Gender Pay Gap Reporting results were published in early 2018 leading to pay discrimination claims across a wide variety of sectors and an increased workload for law firms advising on the issues going forward.

The #MeToo campaign and the Time's Up movement have expanded beyond social media into the international corporate world, with sexual harassment claims and bullying issues rising as victims feel increasingly supported and more empowered to step forward, with corporate responses further accelerated by societal pressures and expectations.

The ‘gig economy’ trend continues, with high-profile claims in the Supreme Court, High Court and Employment Tribunal involving companies including Uber, Addison Lee, Pimlico Plumbers and Deliveroo dominating the headlines.

In mid-2017, the Supreme Court’s ruling to reverse the government’s introduction of tribunal fees in 2013 saw a significant spike in the number of claims being brought and a substantial uptick in contentious work for law firms at all levels. Similarly, whistleblowing claims, unfair dismissal disputes and restrictive covenant matters remain prominent and a driving force of many practices.

The Health and Safety Sentencing Guidelines introduced in 2016 continue to generate work,  with larger fines, increased prosecutions of individuals and expanded custodial sentences creating higher stakes for companies and directors alike and ensuring a greater level of boardroom involvement in health and safety compliance programs and audits. Fire safety has also been at the forefront of the market following the Grenfell Tower fire, in which 72 people lost their lives. Many firms are involved in either the public inquiry or the criminal investigation, both of which are set to last for years to come.

Immigration practices have also seen a dramatic increase in instructions as employers plan for post-Brexit changes and the effect it may have on employees who are EU nationals. As migration from the EU has fallen since the EU referendum, the cap on visas for skilled non-European workers for the UK has been reached for an unprecedented number of consecutive months; this has driven the salary required to enter the UK to a much higher level and caused concern for key employers, particularly in the health sector. Immigration firms with a focus on human rights, appeals and overstay have seen an uptick in instructions, particularly in the wake of the Windrush scandal.

Elsewhere, the Pensions Regulator has become increasing active following the highly publicised failures of Carillion and BHS, with an increased political involvement and public interest leading to noticeable increases in regulator intervention and mandatory fines. Firms also report a continued focus on master trust issues, scheme consolidation and defined contribution work. On the contentious side, indexing litigation relating to schemes changing from the Retail Price Index to the Consumer Price Index has been at the forefront with high-profile cases including Barnardo’s v Buckinghamshire and others reaching the Supreme Court. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has also had a notable impact on firms in the pensions arena with many advising clients on compliance issues.

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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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