What does 2017 have in store for Manchester business?

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Michael Ball, partner at Gateley Plc in Manchester looks at some of the legal hot topics that businesses and individuals need to be aware of over the next 12 months, from pensions to gender pay.

‘Multiple jobs and no pension, a thing of the past’
The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) will conduct a review of auto enrolment in 2017, which will look at the existing policy and whether it can be further simplified, the coverage of auto enrolment and the earnings thresholds.

The review will also focus on employees with multiple jobs who do not meet the criteria for auto enrolment in any single job and how the self-employed can be helped to save for retirement. Whilst there will be no change in the auto enrolment trigger amount for 2017/2018, if, as a result of the review, the auto enrolment criteria is further extended, this could have a knock-on effect and cost implications for businesses.

‘Capex still on the cards post-Brexit’
The possible implications of Brexit and what it will mean for UK Plc will begin to change during 2017, with the publication of the Great Reform Bill and the opening shots in the UK’s negotiations to leave the Union. 

This will no doubt have its ups and downs but UK companies have a history of resilience and will nevertheless invest in capex.  Lease finance is an important component in investment funding and the asset finance sector should remain buoyant and competitive.Gateley logo 2016

‘Mind the gender pay gap’
With gender pay reporting coming into full force in April, businesses with more than 250 employees will need to publish prescribed information regarding their pay rates for male and female employees.

While there are no specific penalties set out in the new regulations, failing to comply will constitute an ‘unlawful act’, which will mean that the Equality and Human Rights Commission could take enforcement action against the employer. Equal pay will also remain a hot topic and we expect to see a number of high profile cases in 2017.

‘Divorce could get messy’
When the UK is no longer part of the EU, the Government has suggested that EU laws will be incorporated into UK domestic legislation, but it is unlikely to benefit UK citizens in international divorce cases, unless there are reciprocal rights. There are some EU regulations and international conventions which may no longer apply to divorce cases in England and Wales and which may have to be re-negotiated over time, leaving a very uncertain situation in the meantime.

‘The future of courts is online’
The civil justice system is evolving and one of the many changes to come is the introduction of the online court.  This was recommended by Lord Justice Briggs in his Civil Court Structures Review and is set to be compulsory for money claims up to £25,000, but with particular exclusions, such as professional negligence, intellectual property and personal injury claims.

The aim is to provide the public with a justice system that is just, proportionate and accessible and which will deliver swift and certain justice.

The online court will be a separate court with separate rules and will have limited fixed recoverable costs, similar to the current small claims track (which currently applies to claims up to £10,000). With that in mind, a soft launch of the new court is suggested, possibly by using an initial ceiling of claims up to £10,000.

For more hot topics in commercial dispute resolutions, pensions, family law, employment, and banking and finance, read our full report