There’s any number of articles around at this time of year telling us about legal developments that are coming up in the next 6 to 12 months.
From the annual increases to tax allowances, minimum wage rates, and statutory pay for sickness, maternity and other family-related absence, to much more fundamental changes such as the new gender pay gap reporting requirements to the much heralded General Data Protection Rules (GDPR) there is a lot that UK businesses need to prepare themselves for, by springtime.
The combination of the government’s surprisingly weakened position in the House of Commons since last June’s election and the inevitable priority that must be given to the legislation necessary to deliver an orderly exit from the European Union, has greatly reduced the political capital and parliamentary time available to other legislation.
The free vote that the Prime Minister had promised on repealing the 2004 Hunting Act was an early casualty in 2018, but there are a few other initiatives unlikely to get before parliament, onto the statute books and into force by the end of the year.
Tribunal fees strike back?
As recently as October, (then) Lord Chancellor David Liddington claimed the government still wanted to replace the employment tribunal fee regime struck down by the Supreme Court last summer. However, higher priorities for the Ministry of Justice and the reduced income that any fair and workable system could raise, will make quick progress on this unlikely.
Formal assessment of the impact that five years of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (2012) has had on access to justice, was finally timetabled by David Liddington last year, and is due to report by the end of April. Given the time it has taken even to get the assessment underway, the prospect of any major reform of the legislation being implemented in 2018 seems remote.
Civil Liability Act
Another piece of MoJ business that we seem to have been talking about forever, is the Civil Liability Bill mentioned in last year’s Queen’s Speech. The proposed increases to small claims court limits of £5,000 for road traffic injury claims and £2,000 for other injuries appear to be set in stone, but the faltering progress these reforms have seen since George Osborne first announced them in 2015, makes a September implementation seem less likely than April 2019.
Unlikely as these three developments may be to see legislative action this year, there is more than enough reform taking place in 2018 to keep us all busy. The uncertainty surrounding the implications of Brexit, especially what it means for employment law, should become clearer as the year progresses. But one piece of EU reform that seems certain to survive, GDPR, should be enough to keep us all busy, at least until the summer.