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It is hard to notice a day in which a new piece of legislation, a criminal court decision or an international legal agreement is not featured in the national news. Regardless of our personal involvement in these areas, laws are an ever-changing aspect of society, which will affect everyone in one way or another. It may however, be more noticeable in some areas of law than others. In this month’s article, we will be exploring why this might be, the areas in which we can expect some of the biggest changes in 2023 and what employers can do to prepare for these.
Difference in specialisms
Different specialisms of law can affect the frequency that legislation is relied upon and how often this is updated. Taking one example – employment law has seen some of the largest changes throughout the last five years. During the Covid pandemic, the introduction and rollout of furlough created a new branch of employment law never previously considered. Similarly, the rise of the gig economy through companies such as Uber and Just Eat, have highlighted a new way of working.
Contrastingly, property law has several aspects that have been relevant for many years. Legislation such as the Law of Property Act 1925 and the Landlord and Tenant Act 1954 are still some of the leading authorities, despite the passage of time. This could in part explain for example, why leases often span considerable periods of time, with 999-year leases not uncommon.
What to expect
Following a similar pattern, 2023 looks to be a big year for employment law. To name just a couple of examples, the Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill could bring about landmark change, if implemented, as it means that all law retained from the EU will need to be transferred into UK law by the end of the year, or otherwise disappear. In addition, the government are making changes to things like flexible working rights, making it a so-called ‘Day 1 right’ meaning employees would be entitled to request this from their first day of employment, rather than waiting the current requirement of 26 weeks.
How to deal with these changes
It can be hard for employers to know how to keep up-to-date with these legal changes and to determine exactly what they mean for their business in practice. Some top tips for keeping ahead of the curve are:
- Find ways to ensure you are informed as much as possible about developments as they happen. Resources such as our monthly newsletter and our LinkedIn pages are useful for this, as we condense and highlight the important takeaways from often complex (and even misreported) news stories
- Speak to employees where appropriate about these changes and be prepared to answer their questions where necessary. Do not be afraid to check first before giving an answer, to ensure it is accurate and to avoid putting your foot in it!
- Make sure that policies and handbooks are updated in line with changes. Whilst it can seem like laws are changing regularly, the fundamentals of many areas often remain broadly the same. Small aspects often change at regular intervals, like statutory maternity pay every April. It is therefore important to make sure that policies are reviewed on a regular basis at an appropriate point in the year (March/April are a good point)
- Plan ahead – for some changes, we’re given a long lead time, and it might require some careful planning to ensure your business is prepared. For example, the changes to the Equality Act that will require employers to protected employees from third party harassment. Employers who start looking now at what measures they may need to implement to ensure they are covered will be better protected once the changes take effect.