We’ve dusted off our crystal balls and here’s our pick of the top 5 employment law developments for SMEs to look out for in 2017:

1. Brexit – don’t expect any immediate changes in employment law once Britain triggers Article 50 in March 2017 but continued uncertainty in trading conditions will inevitably lead to many SMEs implementing cost-saving measures some of which will include headcount reductions and a requirement for redundancy advice;

2. Tribunal fees – the judicial review of the Tribunal fees system will be heard in 2017 and could result in a removal of or an amendment to the fees regime which may lead to a surge in ET claims. Watch this space!  (Supreme Court hearing to take place 27-28 March 2017);

3. Minimum pay – there will be a 30 pence increase in the national living wage from £7.20 to £7.50 per hour (from April 2017).  2016 saw a record number of employers ‘named and shamed’ for underpaying workers and it would appear the issue of underpayments is going to remain an important focus in the future for the government.  SMEs should review their payment structures, including holiday pay, in advance of April to ensure they are compliant;

4. Employment status – appeals are due to be heard in cases involving Pimlico Plumbers and Uber this year, where the issue of whether people engaged by these, and other companies on a flexible or per-job basis, are workers or self-employed. These and other cases generated significant publicity in 2016 and the trend is set to continue with further cases in the wings involving other high profile employers e.g. CitySprint.  Appellate guidance is well overdue in this complex area but, until then, SME employers should exercise care when engaging a flexible workforce;

5. Whistle-blowing – the Court of Appeal is due to hear the appeal in the case of Chesterton Global Limited v Nurmohamed in 2017. Further clarity is expected on the public interest requirement and, it is hoped, a reversal of the current trend to interpret public interest loosely.

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