Important Legal Dates For Small Businesses: 2017
Rianda Markram at LHS Solicitors outlines the key dates for legal changes in 2017, and how they could impact on your business
Every year brings both new and exciting challenges for business owners, so it’s important to look to the future and arm yourself with the knowledge you need to keep your business competitive. Below are the key dates for upcoming employment law and more general legal changes that every small business owner should know about.
31 March – Article 50
This is the last day in the government’s self-imposed target that Article 50 is expected to be triggered, although it could happen before or after this date.
The effect Brexit will have on employment law changes remains unclear. Theresa May reiterated her claim that workers’ rights will remain fully protected when revealing her 12 point Brexit plan, but further details are yet to be revealed. One positive – at least in the short term – for small businesses is the prospect of cuts to UK corporation tax from the current rate of 20%.
The idea proposed by May in a bid to remain competitive outside of the single market could relieve small businesses from their tax burden. Should confidence reduce in the banks, the government has put measures in place to ensure small businesses continue to receive access to financing in the long term.
1 April – Business rates revaluation
From 1 April, businesses in England, Wales and Scotland will experience a business rates revaluation to align with rising property prices. The government has received much criticism after abolishing the previous 12.5% cap on the maximum amount bills could increase by, meaning some businesses could now be facing a 42% rise in bills per year.
1-6 April – Minimum wage and in-work benefits increases
Typically, the new financial year brings with it various small rate increases, and 2017 is no exception.
Both the National Minimum Wage and the National Living Wage will see increases from 1 April. National living wage, the minimum wage for workers over 25, will increase from £7.20 to £7.50 per hour, and the National Minimum Wage will see a total increase of 60 pence in rates of pay across all age groups, including apprentices.
Around 2 April this year, maternity, paternity, shared and adoption pay will increase by £1.40 per week to £140.98.
On 6 April, statutory sick pay will rise from £88.45 to £89.35 per week.
6 April – Gender pay gap regulations
Expected to be implemented in 2016, gender pay gap regulations will now apply from 6 April, with businesses to begin gathering data from 5 April. Small businesses need not worry about this law change though, as it only affects those with 250 employees or more.
6 April – Apprenticeship levy
Another legal change to be introduced on 6 April is the apprenticeship levy. Businesses with a payroll of more than £2.8m in the current tax year or £3m when it comes to the next tax year will have to pay an apprenticeship levy of 0.5% of their total wage bill. This should open up more funding opportunities for small businesses.
Those employers in England that wish to provide training for their apprentices from May will have to contribute 10% of the costs, unless the company has less than 50 employees, in which case the government will contribute 100% of training costs for apprentices aged 16-18, and in special circumstances, for those aged 19-24.
Small Business Commissioner scheme
The Small Business Commissioner Scheme is expected to be introduced this autumn. Designed to assist small businesses with complaints, the scheme will support small businesses in resolving payment disputes with larger businesses, as well as offer general advice and information on dispute resolution and basic contract principals.
Pension auto-enrolment encompasses a number of deadline dates as it is dependent on individual companies, but it is estimated that around 500,000 small businesses will reach their staging date for pension auto-enrolment this year. This is the date for which pensions need to be set up for employees, so your preparations should already be well underway.
In Q4 of 2016, almost one quarter of small businesses applied to Now Pensions after the deadline had passed, and 19% waited until the month before the deadline. Any businesses that fail to have their pensions set up before the staging date will face a fine, so it’s important to plan ahead.
Save the dates, but be prepared for further change
As we have come to realise, not all legislation comes to fruition, nor does it necessarily come at the intended time – take gender pay gap reporting as a prime example. Furthermore, new matters can appear quickly and unexpectedly, such as Brexit. So, while it’s important to be prepared for these legal changes, you should also be flexible and expect the unexpected.
Rianda Markram is a lawyer at LHS Solicitors