Employment Law Update

Our partner Moore Blatch has the latest updates in employment law for 2017, including:

  • New minimum wages from April
  • The immigration skills charge of £1,000 per worker or £364 for small employers and charities (April 2017)
  • The requirement for companies with more than 250 employees to publish gender pay gap information (expected 6 April 2017)
  • Uber will appeal the judgement on the ‘gig economy’ that was made last October

city driving photo

Gender Pay Gap

Moore Blatch reports that the following information will be required of employers from this April:

  • The difference between the mean pay of male and female employees.
  • The difference between the median pay of male and female employees.
  • The difference between the mean bonus pay paid to male and female employees between 5 April the previous year and 5 April in the current year.
  • The difference between the median bonus pay paid to male and female employees between 5 April the previous year and 5 April in the current year.
  • The proportions of male and female employees who were paid bonus pay.
  • The proportions of male and female full-pay relevant employees in various ‘quartile bands.’

The employer will have to publish the information both on a specific government website and on their own website. There are no enforcement provisions, but the explanatory note to the Regulations indicates that failure to comply constitutes an ‘unlawful act’, and this allows the Equality and Human Rights Commission to take enforcement action.

Read more at the Moore Blatch website

The ‘Gig Economy’

Last year Uber was challenged over the employment status of its 30000+ drivers in the UK. As work patterns change there is a need for new rules on what constitutes employment, as opposed to self-employment, which offers none of the protections and security to workers that employed status does.

The Law Society is now joining calls for employment law reform as detailed in this report from Moore Blatch.

Brexit – The Legal (Constitutional) Position

On 23 June 51.9% of those who took part in the Referendum voted that they wish to leave the EU.  Approximately 72% of the electorate voted – in other words 37% of the adult population of the UK said they want to leave the EU and only those in England and Wales had a majority in favour of leaving. Interestingly, the percentage wanting to remain in Scotland and Northern Ireland was higher than that for leaving in England & Wales (and in Gibraltar the remain vote was 95%).

The Referendum Act does not say clearly what happens next.

Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty says that any Member State may decide to withdraw from the Union ‘in accordance with its own constitutional requirements’. It then has to give notice of its intention to withdraw to the European Council.

Brexit and the LawAs the UK does not have a written constitution, and Parliament is where our decisions are made, it is for Parliament to decide whether and when to give that notice to the EU.

However, some think the Government can give the notice without the need for a vote of the House of Commons. Since the referendum result does not itself have the force of law and this is perhaps the biggest decision the UK has to make, it would be strange for the Government of the day (especially a different Government from the one that took office at the last General Election) to make the decision without the approval of Parliament.

This issue is likely to be decided by the courts, as legal steps are already being taken to ensure the UK Government will not trigger the procedure for withdrawal from the EU without an Act of Parliament.

Article 50 then says that, once the notice is given, the EU will ‘negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State, setting out the arrangements for its withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union’. The UK will then withdraw from the EU on the date the withdrawal agreement comes into effect or, failing that, two years after the notification, unless an extension of that two year period is agreed. The agreement needs to be approved on behalf of the Union by the Council, acting by a qualified majority, after obtaining the consent of the European Parliament.

Until the withdrawal is final, the UK remains a member of the EU and bound by its laws, but not able to take part in discussions on its withdrawal.

Does Your Company Have Any ‘Persons with Significant Control’?

If so, you need to include their details in a new Register.

If you run a limited company, under new regulations, it is necessary to keep a register of people with significant control of the company. This register will be in addition to the register of directors and register of members.

The Regulations came into effect on 6th April 2016 and details have to be included in your annual statement at Companies House from 30th June 2016.

Persons With Significant Control

puppet master photo

You now have to record who pulls the strings in your company Photo by Greg Walters

A person with significant control (a PSC) is someone who:

• directly or indirectly holds more than 25% of the shares or voting rights of a company,
• directly or indirectly has the right to appoint or remove the majority of the directors, or
• has “significant influence or control” over the company itself, or over the activities of a trust or a firm which meets any of the other specified conditions in relation to the company (e.g. by holding more than 25% of the shares).

A person would exercise “significant influence or control” if for example he/she is not a member of the board of directors, but regularly or consistently directs or influences a significant section of the board, or is regularly consulted on board decisions and whose views influence decisions made by the board.

This would include a person who falls within the definition of “shadow director”. It can apply even if the individual is not aiming to gain economic benefits from the policies or activities of the company, trust or firm.

The PSC Register

The register has to contain the name, nationality, date of birth, usual country of residence and usual residential address of each individual who is a PSC plus the nature of their control and the date on which that person became registrable. A service address is also needed. The residential address will not appear on the public record.

Your company’s PSC register must not be left empty and you must take reasonable steps to determine whether any individual or any legal entity meets the conditions for being a PSC. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.

If there is nobody with significant influence, your register (and the information to Companies House) should say:
The company knows or has reasonable cause to believe that there is no registrable person or registrable relevant legal entity in relation to the company.

Or, if you are still checking, it might say “The company has not yet completed taking reasonable steps to find out if there is anyone who is a registrable person or a registrable relevant legal entity in relation to the company.

LLPs and Exemptions

Similar regulations apply to LLPs (limited liability partnerships).

There are exemptions for those who have influence in a purely professional capacity, such as a lawyer or accountant.

Why Is This Being Introduced?

The new regulations are part of the Government’s attempts to deal with tax evasion and money laundering and are part of a Europe-wide initiative.

£2.3 million Fine Under Bribery Act. Protect Your Business!

Avoid Bribery Act headaches with a simple download

Bribery Act headaches can be avoided with a simple download
Photo by threephin Creative Commons

 

 

Consultant Sweett Group have been fined £2.25 million plus £95,000 costs at Southwark Crown Court in the first prosecution under Section 7(1) of the Bribery Act.

This is an offence of strict liability – if a business does not have “adequate procedures” designed to prevent persons associated with it from bribing a third party, then it will automatically be guilty of an offence.  And this offence can occur even if the person who offered the bribe was not an employee or not even in the UK – so it could be an overseas agent over whom you have no direct control.  Indeed, in Sweett’s case the offence occurred in the Middle East on some contracts related to the firm.

It is very easy to protect yourself from this risk – you can start by having a proper Code of Conduct or Anti-Corruption Policy in place – and that will cost you a mere £39 (excl. VAT) at ContractStore.

Thousands of small businesses do not have adequate protection – don’t be one of them – set up your Code of Conduct today!

Consumer Rights Act – Unfair Contract Terms

The Consumer Rights Act 2015 introduces new rights for consumers and our previous articles have dealt with how the Act affects sale of goods, services and digital products.

Kawarau Bridge - Bungee dipping photo

You can’t escape your responsibilities by writing them away in a contract

The Act also re-states and expands the existing law concerning unfair terms in consumer contracts.

The basic requirements are that contract terms must be fair.

The law says that a term is unfair if “contrary to the requirements of good faith, it causes a significant imbalance in the parties’ rights and obligations under the contract to the detriment of the consumer.

This fairness test applies not only to terms in the contract but also to consumer notices – e.g. notices in car parks, as well as notices appearing online on a website.

All written terms in a consumer contract or in a consumer notice must be transparent – i.e. expressed in plain and intelligible language.

Any term in a consumer contract or a consumer notice attempting to limit or exclude the trader’s liability for death or personal injury resulting from negligence is unlawful and not enforceable. (So a bungee jumping company can’t get you to sign away your rights – if the bungee fails, that will still be their fault.)

Similarly any term attempting to limit or exclude the various terms implied by the Act (satisfactory quality etc.) are unfair and unenforceable.

What Is ‘Unfair’?

Schedule 2 of the Act contains 20 examples of terms that may be regarded as unfair. These include:

  • Disproportionately high charges when a consumer decides not to carry on with a contract or with services which have not been supplied
  • Terms that allow the trader to decide the subject matter after the consumer is bound by the contract
  • A term allowing the trader to fix the price after the consumer is already bound by the contract
  • A term designed to limit the trader’s liability in the event of death or personal injury of the consumer that results from some act or omission of the trader
  • A term designed to exclude or limit the consumer’s rights if the trader does not perform his obligations adequately
  • A term that allows the trader to bring the contract to an end without reasonable notice unless there are serious grounds for doing so
  • A term which has the effect of binding the consumer to terms which he has had no real opportunity of becoming acquainted with before the conclusion of the contract.

Fairness Exemption

the fairness test in consumer rights

Notices to the public such as clamping warnings are also subject to the ‘fairness test’

The test of fairness will not apply to a term in a contract that specifies the subject matter of the contract, nor will the price be subjected to a fairness test. But for the exemption to apply, the subject matter and the price must be prominent and transparent – i.e. in plain English and intelligible.

What You Need To Do

All businesses need to review their contract terms at this stage to see that they do not fall foul of the Consumer Rights Act and the updated Unfair Terms requirements incorporated in it. Although much of the existing legislation is retained, there are new provisions as well.

Resources

Employment Law Update August 2015

Newsletter from Moore Blatch employment lawyers

PDF newsletter from Moore Blatch employment lawyers

The latest from Moore Blatch includes:

  • The government’s Trade Union Bill, set to make it harder to start strike action
  • Justice Committee inquiry into legal fees and access to justice
  • Consultation open on the Gender Pay Gap
  • Key announcements from the last Budget
  • New Acas guides for employers

Read the briefing in full at Moore Blatch 

 

Consumer Rights Act: Digital Products

Digital products are now a fact of life, and new legislation is catching up

Digital products are now a fact of life, and new legislation is catching up

The new Consumer Rights law coming into force on 1st October 2015 is significant: it introduces new rights for consumers as well as consolidating a lot of existing legislation, and it applies to almost all contracts between traders and consumers. And for the first time, digital products are included specifically in the law.

These new provisions will affect everything from smartphone apps to streamed songs, movies, e-books, games, and business products such as design templates and even our own editable ready-made contracts.

Definitions

A ‘consumer’ is an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

A ‘trader’ is a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession and it includes public sector authorities and government departments.

Digital Content – A New Type of Product

This is the first legislation to establish standards for the supply of digital content which is defined as: “data which are produced and supplied in digital form”. (A somewhat circuitous definition, with questionable use of the word ‘data’ as a plural noun).

The law applies whether the digital content is paid for or is supplied free of charge with other goods and services which are paid for by the consumer.

Every contract for supply of digital content will now be treated as including a term that the digital content:

  • is of satisfactory quality,
  • matches its description and
  • matches any trial version that has been supplied and
  • complies with other information supplied by the trader – e,g. with regard to main characteristics, functionality and compatibility and
  • the trader has the right to supply it.

“Satisfactory quality” is the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory taking account of the description, price and ‘all other relevant circumstances’ (which include any advert, labelling or public statement made by the trader, his representatives or the original producer of the digital content). The quality includes:

  • its state and condition
  • fitness for the purposes for which that kind of digital content is usually supplied
  • freedom from minor defects
  • safety
  • durability

If, before the contract is made, a consumer makes known to the trader a particular purpose for which the digital content is required, then it has to be fit for that purpose even if it is not usually supplied for that reason.

If the trader has the right to modify the digital content, then the satisfactory quality and other standards mentioned above apply also to the modifications.

Traders are required to provide a lot of pre-contract information to consumers – including price, payment, delivery, performance etc. under The Consumer Contracts (Information etc.) Regulations. All that information is now treated as a term of the contract. (See our previous article on those regulations)

Remedies where Digital Content does not Comply with these Terms

If digital content does not meet these standards, a consumer has a number of potential remedies:

  • Repair or replacement (unless this is not possible or is disproportionate compared to other remedies
  • A price reduction if (a) the trader has been asked for repair or replacement and failed to comply or (b) repair or replacement is not possible or is disproportionate. The reduction could amount to a full refund where appropriate.
  • A refund if the trader did not have the right to supply the digital content
  • A right to recover costs (up to the purchase price) incurred by the consumer as a result of the trader failing to supply all the pre-contract information required by the law
  • If the digital content causes damage to a device of the consumer or to other digital content of the consumer, the trader either has to repair the damage or pay compensation

These remedies do not prevent a consumer from claiming damages or some other remedy in court such as an order for specific performance of the contract. But recovering twice for the same loss is not allowed.

Links

  • The Consumer Rights Act can be found here.

ContractStore offers ready-made contract terms for digital products here:

 

 

Consumer Rights Act: Services

Whatever service you are providing, you will need to meet basic standards

Whatever service you are providing, you will need to meet basic standards

The new Consumer Rights law coming into force on 1st October 2015 is significant: it introduces new rights for consumers as well as consolidating a lot of existing legislation, and it applies to almost all all businesses in the UK that supply goods, services or digital products to consumers.

Definitions

A ‘consumer’ is an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

A ‘trader’ is a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession and it includes public sector authorities and government departments.

Services

Every contract for services includes a term, implied by law,  that:

  • the trader will exercise reasonable skill and care in providing the service
  • any information* given to the consumer about the service is included as a term in the contract if it is taken into account by the consumer when deciding to enter into the contract (unless the trader qualified he information at the time)

Where no price is specified in a contract, a term is implied that the consumer will pay a reasonable price for the service.

Where no time for performing the service is specified in the contract, the trader must perform the service within a reasonable time.

*Consumer Regulations that came into force in 2014 specify the information that a trader has to give to a consumer when entering into a contract- there are 24 separate items  and these were mentioned in the blog post we wrote at the time.

None of these implied terms can be excluded in the contract.

Remedies for a consumer where the trader is in breach of any of these implied terms may comprise:

  • repeat performance by the trader
  • a price reduction (which in some circumstances can mean a full refund)

So, if a trader has a clause in his contract limiting his liability to 10% of the contract price, that is illegal and will not be binding on the consumer.

These statutory remedies do not prevent a consumer claiming damages or seeking some other order such as specific performance but the law says the consumer cannot recover twice for the same loss.

The Consumer Rights Act can be found here.

Consumer Rights Act: Goods

Goods trade is subject to new legislation in the UK coming into force on 1 October 2015

New rights for consumers in the UK will apply from 1 October 2015

The new Consumer Rights law coming into force on 1st October 2015 is significant: it introduces new rights for consumers as well as consolidating a lot of existing legislation, and it applies to almost all contracts between traders and consumers.

Definitions

A ‘consumer’ is an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

A ‘trader’ is a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession and it includes public sector authorities and government departments.

‘Goods’ are ‘tangible moveable items’  – in other words, things you can handle – so they do not include software or buildings.

Selling Goods – What the Law Says

It is a legal requirement that all goods sold to a consumer are:

  • of satisfactory quality
  • match their description
  • match any sample that has been supplied
  • match any model which has been seen by the consumer (unless differences have been pointed out)

“Satisfactory quality” is the standard that a reasonable person would consider satisfactory taking account of the description, price and other relevant circumstances. The quality includes:

  • fitness for the purposes for which those goods are usually supplied
  • appearance and finish
  • freedom from minor defects
  • Safety
  • Durability

If the sale includes installation by the trader and the goods are installed incorrectly, then they do not conform to the contract.

If, before the contract is made, a consumer specifies a particular purpose for which the goods are required, then they have to be fit for that purpose even if they’re not usually supplied for that reason.

Traders are required to provide a lot of pre-contract information to consumers – including price, payment, delivery, performance etc. under The Consumer Contracts (Information etc.) Regulations. All that of information is now treated as a term of the contract. (See our previous guidance article on those regulations)

Remedies for Defective Goods

If goods do not meet these standards, a consumer has a number of potential remedies:

  • Within 30 days from delivery (or installation if this is included), reject the substandard goods and claim a full refund
  • after the 30 days the consumer can require the repair or replacement of defective goods
  • if the trader does not replace or repair defective goods at all or does so but the goods are still defective, the consumer can require either a price reduction or a final right to reject the non-conforming goods and get a refund.

Consumers should normally raise any claim within six months from delivery.

A refund must be made within 14 days of the trader agreeing that a refund is due and no fee for arranging the refund is allowed.

Whether or not the contract requires the consumer to return rejected goods, the reasonable costs of return must be borne by the trader. But there is an exception if the consumer returns them from a different place than that where they were delivered. So, for example, if a trader in London supplies goods to a consumer in Brighton and the consumer then moves to Paris, the trader only has to pay the cost of return from Brighton, not the cost from Paris.

If a consumer rejects goods more than six months after delivery, the trader is allowed to deduct from the refund an amount to take account of the time the consumer had use of the goods. (But no deduction is allowed if the goods are a motor vehicle)

The remedies do not prevent the right of a consumer to claim damages or seek some other remedy in the courts. However, the law does say that the consumer cannot make a double recovery for the same loss.

Delivery of Goods

The law (Section 28) requires a trader to deliver goods within 30 days unless another period is agreed. If delivery is not within this period the consumer can treat the contract as at an end if the consumer made it clear that delivery within that period was essential. Otherwise the consumer can demand delivery within ‘an appropriate’ period and if the trader does not meet this, the consumer can cancel.

Risk

Risk of loss or damage passes to the consumer when the goods come into his possession or they are delivered to a carrier commissioned by the consumer.

Your Terms

Using a good standard set of terms and conditions, and getting legal advice if there is anything aren’t sure about, is always good practice regardless of changes in the law. ContractStore have a range of ready made T&Cs and other documents for selling goods that are specifically designed for businesses trading goods. For example:

 

Is Your Business Ready for the new Consumer Rights Act?

The new Consumer Rights Act will come into force in October 2015

The new Consumer Rights Act will come into force in October 2015

This new law is significant: it introduces new rights for consumers as well as consolidating a lot of existing legislation, and it applies to almost all contracts between traders and consumers.

It comes into force on 1st October 2015 and affects all traders that supply goods, services or digital products to consumers.

Definitions

A ‘consumer’ is an individual acting for purposes that are wholly or mainly outside that individual’s trade, business, craft or profession.

A ‘trader’ is a person acting for purposes relating to that person’s trade, business, craft or profession and it includes public sector authorities and government departments.

Digital Products are Now Included

The law deals separately with sale of Goods, Services and (for the first time) Digital Products – what standards have to be met, what information provided, and the rights of a consumer to cancel or get compensation if the trader is not complying with the law. (This will of course affect ContractStore so we are paying especially close attention!)

It also covers Unfair Terms in contracts.

More Guidance

Over the coming month we will be publishing guidance for businesses who trade in Goods, Services, and Digital Products. You can follow this blog or sign up for our enewsletter below, to get the updates.

Get updates by email:


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