In March, in-house lawyers will need to be keep abreast of the crisis in Ukraine (and the associated regime of sanctions against Russia), together with developments related to COVID-19, ESG and women on boards.
In response to the Ukraine crisis, the government has announced a new tranche of sanctions against the Russian state. The Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) Regulations 2022 (SI 123/2022) entered into force on 10 February 2022 and herald a much more rigorous approach to sanctions against Russian targets. The FCA has since published a statement on the new financial sanctions relating to Russia. In particular, the FCA advises firms to screen against both the UK sanctions list and the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation’s list of asset freeze targets.
Employers will need to consider what approach to take in the light of the Prime Minister’s statement on the government’s strategy for living with COVID-19 in England. For example, will they introduce workplace self-isolation policies? The provisions relating to payment of Statutory Sick Pay for individuals who are self-isolating will end on 24 March in England. Employers have until that date to submit any final claims under the rebate scheme.
Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG)
BEIS has published guidance to help companies meet the mandatory climate-related financial disclosure requirements under the Companies (Strategic Report) (Climate-related Financial Disclosure) Regulations 2022. The guidance covers, among other things:
- The scope of the regulations.
- The level of detail required.
- Whether third party information can be relied on to make the disclosures.
The European Commission has adopted a proposal for a Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive. The proposal introduces a sustainability due diligence duty on large EU companies and non-EU companies with significant EU activity to address adverse human rights and environmental impacts in their own operations, their subsidiaries and their value chains.
The FRC has published a report on the quality of corporate governance reporting by private companies following the Wates Corporate Governance Principles for Large Private Companies and the PLSA has also published a revised version of its Stewardship and Voting Guidelines.
Women on boards
The FTSE Women Leaders Review has published its first report on gender balance in FTSE leadership. The report states that as at 10 January, among other things:
- Women held 39.1% of FTSE 100 board positions (up from 36.2% in 2020), but 15 FTSE 100 companies had not yet achieved the 33% target.
- Women held 36.8% of FTSE 250 board positions (up from 33.2%), but 57 FTSE 250 companies had not yet achieved the 33% target.
- The FTSE 350 had no all-male boards, but still had 6 companies with only one woman on the board.
Spring 2022 Office for Budget Responsibility forecast
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has commissioned the Office for Budget Responsibility to produce an economic and fiscal forecast for 23 March, as per the Charter for Budget Responsibility. Such a forecast must be produced on at least two occasions each financial year, the publication of which usually coincides with a Budget event. However, there is yet to be official confirmation of any Budget dates in 2022.
BEIS has launched a consultation on the proposed drafting of The Competition Act 1998 (Vertical Agreements Block Exemption) Order 2022, which will replace the retained EU Vertical Agreements Block Exemption when it expires on 31 May. BEIS invites comments on the text of the draft UK Order by 16 March.
The government has laid before Parliament the international data transfer agreement, the international data transfer addendum to the European Commission’s standard contractual clauses for international data transfers and a document setting out transitional provisions. If no objections are raised, they will come into force on 21 March. These documents have been issued by the Information Commissioner as a replacement for the current standard contractual clauses used for personal data transfers from the UK to third countries.
The UK government has announced its intention to bring forward a “Brexit Freedoms” Bill to ensure that retained EU law can be more easily amended or repealed, and to end the special status of EU law in the UK legal framework.
Dates for your diary
Updated Guidelines for Examination in the European Patent Office (EPC Guidelines) and the Guidelines for Search and Examination at the European Patent Office as PCT Authority (PCT-EPO Guidelines) come into force.
The European Commission’s call for evidence on an initiative to create an EU toolbox against counterfeiting closes.
Government consultation on reforming the Human Rights Act 1998 ends.
- ICO consultation on draft guidance for competent authorities on subject access rights ends.
- Consultation on implementing due diligence requirements for forest risk commodities closes.
- Government consultation on the future of climate change agreements closes.
- LCAM-HSF survey on compulsory mediation in litigation and arbitration closes.
UK parliamentary committee opens inquiry into the future of retained EU law.
Commons second reading of the following Bills is expected:
- Bereavement (Leave and Pay) Bill.
- Bereavement Leave and Pay (Stillborn and Miscarried Babies) Bill.
- Miscarriage Leave Bill.
- Pregnancy and Maternity (Redundancy Protection) Bill.
- Workers (Employment Security and Definition) Bill.
- Commons second reading of the Non-Disclosure Agreements (No.2) Bill.
Deadline for responses to the UK government’s consultation on proposals to standardise qualifications and certifications across the cyber security profession.
Office for Environmental Protection consultation on its draft strategy and enforcement policy closes.
FCA consultation on amendments to financial promotion rules and guidance closes.
ICO consultation on Regulatory action policy and statutory guidance ends.
Deadline for views on the UK Intellectual Property Office’s call for views on designs law.