The crisis in Ukraine (and the associated developing regime of sanctions against Russia) remains at the top of the agenda for businesses this month. In-house lawyers should also keep track of developments in economic crime, corporate transparency and corporate governance.
In response to the Ukraine crisis, the government announced a series of sanctions against the Russian state, including:
- The Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations (SI 2022/194), which add new financial sanctions to Part 3 (Finance) of the Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 (SI 2019/855).
- The Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No 3) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/195), which extend the sanctions regime directed at Russia to now include dual-use military goods and critical-industry goods and technology.
- The Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No. 4) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/203), which prohibit Russian ships, and other ships specified by the Secretary of State, from entering ports in the UK.
- The Russia (Sanctions) (EU Exit) (Amendment) (No 5) Regulations 2022 (SI 2022/205), which impose restrictions on the provision of financial services for the purposes of foreign exchange reserves and asset management involving particular Russian entities.
All these Regulations entered into force on 1 March 2022.
Practical Law has published a toolkit to help counsel working in the US, UK, EU, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand guide their clients through the business interruptions caused by the Ukraine crisis, including key sanctions imposed on Russia and other countries, persons and entities.
The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act
The Economic Crime (Transparency and Enforcement) Act 2022 received Royal Assent on 14 March. The Act aims to enhance the transparency of beneficial ownership information in respect of, among other things, overseas companies that buy land or property in the UK.
Corporate transparency and register reform
BEIS has published a White Paper on corporate transparency and register reform. Among other things, the White Paper covers:
- New statutory powers and responsibilities for the Registrar.
- Identity verification and other measures relating to directors, beneficial owners and third-party agents.
- Increased powers for Companies House to share data with law enforcement and regulatory bodies.
The Parker Review Committee has published an update report that includes the results of its latest survey on the ethnic diversity of FTSE 350 companies’ boards. Among other things, the report indicates that, as of 31 December 2021, 89 FTSE 100 companies (up from 74 in 2020) had ethnic diversity on their boards. As most of these positions remain non-executive roles, the report recommends that continued attention is focused on this issue.
Employment: right to work checks
Regulations amending the right to work check scheme come into force on 6 April. The scheme requires employers to check the immigration status of prospective employees to ascertain whether they have the right to work in the UK. From 6 April, as an alternative to conducting a manual right to work check, employers may use identification document validation technology (IDVT) service providers to digitally verify the identity of British and Irish citizens with valid passports (or Irish passport cards).
In addition, the temporary COVID-19 adjusted right to work check measures will now end on 30 September (inclusive), not 5 April as previously announced by the Home Office. The measures allow right to work checks to be carried out over video calls and for job applicants and existing workers to send scanned documents or a photo of their documents to employers via email or a mobile app, rather than sending the originals.
ClientEarth has sent a pre-action letter to Shell plc notifying it of a potential claim against the company’s board. Depending on Shell’s response, the environmental NGO, which is a Shell shareholder, intends to ask the High Court for permission to bring a claim against Shell’s 13 executive and non-executive directors for their alleged breach of section 172 of the Companies Act 2006. ClientEarth alleges the long-term viability of the company is being endangered by the board’s failure to prepare properly for the energy transition to net zero. This is the first case seeking to hold company directors personally liable in this way.
Dates for your diary
- Free symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for the general public will end.
- The national minimum wage and national living wage rates increase from this date.
- Increases to statutory maternity, paternity and adoption pay come into effect.
- International Trade Committee call for evidence on UK and New Zealand free trade agreement closes.
HM Treasury consultation on the UK implementation of a global minimum corporate tax rate and a domestic minimum tax closes.
- Call for evidence on EU right to repair initiative closes.
- Deadline for European Commission call for evidence on establishing a single procedure for supplementary protection certificates.
- Draft regulations for climate-related financial disclosures expected to come into force.
- Companies (Strategic Report) (Climate-related Financial Disclosure) Regulations 2022 come into force.
- Government report on payment practices and performance due.
- Entry into force of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Rules 2022 (SI 2022/101).
- Regulations creating “flexi-job” apprenticeships for the purposes of a pilot scheme in England come into force.
- Compensation limits for certain tribunal awards and other statutory payments increase from this date.
- Employment Allowance increases to £5,000.
- An increase to statutory sick pay comes into effect.
European Commission consultation on a future legislative initiative upgrading digital company law closes.
Consultation on UK government’s proposals for new laws to improve the cyber resilience of organisations closes.
Deadline for non-owners with interest in registered designs affected by filing date error to contact IPO if they object to the corrections.
Deadline for contributions to EPO’s consultation on updated examination guidelines.
ICO consultation on processing for research purposes guidance ends.
Deadline for responding to European Commission consultation on draft revised Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations and Horizontal Guidelines.
OECD consultation on cryptoasset reporting framework closes.