REUTERS | Goran Tomasevic

What’s on the agenda for in-house lawyers in November 2023?

The Chancellor will deliver the 2023 Autumn Statement on 22 November 2023. In-house lawyers should also take note of the withdrawal of the draft Companies (Strategic Report and Directors’ Report) (Amendment) Regulations 2023, publication of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023, and consultations on non-financial reporting, regulatory reform, audit reform and atypical working.

Corporate reporting

The government has withdrawn the draft Companies (Strategic Report and Directors’ Report) (Amendment) Regulations 2023, in response to concerns raised by companies about the imposition of additional reporting requirements. The draft regulations proposed amending the Companies Act 2006 to introduce additional reporting requirements for companies with 750 or more employees and an annual turnover of at least £750 million, including an annual resilience statement, distributable profits figure, material fraud statement and triennial audit and assurance policy statement.

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero has published a call for evidence on Scope 3 GHG emissions reporting in the UK and the effectiveness of the Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) framework. The SECR regime imposes additional GHG emissions reporting requirements on quoted companies, large unquoted companies and large LLPs. The deadline for responses is 14 December.

The Financial Reporting Council (FRC) has published its annual review of corporate reporting for 2022/2023. It reports on its findings from its monitoring activities, including the issues most commonly raised with companies, together with its expectations for the coming reporting season.

Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023

On 26 October, the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill received Royal Assent, and the Act was published. The Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Act 2023 is the second part of a legislative package aimed at preventing abuse of UK corporate structures and tackling economic crime. Part 1 of the Act provides for reforms to Companies House, including new identity verification requirements for all new and existing registered company directors, People with Significant Control and those delivering documents to the Registrar, and increased investigation and enforcement powers for the Registrar.

Regulatory reform

The Department for Business and Trade has published a call for evidence seeking views on what works and what could be improved across the landscape of UK regulators, and possible steps to reform or modernise the existing stock of regulation on the UK statute book (both retained EU Law and wider regulations). The call for evidence is directed at all stakeholders, including businesses, consumers and regulators. The deadline for responses is 7 January 2024.

Audit reform

The FRC has published an invitation to comment on proposed amendments to International Standard on Auditing (UK) 250. Amendments include removing the current distinction in auditors’ responsibilities and work relating to an entity’s compliance with laws and regulations depending on whether those laws and regulations affect the determination of material amounts and disclosures in the financial statements. Responses are requested by 12 January 2024.

Atypical working

Acas has issued a consultation on a new statutory Code of Practice on handling requests for a predictable working pattern, following the enactment of the Workers (Predictable Terms and Conditions) Act 2023, which is expected to come into force around September 2024. The Act will introduce a statutory right for workers and agency workers to request a predictable working pattern, and employers will be required to deal with such requests in a reasonable manner. The consultation will remain open until 17 January 2024.

Climate change

The UK Transition Plan Taskforce (TPT) has published its final disclosure framework for climate transition plans and accompanying implementation guidance. The TPT framework is designed to be consistent with and to build on the International Sustainability Standard Board’s climate-related disclosure standard (IFRS S2). The TPT also published:

  • A consultation on a sector summary (covering 40 sectors).
  • Technical mapping showing how the TPT framework relates to other key disclosure frameworks.
  • Legal considerations for companies drawing up transition plans, including in relation to directors’ duties.

Data protection

The UK-US data bridge, an extension to the EU-US Data Privacy Framework (DPF), came into force on 12 October. The UK-US data bridge authorises the US as providing an adequate level of protection for data transfer purposes where the transfer is to an organisation in the US listed on the DPF as participating in the UK extension to the DPF. Any transfer of personal data covered by the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR) will then be subject to the principles of the DPF.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published its guidance, Employment practices and data protection − Monitoring workers, to help employers comply with the  UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018. The ICO explains that with the increase in remote working and developments in technology, many employers are seeking to carry out checks on their workers. The ICO urges organisations to consider both their legal obligations and their workers’ rights before they implement any monitoring in the workplace.

Cyber security

The Financial Conduct Authority has fined Equifax Ltd, a credit reference agency and data, analytics and technology business, £11.1 million for cyber security and outsourcing failings. In 2017, Equifax Ltd’s parent company, Equifax Inc, was subject to one of the largest cyber security breaches in history. Cyber-hackers were able to access the personal data of approximately 13.8 million UK consumers because Equifax Ltd outsourced data to Equifax Inc’s servers in the US for processing.

Business crime

The Home Office has announced an independent review of criminal disclosure and fraud. The last independent review of fraud in the UK occurred in 1986 and led to, among other things, the creation of the Serious Fraud Office. Since then, the nature and scale of fraud has evolved considerably and now constitutes over 40% of all offences in England and Wales, with a particular growth in online-enabled fraud.

Mental health in the legal workplace

On 10 October, World Mental Health Awareness Day, LawCare published new guidance for employers on protecting mental health in legal workplaces. LawCare, a charity providing emotional support to anyone working in the law, has seen a 24% increase in the number of legal professionals requesting support from 2022 to 2023.

Dates for your diary

1-2 November

The Prime Minister will host the AI Safety Summit 2023 at Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire.

2 November
Compulsory electronic filing of documents with the Upper Tribunal begins.

7 November

Government consultation on revisions to the Provision of Services Regulation 2009 (SI 2009/2999) closes.

Non-statutory flexible working call for evidence deadline.

10 November

Deadline for submissions to House of Commons Committee inquiry into the cyber resilience of UK’s critical national infrastructure.

24 November

Deadline for responses to the TPT consultation on its sector summary.

27 November

ICO consultation on its draft fining guidance ends.

Deadline for responding to Ministry of Justice consultation on reforming fees in the UK Supreme Court.

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