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Changes to UK law in 2018

30th January 2018

Looking at computer screen

Increased consumer rights, lower heating bills for renters and tougher sentences for animal cruelty are among changes to UK law in 2018. The government will be implementing many promises it made last year, including a ban on the manufacture of products containing microbeads in the UK, a move which has been praised by campaigners worldwide. If you are a legal professional or seeking your first legal job, you may already be aware of some of the most significant forthcoming changes. In this article, we’ll look at some of the key changes to UK law.

Data Protection

British law is to be brought in line with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation this year. The new legislation will, according to Minister of State for Digital, Matt Hancock, “give consumers the confidence that their data is protected and those who misuse it will be held to account”.

Thousands of businesses in the UK collect, store and access personal information for future marketing. The Data Protection Bill will make it easier for people to withdraw their consent for the use of their personal data, and will allow people to ask companies holding their personal data to erase it. Overall, this potential change to UK legislation has been welcomed, however it has yet to formally become law.

Drone regulation

Flying a drone

Throughout 2017, stories appeared in the national press about irresponsible drone usage. One case of a drone being flown close to Gatwick Airport led to the closure of the runway and diverted flights. The government has taken note of the potential hazards of flying a drone, and has proposed a crackdown on unmanned flying vehicles. The new safety test requirement will see owners having to sit an exam, similar to a driving theory test. The Drone (Regulation) Bill will also allow police to order operators to ground their devices where necessary. We spoke to UK drone specialists Heliguy, about their business and the proposed legislation:

“Heliguy caters for the entire drone industry, from creatives to emergency services to bespoke enterprise applications. We are approved by DJI as a retailer and repair centre and the CAA as an NQE for commercial drone operator training.

“The Heliguy team are in full support of the proposed drone laws expected in spring of 2018. For responsible drone pilots, there’s nothing to worry about. The laws are aimed at improving transparency with drone operation and preventing criminal activity and unsafe flight. Make sure you know the laws and you won’t have any issues.

“It’s likely the key changes to legislation will be around police powers over drones, and preventing drones flying in areas that may be unsafe or where unlawful activity is likely to occur, such as prisons.”

Tougher sentences for animal cruelty

Proposals for tougher sentences for perpetrators of animal cruelty have been put forward by Environment Secretary, Michael Gove. Currently, people who abuse animals can receive a six-month sentence, however the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs are suggesting a sentence of up to five years in order to combat cruelty. The proposed legislation would enable courts to provide lengthier sentences to gangs involved in organised dog fights. Mr Gove told The Independent: “We are a nation of animal lovers and so we must ensure that those who commit the most shocking cruelty towards animals face suitably tough punishments.

“These plants will give courts the tools they have requested to deal with the most abhorrent acts. This is one part of our plan to deliver world-leading standards of animal welfare in the years ahead.”

The new plans will bring England in line with Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Multiple organisations have praised the plans, including the RSPCA. Philippa King, acting chief executive of the League Against Cruel Sports, also told The Independent: “Alongside other animal welfare charities, we’ve been campaigning for more appropriate sentencing for animal cruelty for some time, so it’s excellent news that the government has listened to the people who are dealing with this on the front line.”

Lower heating bills proposed for renters

Turning heating dial

Some good news for renters comes in the form of lower heating bills. As of April 1st 2018, all privately rented properties will be legally required to have a minimum energy performance rating of ‘E’, meaning landlords will have to make improvements to homes, such as upgrading insulation or heating systems, for example. Under the new rules, it will be unlawful to rent out a property which does not meet the minimum rating, and any landlords found to be breaching these requirements could receive a civil penalty of up to £4,000.

Meetings are currently being held to discuss the potential Draft Tenants’ Fees Bill, which was proposed to ban letting agents from charging tenants additional fees of up to £800 in some cases. However letting agents are fighting back and insisting that a cap, rather than a ban, be introduced under the new legislation. The government has stated that it does not expect the new laws to come into effect until spring 2019 at the earliest.

Gender pay gap reports

As of April 5th 2018, UK companies with at least 250 employees will be required to reveal data about the differences in pay between men and women. This push for transparency led to the BBC publish its own figures, revealing a 9% gender pay gap at the corporation. It’s believed that around half of the UK workforce will be affected by the new reporting rules, with an estimated 9,000 employers and 15 million employees included. All eligible companies will be expected to publish their gender pay gap reports by April 5th.

National Living Wage boost

Workers can expect a pay rise in April 2018, as the government keeps its promise to boost the National Living Wage. Hourly rates for people over the age of 25 will see their wage increase from £7.50 to £7.83, while workers aged 21-24 will see their hourly wage boosted from £7.05 to £7.38. Those aged 18-20 will be given a 30p increase from £5.60 to £5.90, and 16-17 year olds can expect a 15p increase from £4.05 to £4.20. Apprentices aged under 19 will also receive a 20p increase from £3.50 to £3.70. Along with the National Living Wage, there will also be an increase to the Personal Allowance (the amount you can earn in a year tax-free), from £11,500 to £11,850.

Microbeads ban

As of 2018, plastic microbeads can no longer be used in cosmetics and personal care products in the UK. The long-awaited ban came into effect at the beginning of the year and prevents the manufacture of products in these categories, however the ban on sales of products containing microbeads will not come into force until July 2018. The devastating effects of microbeads on the environment have been revealed over the past few years, and highlighted by campaigns such as Sky’s Ocean Rescue. According to The Guardian, thousands of tonnes of plastic microbeads are washed into the sea every year, via products such as exfoliating face scrubs and toothpastes.

The ban on microbeads is only the beginning, as campaigners and politicians are now pushing for action on plastic bottles, straws and takeaway coffee cups. Mary Creagh, MP and chair of the UK’s environmental audit committee, said: “The microbeads ban is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done. Since we called for a ban, my committee has also recommended the deposit return scheme, a latte levy for plastic-lined coffee cups and reforms to make producers responsible for their packaging.”