As we reach the end of 2021 and almost the point of a well-earned Christmas/New Year break, early 2022 is a good time to make plans for the year ahead.

Although the pandemic has made life somewhat unpredictable, ensuring that you have reviewed necessary areas and ensured you can respond quickly and easily to change will allow you at least some control over the coming year.

These are our 6 top areas to review for 2022;

  1. Upcoming Employment Law Changes
  2. Review and Develop your Employer Brand
  3. Remote Working arrangements
  4. Test your Business Continuity Plan
  5. Review your cybersecurity
  6. Finance Housekeeping

 

Upcoming Employment Law Changes

There are a number of anticipated changes in 2022 and you should make sure you keep your Employee Handbook under regular review and remain abreast of developments in 2022, if you want to stay compliant.

 

In addition to the usual National Minimum Wage rise in April 2022 (diarise it now!), we also have;-

  1. Changes on sexual harassment – a new duty and statutory code of practice for employers to protect staff against sexual harassment.  This will mean changes to your Bullying and Harassment Policy. There is also a proposed extension of time for bringing a claim under the Equality Act from 3 to 6 months. This is all anticipated, but we have no firm date yet. Those who are Members of TSP can access our policy, which includes sexual harassment, on the Members Hub, but we will be amending it for download once the legislation comes into force.
  2. Changes to flexible working – The proposal on a day 1 right to request flexible working closes in December 2021. Watch this space.
  3. New right to Carer’s Leave – This change is forthcoming in the Employment Law Bill. It will mean employers have to provide up to 5 working days of carers leave per year (unpaid) to provide time for arranging or providing care to those with long-term illnesses.
  4. Neonatal Leave – Statutory leave for neonatal parents is included in the forthcoming Employment Bill. This will require changes to current leave policies. This will provide neonatal parents with the right to take an additional week of leave for every week that their baby is in neonatal care.
  5. Extended redundancy protection for mothers and new parents – Another development in the Employment Bill – protection will apply to pregnant women from the date they notify their employer of their pregnancy up to 6 months after having their baby and also applies to parents taking adoption or shared parental leave.

 

Make sure you keep abreast of changes as we go through 2022.  Members will be able to download updated policies from our Members Hub on some of the above areas but purchasing our full Employee Handbook will provide you with a full suite of policies which will be updated throughout 2022.

You should also be aware that in a recent EAT case (Rooney v Leicester City Council), the Employment Tribunal was found to be incorrect in stating that menopause did not amount to a disability. There have been an increasing number of successful claims in this area.  We provide Members with a free Menopause Policy on our Members Hub and firms can also purchase it as part of our Employee Handbook.

 

Review and develop your Employer Brand

Recruitment is becoming more and more difficult and law firms are affected.  Either people do not want to move firms due to uncertainty and the “last in, first out” approach, or, as in criminal law, there is a lack of new talent coming up through the ranks.

How do you tackle this?  Review what your Employer Brand says about you on your website and social media. Make your firm sound attractive and a place where people are well treated. If you have additional benefits or initiatives that are not publicised, consider putting them out there on your website. Potential employees will have a look at what your firm is about before deciding whether to apply to you, so making sure you have really thought about how your firm comes across will be important in attracting new talent.

If you have been trying to hire for a while – review your job advert. Are you telling potential employees clearly about all the reasons why your firm is a great place to work?  If not, revise the ad.

Whilst the above is important to attract new talent, do not forget about looking after your current team.  Retention will be key in 2022, because when employees do start to feel that the economy is less volatile, they will start looking elsewhere if they have been unhappy with the way they are treated or the lack of positive benefits the firm offers.  Keep your team happy with regular 1-2-1s, flexibility and genuine care for them as an individual.

 

Remote working arrangements

Review how this has been working for your firm.  Make sure you have a remote working policy in place (Members can download one from our Hub, or non-members can purchase our Employee Handbook), together with revised risk assessments for those currently remote or hybrid working.

The ability to undertake some work from home is going to be a key demand from employees and failing to offer this in some form, particularly for fee earners, will leave you in a more vulnerable position when it comes to retaining staff. More and more firms are offering increased flexibility and you do not want to find your firm is in the difficult position of needing to recruit for key roles because you decide not to offer any remote working for your team. Of course, there are roles which cannot be undertaken remotely and that is fine, provided reasons for this are clearly communicated to those affected.

 

Test your Business Continuity Plan

We cannot stress this enough – if you do not have a BCP or you have one and it lies in a folder on your shared drive and never sees the light of day, you need to tackle this now! PI Insurers will take a dim view of a firm who has failed to plan for emergencies, given the outbreak of Covid-19.

There is little point having a plan which is never tested and not having a plan at all given the rapidly changing situation as the pandemic continues is really failing to manage risk and compliance for your firm.  If you have a plan, you need to make sure it works, and you should be testing it at least every six months to make sure you remain resilient to changes. Many firms were caught short when the pandemic first hit us, but as things have calmed down a little, now is the time to look at what risks you need to plan for and how you will tackle them.

Our Risk and Compliance service includes a fully drafted BCP in discussion with you and provides both you and your PI Insurers with the confidence that you are able to tackle risks that affect the running of a firm.

 

Review your cybersecurity measures

Law firms have been and remain one of the key targets for fraudsters.  According to the UK Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Statistics, over 80% of UK organisations experienced a successful attack in 2020/2021.  If that figure does not incite a degree of urgency in you to review your security measures, nothing will!

Penetration testing can be undertaken to see just how easy it would be for a fraudster to target your systems and cyber insurance can protect you from some of the financial damage of an attack.  Preparation is best – and our Members can obtain support from our Partner firms, LP Networks and Mitigo.

 

Finance Housekeeping

Is your COFA satisfied that your firm is fully compliant with the SRA Accounts Rules 2019? When did you last review your WIP, outstanding debt and outstanding disbursements? Have you considered your budget, planned your cashflow forecast, and reviewed last year’s performance?  Even if your accounting year end is not at the end of December, the beginning of a new year, or new quarter, is a good opportunity to tidy up your ledgers, make sure you return those small amounts to clients from your aged client balance list (no matter how small) or donate them to charity (in accordance with the SRA Accounts Rules of course!) and make sure that your outstanding bills are not running into 90 days plus.

Lastly, and by no means less importantly, make sure ALL breaches of the SRA Accounts Rules 2019, no matter how small, are recorded on the COFA Register.

 

Contact The Strategic Partner

At TSP, we have a fully compliant Accounts Manual for firms to purchase, which we draft for you in discussion with you, taking the stress out of ensuring your firm is SAR compliant.

So, these are the key areas we would suggest need Partners’/Directors’ attention as we move into 2022. TSP is well equipped to assist your firm with all of the above, and has helped hundreds of firms navigate their way through the various risks to modern day law firms.

 

For more information about the work that The Strategic Partner undertakes for law firms to help develop, grow and sustain their firms you can contact us on 0203 911 9710, email us info@thestrategicpartner.co.uk or visit our website and make an online enquiry www.thestrategicpartner.co.uk/contact-us.

 

 

You can view and download the PDF of this article here. 

Members & More