Retailers’ guide to Changes in Legislation

With changes in legislation you can rarely decide if you are going to be involved as the government will usually define who it will or won’t apply to. Here are some recent changes that retailers need to review to see if it applies to them…

CARRIER BAG CHARGES
The recent legislation said that now larger businesses have to charge for carrier bags but smaller ones (less than 250 employees ) can choose whether to or not. Anyone charging for bags has to pass the charge on to their chosen charity. As a smaller business this would be a great way of creating links with a local charity whose work you believe in. As well as deciding which charity you are going to support, it’s also worth considering whether it is appropriate to offer a range of reusable/bag for life type products.

BUSINESS RATES
The (now ex) Chancellors’ pledge in the spending review and 2015 autumn statement to extend rate relief for 600,000 small businesses for another year is welcome. However, in March 2016, the ending of the discount currently worth £1,500 to high street retailers is a severe blow and the net benefit for many will be negative. This is a good example of being aware of these types of changes because if you were previously a recipient of such a relief, to lose it can be a major problem.

LIVING WAGE VERSUS MINIMUM WAGE
This was a very active area in October last year with a number of retailers like Oliver Bonas putting their hourly rates up significantly higher than the minimum wage and others above the living wage. Whilst this is in excess of their legal obligation, the impact on their competitors is to make their rates of pay look relatively poor and those looking for jobs will use this as a point of comparison… so it puts the pressure on.

PENSIONS
The government gave employers a responsibility to offer pensions for all employees. It started with larger employers and has been phased in over the last 4years but now it has filtered down to the smaller employers. If you do not know the date you need to have a pension scheme in place by ‘your staging date’, you can go onto the government website to check – don’t miss yours , company’s are already being fined for not being ready in time.

APPRENTICES
The debate over the benefits of further education versus learning practical skills continues as the student loans increase again in Autumn 2017 and the availability of apprenticeships is at the heart of this. In his autumn statement, the Chancellor announced that the 3m new apprenticeships to be created by 2020 will be funded by a levy of 0.5% on the pay bills of our largest employers. It will be introduced in April 2017 with the aim of raising £3bn.

We’ll also need to work through all the legislative changes as the UK unravels itself from the EU - but this is likely to take a very long time and won’t even start to happen until we have officially left the EU.