The Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act received Royal Assent and passed into UK law in March 2015. Its provisions, aimed at cutting red tape and improving the quality of the information on the Companies House public register, will now be implemented in stages over the period May 2015 to October 2016.

The exact implementation dates are subject to the passage of secondary legislation, but at present the implementation schedule is likely to include:

• Already in force – Share warrants to bearer, also known as bearer shares, have been abolished. All holders of these warrants must surrender them within nine months
• October 2015 – the day of birth will no longer be recorded on the public register for directors and People with Significant Control (PSC). Only the month and year of birth will be recorded
• October 2015 – the time it takes to strike companies off the register will be reduced
• October 2015 – when a firm appoints a new director, it will be required to file a ‘statement of truth’ confirming that the individual has agreed to become a director
• December 2015 – the process of removing falsely appointed directors from the register will be simplified
• January 2016 – Firms will need to keep their own register of PSC individuals and file this with Companies House on becoming incorporated
• April 2016 – Firms will be required to ‘check and confirm’ the information Companies House holds about them every 12 months, and notify Companies House if any changes have occurred. Currently firms need to file an annual return even if no changes have occurred
• April 2016 – firms will need to update their PSC register at ‘check and confirm’ stage
• April 2016 – firms, other than public companies, can choose to have certain information held on the public register only, replacing the current need to file information on the statutory registers. This requirement will apply to the registers of: members, directors, secretaries, directors’ residential addresses and individuals holding PSC status
• April 2016 – changes will be made to the disqualified directors regime
• April 2016 – the statement of capital firms must file will be simplified
• October 2016 – with limited exceptions, firms will be banned from appointing corporate directors. A corporate director situation arises where a firm holds a director position on the board of another firm. Firms that already have corporate directors will need to either explain how they meet the conditions for an exception, or give notice to the registrar that the named individuals have ceased to act as directors. The permitted exceptions will include large private companies that are part of wider groups of companies, and charitable firms

Other provisions of the Act, which will not come into force until a commencement order is passed, include:

• New fines for firms that fail to pay employment tribunal awards and other sums due
• Restrictions on firms’ ability to write exclusivity clauses (bans on an individual working for anyone else) into zero hours contracts
• A new fines system for failing to pay the national minimum wage – now a separate penalty will be levied for every underpaid employee
• New requirements to produce annual reports of whistleblowing disclosures
• Firms with at least 250 employees to be required to publish information about their gender pay gap (the difference in the average amount paid to male and female employees)

The Business Secretary at the time the Act became law, Vince Cable, said:
“Small businesses provide jobs for millions of people across the country and are driving the economic recovery. The Small Business Act will create the right environment for small businesses to continue to thrive by giving them greater access to finance to help them innovate and grow, and make it easier for them to export goods and services made in Britain. The Bill’s measures also mean there is nowhere to hide for firms who do not play by the rules, whether by abusing zero hours contracts or not paying the minimum wage.”
The information shown in this article was correct at the time of publication. Articles are not routinely reviewed and as such are not updated. Please be aware the facts, circumstances or legal position may change after publication of the article.