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Legal public sector: developments in 2017

Posted by
20 Feb 2017
legal developments2016 was an exceptionally busy year for the public sector legal team at Sellick Partnership, and we are experiencing our highest number of locums working within the sector countrywide as we further cement ourselves as market leaders.

Legislative developments in April 2016 saw a major change in the way many contractors work. Back in September, my colleague, Joseph Aspinall discussed these developments in a blog titled ‘Central government – a market update’. Within his blog, Joseph touched upon the legislative changes enforced by HMRC in April 2016, which relates to the government’s plans to clampdown on the misuse of travel and subsistence rules. In our experience, it has always been very popular for locum lawyers to work via umbrella companies and due to these legislative changes, candidates opting to work in this way could no longer do so.

Working via an umbrella company, up until April seemed in most cases the most popular way for locums to work as it provided tax relief to contractors for their work to home travel and subsistence expenditure. For workers under supervision, direction or control of the end client, from April 2016, were no longer able to continue to claim tax relief on expenses. For the avoidance of doubt, if there is no supervision, direction or control, contractors are able to continue as they were with expense claims.

Since these legislative changes have taken place, we have experienced changes not only in the way candidates are opting to work (many more are now working PAYE), but we have also found that candidates are seeking higher hourly rates to account for not being able to claim tax relief. Many are also looking to secure more home working, or are more unwilling to consider staying away from home during the week as it is no longer feasible with the expenses incurred.

Joseph specialises in recruiting within Central Government, and as per his blog, he has found that since the changes in April, there has been a definite increase in demand for lawyers experienced in tax law. Not only that, but he has also experienced a continued increase in the demand for locum commercial lawyers within Central Government. This is great news for those lawyers from all sectors with the relevant experience looking to transfer their skills and gain experience within Central Government.

Throughout 2016, we also experienced a definite increase in demand from Local Authorities countrywide for experienced childcare lawyers. My colleague Kiran Purewal has recently written a blog, ‘Care Proceedings – where are we up to?’ which discussed the rise in care cases being issued in 2016. Within the 12 months prior to Christmas, the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) report showed that up until March this year, 12,781 cases had been issued, compared to 1,159 in the previous year.

We are always experiencing a consistently high demand from Local Authorities for locum assistance from experienced childcare lawyers, and as 2016 progressed, we saw this demand continue to increase. This is recognised by many candidates who work within areas of law, which are not in such high demand by Local Authorities to the extent that candidates are looking to retrain in childcare, to ensure that they will be more suited to vacancies.

Childcare is a challenging and mentally demanding area of law, and it is excellent that recent figures have shown that the average time taken to conclude care proceedings has reduced by almost 10 weeks. With the pressure that this area of law brings, we have found that we are registering a number of candidates who are looking to move from permanent to locum employment, so that they are able to enjoy more flexible working arrangements.
2016 also saw an increase in the number of Local Authorities looking to join together in shared service arrangements across the country.  In recent years, shared services have become increasingly popular in the public sector as a way of coping with increased demand for public services with fewer resources.

Shared services with many Local Authorities has led to the merger of a number of legal teams. With legal services teams expanding, and these organisations keeping work in-house, we have found that requirements have arisen throughout the year in particular for lawyers with specialist experience to be joining these teams on a locum basis. For example, a London Local Authority has this year created their own in-house regeneration team, which in turn has led to the need to recruit locum lawyers to join the team who have specific regeneration experience.

2016 was an excellent year and across the team we have continued to enjoy working with a number of public sector organisations, who we look forward to working with again in 2017. We are continually looking to keep abreast of changes in the market so that we are best placed to assist any organisations requiring locum assistance.

If you are looking for a new opportunity within the public sector, or indeed if you are seeking locum assistance within your team, we look forward to hearing from you! Please get in touch by calling 0161 834 1642 or emailing laura.smith@sellickpartnership.co.uk. Alternatively, browse through our latest roles. Browse roles  
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