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20 December 2017

2017: A year in review

2017 has been a year of change for local businesses, with many looking at ways they can improve and grow through efficiency, product development and supporting and evolving their workforce.

We have seen local businesses increasingly look to different models to provide efficiencies and improved productivity and have assisted a number of clients in outsourcing activities and the considerable challenges involved in the negotiating employee related indemnities.

In the food industry, in particular, clients are looking at better and more collaborative ways to address the logistics of getting product to markets. Providing for that matrix of contractual arrangements and the TUPE issues associated with entry into and exit from relationships, has provided us and our clients with interesting and challenging work.

Changes in the litigation landscape, including increases to court fees, has seen our clients shift their focus to a more risk-based approach and we are increasingly assisting our clients at an early stage to resolve disputes without the expense of court action. This has included a marked upturn in the use of early commercial mediation.

We continue to see yet more growth in the Norwich services sector. Location continues to diminish as a barrier to servicing clients outside the region as evidenced by our own work with national clients in the creative space who are, in turn, expanding their international presence.

Our agriculture and food-producing clients continue to be active from the farm gate to the supermarket shelf. An example of this is the completed sale for one of our clients, a major poultry processor, demonstrating the ongoing consolidation of East Anglian production.

We have been excited to advise clients on bringing to market new products to meet demands for ever changing healthy eating and dietary life styles, such as gluten-free. These are all being supported by external investors keen to break the traditional food monopolies.

Recognising the importance of a diverse and skilled workforce, we have recently worked with a major national client in the food sector on the use of its Apprenticeship Levy to fund training. We see increased challenges as public services move to delivery outside local and national government, but also increased opportunities for tailoring services to local demands. These delivery models present scope for local SMEs to provide key support services.

Our Norwich office continues to be instructed by innovators across the technical and creative sectors. In manufacturing, we have advised a major engine developer on the creating and production of a new form of marine engine which will substantially change local, national and global markets, alongside continuing automotive contracts ranging from engine part manufacturers to rallying and formula one racing.

The downturn in the oil industry with its considerable knock on effect on local companies, both downstream and upstream, has in many respects been replaced by new sources of renewable energy. These include developing new forms of wind turbines to pioneering energy production from recycled coffee grinds, all which have great potential for a sustainable future.

Many larger businesses remain heavily engaged in collective bargaining with trade unions. Although, this can on occasion cause protracted industrial disputes, in which we support our clients, generally relations are positive and productive. We have worked with local and national clients on developing and negotiating collective bargaining agreements, which may seem a throw-back to a bygone era, but in fact are the essential cornerstone of effective industrial relations.

Closer to home, start ups play an increasingly important role in the local economy. Recognising the importance of innovation, we work in partnership with the Norwich University of the Arts aiding the transition of creative skills into business. Skills from gaming developments to textiles have started to break into both the national and international scene and we are seeing the creative industries creating jobs and exciting business opportunities for many young employees.

This innovative and ever-changing workspace has an impact on employees with ever increasing levels of stress and mental health related absence. Our team continue to assist clients in managing these problems including working with professional specialists from occupational health and psychiatric services, in order to present a ‘joined-up’ approach to a sensitive and legally challenging area.

Overall, 2017 has proved to be a year where businesses must continually evolve to adapt to the ever changing business landscape. We have enjoyed supporting our clients throughout the last year and look forward to continuing to do so in 2018.

We would love to hear from you. Contact our team today for fast and friendly support with legal matters – whether for you or for your business by email info@steeleslaw.co.uk or calling 01603 598000.

*The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

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