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The Scotland Act 2016 received Royal Assent on 23 March 2016.  It provides for a range of devolved powers to Scotland. It is important that those working in the UK energy industry are aware of what aspects of energy policy are becoming devolved and the practical impact this may have on Scotland’s oil and gas sector.

‘Drones’ is the word commonly used to refer to UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. They are also known as Remotely Piloted Aircraft Systems (RPAS) or Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS). It was in the 1930s that remotely controlled aircraft started being used as targets for gunnery practice. After World War Two there was a gradual increase in their use for military reconnaissance purposes, which has increased dramatically in recent years as telecommunication technology has advanced. However, it is only very recently that significant non-military uses of drones have been made, both for leisure and a growing number of commercial applications.

I recently attended an introductory lecture by an economics lecturer from the University of Edinburgh who sagely remarked, ‘I can predict that oil and gas prices will go up and down but I cannot tell you when or by how much’. Very helpful. There are a number of traders and economists who have given predictions on the oil and gas price to the end of 2017. They vary from $35 up to $80 with the median around $60 for Brent crude by the end of 2017 (The Times, 28th December, 2016). Mitsui Bussan Commodities Ltd. gave a Q4 2017 offer price of $58.85 per barrel (on 29th December, 2016). Given the general failure to predict the oil price slump of 2014-2016, I would not place investment decisions for the future in the hands of economists. The fundamentals for investment may be more important at the moment than guessing a forward price.

In my last Insight piece, A Warning About Warnings, I discussed the circumstances in which an employer may take account of expired warnings for the purposes of determining the outcome of a subsequent disciplinary process. But what if a final written warning is clearly live so that, on the face of it,  the employer is entitled to take account of that warning? Surely the employer who treats subsequent misconduct taken together with the final warning as sufficient to dismiss is likely to be on safe ground?

On 30 November 2016, the Scottish Law Commission (‘SLC’) published a discussion paper on penalty clauses as part of its current review of contract law in Scotland (‘2016 Discussion Paper’). It has been a long standing principle of Scots law (and the law of England and Wales) that penalty clauses are unenforceable. Identifying a need for review of this area of the law, SLC previously published a discussion paper (1997) and report (1999) on the issue which set out proposals for reform. However, following a consultation on a draft Penalty Clauses (Scotland) Bill (which took forward the recommendations made by the SLC) the Scottish Government determined that further work was required in relation to this area of the law.

Most larger employers will have a disciplinary policy involving an escalating process of warnings and culminating in dismissal. The policy may often set out examples of what may be considered to be gross misconduct (justifying dismissal of itself regardless of whether previous warnings have been issued) and it may also provide for warnings to have a limited life so that on expiry of the specified period they should not be taken into account in determining the outcome of a subsequent disciplinary process in relation to an act of alleged misconduct which took place after the expiry of the relevant warning.

Handling the obligations on employers arising in relation to employees with disabilities can be challenging and there are many hidden traps in the equality legislation which employers often fall into. We have discussed some of these in the past; see our recent blog 'Extremely Reasonable Adjustments: Just how far does the employer have to go?'.

This month, there have been two appeal decisions regarding disability law published which serve as useful reminders of some of the issues to look out for when dealing with disabled employees.

Continuing our ‘what to expect in 2017’ theme from last week, it is worth mentioning the controversial Trade Union Act 2016 (TUA).

The Trade Union Bill received Royal Assent in May last year to become the TUA. The TUA has amended several aspects of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (Consolidation) Act 1992 (TULRCA). The majority of the amendments are not yet in force, but some are expected fairly imminently.

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