COVID-19 (Coronavirus): Support For Business

Here you will find guidance to help manage your business and employees during this pandemic. We will continue to provide updates when new developments arise.

As information on COVID-19 is rapidly evolving, gov.uk are communicating updates regularly and this should be the first port of call for the most up to date guidance.

The Job Support Scheme

The Chancellor has announced a package of measures that will continue to protect jobs and help businesses through the uncertain months ahead as we continue to tackle the spread of the virus.

The package includes a new Jobs Support Scheme to protect millions of returning workers, extending the Self Employment Income Support Scheme and 15% VAT cut for the hospitality and tourism sectors, and help for businesses in repaying government-backed loans.

The new Job Support Scheme will be introduced from 1 November to protect viable jobs in businesses who are facing lower demand over the winter months due to coronavirus  (what this means in practice will no doubt evolve in due course).

Under the scheme, which will run for six months and help keep employees attached to the workforce, the government will contribute towards the wages of employees who are working fewer than normal hours due to decreased demand.

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Are you Covid-secure? How to ensure your business can welcome staff back to the workplace safely

With the government now actively encouraging people to return to the workplace, employers are being asked to reassure staff it is safe for them to do so by highlighting the steps taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

As part of this campaign, businesses are being encouraged to assist the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) by ensuring their premises are COVID-secure. In addition, the HSE has also committed to conducting spot inspections to ensure they have appropriate hygiene measures in place and are COVID-secure. Any businesses found to be non-compliant will be at risk of enforcement action.

So how can you ensure your business is able to welcome staff back to the workplace safely?

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Are you COVID-secure? Preparing for HSE inspections

As businesses continue to welcome employees back to work, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has announced that it will be conducting spot inspections to ensure they have appropriate hygiene measures in place and are COVID-secure.

The announcement from the HSE means businesses are at risk of enforcement action if an inspector finds evidence of a non-compliance, hazard, or serious risk.

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New Rules on Statutory Demands and Winding Up Petitions

As part of the Government’s attempts to support businesses that have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, new rules have been introduced to restrict the formal action which businesses can take to recover debts owed.

The changes introduced apply to all creditors and all debtor companies.

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Terminating Agreements with Insolvent Businesses - The New Rules

The new rules announced by the Government as part of the plan to support UK businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic may prevent businesses from terminating agreements with insolvent businesses.

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance bill, which is expected to become law this month,  extends the existing rules that prohibit the termination of utility, communications and IT supplies on an event of insolvency to all suppliers.

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Furlough Scheme Changes

Furlough Scheme Changes mean employers should review their use of the scheme BEFORE 10 June 2020.

On Friday 29th May the Chancellor set out more details on how the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) will continue.

There are three key changes, but what does that mean?

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Issues arising from Coronavirus in Construction

We thought we would share a number of the key themes and issues which the Coronavirus has thrown up and which we expect to continue to see.  These include:

  • Implications of Guidance on return to work
  • When to re-open sites
  • Restricted access to site
  • Supply chain delays for goods and materials
  • Bespoke break clauses
  • Deferred possession of a site
  • Attempts to vary contracts
  • A newly found understanding of the term “force majeure”
  • Contracts yet to be entered into
  • Increasing use of Performance Bonds

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Update to Directors Duties

The Government is proposing a relaxation of the rules surrounding wrongful trading as part of its package of measures to give companies that were viable before the COVID-19 outbreak a better chance of emerging intact following the immediate crisis.

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Health and safety considerations when re-opening your business

It is a case of when, not if, the Covid-19 restrictions will be relaxed. The relaxation will likely be gradual but when that happens you will want to be prepared to meet your obligations under health and safety legislation.

Most businesses are familiar with their general duties under the Health and Safety at Work Act to ensure, as far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all its employees. This general duty also extends to “non-employees” such as contractors, agents and customers.

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Planning for Life After Furlough

Many businesses acted quickly to furlough staff and reduce hours and pay for those remaining in work. The Government’s guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme keeps being updated and has left many unanswered questions. Due to the urgency of the situation, businesses couldn’t wait for the answers.

This means many businesses may end up with employees receiving payments that may not be recovered from HMRC, as well as facing Tribunal claims for unlawful deductions from wages or breach of contract.

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If your property is vacant due to COVID-19, are you ready for trespassers?

Reforms have been introduced rapidly to protect businesses against the impact of Covid-19. Some of the changes have had unforeseen consequences, seriously limiting the ability of landowners to remove travellers from their property.

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Remote working: keeping your IT infrastructure and data safe

As part of managing the coronavirus situation, many organisations will have their staff working from home. But with the social distancing comes IT security challenges.

Many businesses will not have supported so many employees working remotely, and employees themselves may be unaware of best practices. By implementing appropriate controls and barriers you can reduce your risk.

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Importance of maintaining safety and environmental standards

Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions)(England) Regulations 2020 no one may leave their home without a reasonable excuse during the emergency period.  However, a reasonable excuse includes travel for the purposes of work, where it is not possible for that person to work from home.

Businesses and organisations who can legally continue to operate need to be able to do so without further disruption.

As the police can issue fixed penalty notices and even prosecute repeat offenders for leaving their home without a reasonable excuse, you should consider issuing your essential staff with a letter confirming this to be the case along with the basis upon which your business can lawfully continue to operate.

The Government’s first review of the restrictions will take place on or before 16th April 2020.

If you have any questions or would like advice on these restrictions or your businesses obligations please contact Andrew Logan.

Government restrictions and frustration/force majeure

With most retailers now closed, with exemptions for “essential” stores  (including:  food outlets, pharmacies, banks, hardware stores and off licences), what then is the effect when a landlord may now be restricted in granting access to a tenant, and a tenant is unable to use leased premises?

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Legislating against forfeiture for non-payment of rent

The Government has introduced an extendable 3 month suspension of any ability to re-possess or “forfeit” leases for non-payment of rent. Rent is defined broadly and would capture service charge and insurance payments. In the first instance, this applies until 30 June 2020.

The Act also applies to existing litigation. In these circumstances, a tenant is prevented from having to give up possession of premises for non-payment of rent before 30 June 2020.

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3-month extension given for companies filing their accounts

The government has released a notice informing companies that, from 25 March 2020, they will be able to apply for a 3-month extension for filing their accounts. This is to help businesses dealing with the impact caused by COVID-19.

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Update: COVID-19 and the March Quarter Date – 19 March

The government has announced a temporary Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme as part of a package of measures to help small businesses. This, together with the Financial Assistance Scheme run by the Redundancy Payments Service, may assist businesses and the cashflow impact of redundancies. A trade body has also called for the government to introduce measures to make it easier for employers to make staff temporarily redundant by funding this through universal credit.

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Employee payment and attendance entitlements

This flowchart demonstrates the various options regarding entitlements to sick pay, contractual sick pay and normal pay for those unable to attend work, worried about attending work and/or self-isolating.

Download here

Update: Including Budget announcements - 11 March

As the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to dominate world news, the government is revising its advice and guidance on a daily basis. This, coupled with the Budget being delivered on 11 March 2020, has led to some key changes occurring which employers will need to be aware of in the following areas:

  • Statutory sick pay
  • Closing the workplace
  • If someone becomes ill in the workplace
  • Support for business announced in the budget

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If you need further advice on managing your approach to COVID-19, please speak to your contact who will pass on your details to the appropriate expert to advise you.

Details of all our people can be viewed here or you can email mail@gordonsllp.com.