As lockdown measures were somewhat eased on Monday, we take a look at the COVID-19 developments this week that may affect your business. These include an announcement about significant upcoming changes to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and the extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme to provide a further grant to self-employed individuals. Find out more about these and other important changes below.
1. Important changes to the furlough scheme announced
On 29 May, the Chancellor announced important upcoming changes to the furlough scheme. From 1 July 2020, ‘flexible furloughing’ will be introduced whereby furloughed staff will be able to return to work on a part-time basis. This means that the final date by which staff can be furloughed for the first time is 10 June 2020 in order for them to have completed their minimum furlough leave period by the time ‘flexible furloughing’ starts.
In addition, from 1 August 2020 employers will be asked to start contributing towards the furlough grant by paying the employer National Insurance and pension contributions. From September, they will be asked to contribute 10% to the furlough grant, which will increase to 20% during the final month of the scheme in October 2020.
Further guidance about ‘flexible furloughing’ is expected on 12 June 2020. For guidance about what we know so far, see our Q&A and look out for more updates from us.
2. Extension of the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS)
On 29 May 2020, the Chancellor announced that the SEISS has been extended for a further 3 months. From August, the scheme will re-open for applications of a second (and final) grant of 70% of average monthly self-employed profits to cover 3 months, up to a total of £6,570. To find out more about the scheme, see our blog.
3. Draft legislation published about taxation of coronavirus support payments
The Government has published draft legislation setting out its proposals for the taxation of coronavirus business support grants, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) This includes draft provisions to allow HMRC to claw back payments made under the CJRS and SEISS that employers were not entitled to, and the power to charge penalties for fraudulent claims.
4. BEIS Committee super inquiry on Post-Pandemic Economic Growth
BEIS Committee has announced the launch of a new super inquiry on Post-Pandemic Economic Growth, which will examine options open to the Government to support the country’s economic recovery in the wake of the pandemic.The inquiry will also consider steps that could be taken to address the reemergence of issues that were prevalent prior to the pandemic, such as inequality and regional disparities. The Committee is inviting initial written submissions by Wednesday 15 July 2020. Read the full terms of reference for the inquiry here.
5. Updated guidance on the phased return of sport
The Government has updated its guidance on the return of sport and recreation, which includes guidance for personal trainers, coaches and providers of outdoor sport facilities. In particular, personal trainers are now able to work with clients outdoors provided they are meeting no more than 5 other people from outside their household and comply with social distancing rules and practice good hygiene measures at all times.
6. New lender accredited to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and CBILS
The British Business Bank has announced that it has accredited Metro Bank and JCB Finance to the Bounce Back Loan Scheme, joining 17 previous accredited lenders. It has also accredited new lenders to the CBILS.
7. Temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours rules extended
The temporary relaxation of the GB drivers’ hours rules have been extended for all sectors carriage of goods by road. The relaxation will now continue until 14 June 2020. Note that the separate relaxation of the EU drivers’ hours rules expired on 31 May 2020.
8. Employment Tribunals road map to restore capacity during 2020
The road map sets out a plan for listing and hearing cases over the second part of 2020. This includes through using remote technology where possible, and gradually increasing the capacity of the Employment Tribunals to restore their usual operations. The Presidents of the Employment Tribunals have also updated their COVID-19 FAQs.
9. The FCA has confirmed guidance for insurance firms to consider the impact of coronavirus on their products
The FCA has advised insurers to review insurance policies where benefits cannot be provided or where insurance products are providing little or no benefit to customers. Insurers are not expected to take into account the individual circumstances of each policy holder, but the FCA says they should review policy types and decide what to do by 3 December 2020. Measures could include delivering benefits in a different way, providing alternative, comparable benefits, reducing premiums for the duration of the change in value, or partially refunding premiums already paid.
10. Government to publish a code of practice for commercial tenants and landlords to help manage the disruption caused by COVID-19
The Government has announced it is developing a code of practice for commercial tenants and landlords, to facilitate fair and transparent discussions between landlords and tenants over rental payments during the coronavirus pandemic and guidance on managing rent arrears. The code is intended to encourage co-operation between commercial landlords and tenants in dealing with the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
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