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Cornavirus emergency

 

Coronavirus emergency legislation and legal developments

 

Content

 

Introduction

Temporary closure and restrictions on business and restrictions on movement and gathering of people

Rules that havr been relaxed during the emergency

Agriculture and farming

Business organisations

Companies House

Charities

Competition

Coronavirus Act 2020

Employment

Environment and waste

Finance and funding  - Business support measures

Food selling and manufacturing

Funerals and deceased

Health and safety at work

Insurance and risk management

Landlords

Selling and marketing

 

Transport of goods by road

 

Introduction

The first piece of United Kingdom legislation made in response to the 2020 coronavirus pandemic was the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 (2020 No. 129) which came into force on 10 February 2020. The regulations applied to England only but equivalent regulations were made for Wales. These regulations were superseded by the Coronavirus Act.

On 26 March 2020, regulations made under public health legislation which impose restrictions on businesses and on movement and gatherings of people were introduced separately for each UK nation. These regulations are described in the next section.

Self-isolation requirements for travellers arriving in England were introduced from 8 June 2020.

Other coronavirus emergency measures which have followed are arranged according to the Legaleze main subjects.

Temporary closure and restrictions on business and restrictions on movement and gathering of people

 

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (England) Regulations 2020 (2020 No. 350) came into at 1.00 p.m. on 26th March 2020. They replace the first set of the COVID-19) pandemic regulations (the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Business Closure) (England) Regulations 2020) which required the closure of food and drink establishments. The Regulations apply to England only.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 (2020 No. 55), the Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (2020 No. 103) and the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (2020 No. 353) provide very similar though not identical regulations for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales respectively.

See more on Temporary closure and restrictions on business and restrictions on movement and gathering of people

See also: Transport:

* Public transport in England;Self-isolation for travellers arriving in England;

* International travel

Rules that have been relaxed to help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic

The Government 's list of Rules that have been relaxed to help businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Agriculture and farming

19/06/2020: Dairy Response Fund 2020

Source: Rural Payments Agency

Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the dairy industry has faced challenges of excess milk, falling prices, and reduced demand from the hospitality sector. Defra has set up a fund to help those dairy farmers most in need in England overcome the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Eligible dairy farmers will include those who have experienced decreased demand for their products as bars, restaurants and cafes have had to close.The fund will be administered by the Rural Payments Agency.

The dairy industry to join together to manage milk supply

17/04/2020: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

The dairy industry to join together to manage milk supply. Competition rules temporarily relaxed to allow dairy industry to work together more during coronavirus crisis.

 

Business organisations

Bill introduced to relieve business insolvency and corporate governance issues

20/05/2020: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

The government has introduced the the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill in Parliament. MPs in the House of Commons will next consider all stages of the Bill on Wednesday 3 June 2020. The Bill consists of 6 insolvency measures (some quite radical) and 2 corporate governance measures.

The policy objective is to maximise the chances of survival for businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many otherwise economically viable businesses are experiencing significant trading difficulties. In addition, the Government-enforced social distancing measures and reduced resources are making it hard for many businesses to continue to trade and meet their legal duties.

Insolvency measures

25/06/2020: update: Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act

20/05/2020: Bill introduced to relieve business insolvency and corporate governance issues

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act was enacted on 25 June 2020. The Act consists of 6 insolvency measures (some quite radical) and 2 corporate governance measures.

The policy objective of the Act is to maximise the chances of survival for businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Many otherwise economically viable businesses are experiencing significant trading difficulties. In addition, the Government-enforced social distancing measures and reduced resources are making it hard for many businesses to continue to trade and meet their legal duties.

Insolvency measures

  • prohibit termination clauses that engage on insolvency, preventing suppliers from ceasing their supply or asking for additional payments while a company is going through a rescue process;
  • a new restructuring plan that will bind creditors to it enabling the insolvency regime to flex to meet the demands of the emergency;
  • temporary removal of the threat of personal liability for wrongful trading from directors who try to keep their companies afloat through the emergency;
  • temporary prohibition on creditors filing statutory demands and winding up petitions for coronavirus related debts.

The corporate governance measures will introduce temporary easements and flexibility to businesses where they are coping with reduced resources and restrictions.

Further reading: Corporate Insolvency and Governance Bill 2020: factsheets

Note: we do not know whether there are any material differences between the Act and the Bill; the factsheets were based on the Bill.

 

Companies and limited liability partnerships

Accounts late filing penalties and strike off process

16/04/2020: Companies House

 

Businesses will be given additional support to help them meet their legal responsibilities under changes announced today.

Companies House will temporarily pause the strike off process to prevent companies being dissolved. This will give businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak the time they need to update their records and help them avoid being struck off the register.

In addition, companies issued with a late filing penalty due to COVID-19 will have appeals treated sympathetically.

Today’s announcement builds on measures already implemented by the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which give businesses the ability to apply for a 3-month extension to file accounts with Companies House.

As part of the agreed measures, while companies will still have to apply for the 3-month extension to be granted, those citing issues around COVID-19 will be automatically and immediately granted an extension.

Companies House offices

16/04/2020

Companies House has plans in place to maintain services for our customers and protect the welfare of our employees during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Belfast

Belfast office is currently closed to the public.

Deliver any paper documents, in a sealed envelope, to the reception desk on the ground floor of The Linenhall (Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm excluding holidays). Still accepting deliveries from Royal Mail.

Cannot produce receipts or proof of delivery.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh office is currently closed to the public.

Deliver any paper documents to the Companies House letterbox next to the office building.

Still accepting deliveries from Royal Mail (except Wednesdays) and DX post. Documents are still being processed daily.

London

London office is currently closed to the public.

There is no letterbox at the office - send all mail directly to Cardiff office:

Same day services: all same day services until further notice.

Filing accounts

If your company cannot file accounts on time

Your company should take appropriate measures to make sure accounts are filed on time, like filing your accounts online if you’re able to.

If your accounts will be late because your company is affected by COVID-19, and your filing deadline has not yet passed, you can apply for an automatic and immediate 3 month extension to file your accounts.

Companies that have already extended their filing deadline, or shortened their accounting reference period, may not be eligible for an extension.

 

Charities

Manage financial difficulties in your charity caused by coronavirus

23/04/2020: The Charity Commission

Guidance about coronavirus (COVID-19) related financial difficulties in charities and how to work through them.

Guidance to help with running your charity during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak

07/04/2020: The Charity Commission

 

Competition

21/05/2020: Register of competition law exclusion orders relating to coronavirus published

The Government has published a register of competition law exclusion orders relating to coronavirus (COVID-19). Under powers contained in the Competition Act 1998, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy may make orders excluding from competition law restrictions certain agreements which might normally be considered anti-competitive.

It appears that all the major retailers in the grocery sector have participated in certain arrangements which have been notified.

In the dairy sector, the Government made the Competition Act 1998 (Dairy Produce) (Coronavirus) (Public Policy Exclusion) Order 2020 (SI 2020 No. 481) which came into effect on 1 May 2020. The Order was made in response to the effects of over-supply of milk and reduced processing capacity in the dairy sector. The over-supply has increased due to the ‘Spring flush’, during which the production of cows milk typically increases by 12% compared to the annual average.

 

Coronavirus Act 2020

25/03/2020: www.legislation.gov.uk

The main if not only UK-wide coronavirus legislation is the Coronavirus Act 2020 although some provisions only apply to individual UK nations. This Act provides for miscellaneous matters including temporary registration of health professionals and social workers, public health and health service arrangements, registrations of deaths and inquests, criminal and civil justice among others. The Act also empowers the government and local authorities to give directions for the temporary closure of schools, educational establishments and childcare premises. Finally the Act provides temporary protection from eviction for certain residential and business tenants.

The Act does not provide for the emergency business closures and restrictions on movement and gathering of people. These are provided in separate regulations; see: the Temporary closure and restrictions on business and restrictions on movement and gathering of people.

 

Employment

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for employers and employees

17/04/2020: Acas

ACAS has published updated Coronavirus (COVID-19): advice for employers and employees

 

Environment and waste

Single use carrier bags (plastic bags)

21/03/2020:www.legislation.gov.uk

The requirement for large retailers to charge a minimum of 5p for single-use carrier bags (‘SUCB’) has been suspended for bags intended to be used solely to carry goods purchased for home delivery as part of an online grocery delivery services. This instrument amends the Single Use Carrier Bags Charges (England) Order 2015

(S.I. 2015/776) (“the 2015 Regulations”)

The Single Use Carrier Bags Charge (Scotland) Amendment

Regulations 2020 (220 No. 118)

 

Finance and funding - Business support measures

The UK government has introduced special financial support measures for businesses, self-employed and employees. There are also specific measures applicable in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

UK-wide

Coronavirus financial support tool for your business

Coronavirus (COVID-19) support is available to employers and the self-employed. You may be eligible for loans, tax relief and cash grants, whether your business is open or closed.

Business Interruption Loan Scheme

This scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to access finance of up to £5 million.

Coronavirus Bounce Back Loan

This scheme will help small and medium-sized businesses affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) to apply for loans of up to £50,000.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Claim for 80% of your employee’s wages plus any employer National Insurance and pension contributions, if you have put them on furlough because of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Coronavirus Future Fund

This scheme will issue convertible loans between £125,000 to £5 million to innovative companies which are facing financing difficulties due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Statutory Sick Pay paid to employees due to coronavirus

Find out if you can use the Coronavirus Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme to reclaim employees' coronavirus-related Statutory Sick Pay.

Deferral of VAT payments due to coronavirus

Temporary changes to the VAT payments due between 20 March 2020 and 30 June 2020 to help businesses manage their cash flow.

Self employed/partnerships

Self-Employment Income Support Scheme

If you're self-employed or a member of a partnership and have been adversely affected by coronavirus (COVID-19) find out if you can use this scheme to claim a grant.

Income tax self-assessment - delay 2nd payment on account

Deadlines for paying your tax bill are usually:

31 January - for any tax you owe for the previous tax year (known as a balancing payment) and your first payment on account;

31 July for your second payment on account; because of coronavirus (COVID-19), you can delay making your second payment on account until 31 January 2021.

England

 

Small Business Grant Fund

Under the Small Business Grant Fund all eligible businesses in England in

receipt of either Small Business Rates Relief (SBRR) or Rural Rates Relief (RRR) in the business rates system will be eligible for a payment of £10,000.

Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant Fund

Under the Retail, Hospitality and Leisure Grant (RHLG) eligible businesses in England in receipt of the Expanded Retail Discount (which covers retail, hospitality and leisure) with a rateable value of less than £51,000 will be eligible for a cash grants of £10,000 or £25,000 per property.

                 

Fisheries Response Fund - support for fishing and aquaculture businesses

£10 million financial assistance for England’s fishing and aquaculture businesses in response to Covid-19 was announced by Defra and HM Treasury on 17 April 2020.

Two funds, both administered by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) :

Fisheries Response Fund: will directly contribute towards the fixed business costs of over 1000 catching and aquaculture businesses;

Domestic Seafood Supply Scheme: £1 million grant scheme to support the sale of fish locally..

 

Northern Ireland

Coronavirus: Business support

Scotland

Help for non-domestic rate payers in Scotland during coronavirus

Wales

COVID-18 Support for Business

 

Food selling and manufacturing

Guidance for food businesses on coronavirus (COVID-19) published.

25/04/2020: Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs, Food Standards Agency, and Public Health England.

HSE has released an open letter to the food industry in response to concerns that have been raised.

 

Funerals and deceased

Public Health England published guidance for care of the deceased with suspected or confirmed coronavirus (COVID-19) on 31 March 2020.

HM Passport Office has published

Guidance for doctors completing Medical Certificates of Cause of Death in England and Wales (for use during the emergency period)

 

Health and safety at work

New tool to help businesses in England identify whether they can reopen safely

The government has created a tool to help businesses in England to reopen safely.

The tool encourages businesses to carry out a risk assessment and helps to identify workplace adjustments.

Use the new tool to check what your business must do to keep people safe.  

 

Guiidance for employers and workers in different settings announced

11/05/2020 Source: GOV.UK

Offices and contact centres

Guidance for people who work in or run offices, contact centres and similar indoor environments.

Factories, plants and warehouses

Guidance for people who work in or run factories, plants and warehouses.

Working safely during coronavirus

Restaurants offering takeaway or delivery

Guidance for people who work in or run restaurants offering takeaway or delivery services.

Shops and branches

Guidance for people who work in or run shops, branches, stores or similar environments.

Vehicles

Guidance for people who work in or from vehicles, including couriers, mobile workers, lorry drivers, on-site transit and work vehicles, field forces and similar.

Other people's homes

Guidance for people working in, visiting or delivering to other people's homes

HSE has announced coronavirus information and advice on the following topics:

22/04/2020: Health and Safety Executive

HSE advises on the importance of fitting respirators correctly

Protecting lone workers

Social distancing guidelines; HSE has guidelines on how businesses must maintain social distancing and protect workers during the coronavirus outbreak

HSE has released an open letter to the food industry in response to concerns that have been raised.

 

Insurance and risk management

FCA letter to insurers regarding business interruption insurance for SMEs

17/04/2020: Financial Conduct Authority

The FCA Interim Chief Executive, Christopher Woolard, has written to CEOs of insurers and brokers noting that they have an essential role to play in supporting their customers who may be unclear whether they have appropriate cover in place.

The FCA believes that most policies have basic cover which does not pay out in relation to loss cause by the Covid-19 pandemic. It adds however that there are policies where it is clear that the insurer must pay out on a claim. In those cases, the FCA state that it is important that claims are assessed an d settled quickly. The FCA’s key objective is to ensure that financial pressures on policyholders are not exacerbated by slow payment.

The FCA points out that in case of disputes about payment, a small business policyholder (annual turnover below £6.6 m, and fewer that 50 employees or an annual balance sheet below £5m) is within the jurisdiction of the Financial Ombudsman Service for claims up to £355,000 which may provide a faster resolution than litigation in the courts.

Finally, the FCA has established a new small business unit which will coordinate the FCA’s activities across small business issues.

 

Landlords

19/06/2020: Protection of business premises from forfeiture extended to 30 September Source: www.legislation.gov.uk

The Business Tenancies (Protection from Forfeiture: Relevant Period) (Coronavirus) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020 No. 602) come into force on 29 June 2020. The regulations are made under 82(12) of the Coronavirus Act 2020.

Section 82 of the Coronavirus Act 2020 provides that a right of re-entry or forfeiture, under a relevant business tenancy, for non-payment of rent may not be enforced, by action or otherwise, during the relevant period. “Relevant period” is defined as the period starting with the day after Royal Assent and ending with 30th June 2020 (or such later date as may be specified in regulations). The Regulations provide that the relevant period is extended to 30th September 2020.

Corresponding measures have been taken in the devolved jurisdictions. See e.g. the Business Tenancies (Coronavirus) (Restriction on Forfeiture: Relevant Period)

(Northern Ireland) Regulations 2020 (2020 No. 111) extend the restriction on forfeiture to 30 September 2020.

New measures to protect UK high street from aggressive rent collection and closure

22/04/2020: Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

High street shops and other companies under strain will be protected from aggressive rent collection and asked to pay what they can during the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Selling and marketing

CMA to investigate concerns about cancellation policies

30/04/2020: Competition and Markets Authority (CMA)

The CMA set up its Covid-19 Taskforce on 20 March to monitor market developments during the crisis and to identify harmful sales and pricing practices. The CMA state that it will take enforcement action if there is evidence that firms may have breached competition or consumer protection law.

The CMA has seen increasing numbers of complaints in relation to cancellations and refunds which now account for 80% of complaints being received into the Taskforce. Particular concerns arise from firms refusing refunds or firms pressuring people to accept vouchers for holiday accommodation, which can only be used during a more expensive period. The CMA has identified 3 sectors of particular concern:

*  weddings and private events;

*  holiday accommodation;

*  nurseries and childcare providers

 

Transport of goods by road

Department for Transport and Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency

MOT tests

 

Coronavirus: MOTs for lorries, buses and trailers 24/04/2020

Your lorry, bus or trailer will be exempt from needing an MOT for 3 months from 21 March 2020. You might need to apply for this, depending on your vehicle.

Coronavirus: MOTs due from 30 March 2020

Your car, van or motorcycle’s MOT expiry date will be extended by 6 months if it’s due on or after 30 March 2020 - but you must keep your vehicle safe to drive.

Routine D4 medical 17/04/2020

Temporary removal of the routine D4 medical will make it easier for bus and lorry drivers to renew their driving licence and keep 30,000 drivers on the road each month as long as they are fit to drive, applicants will be able to apply for a 1-year licence without the need to provide further medical evidence

Coronavirus: MOTs for cars, vans and motorcycles due from 30 March 2020  17/04/2020


Your car, van or motorcycle’s MOT expiry date will be extended by 6 months if it’s due on or after 30 March 2020 - but you must keep your vehicle safe to drive.

Driver CPC requirement 31/03/2020

Drivers Coronavirus: Driver CPC requirement temporary changes

Temporary changes to allow bus and lorry drivers who cannot complete compulsory Driver CPC training to continue to drive

Drivers’ hours 18/03/2020

Temporary relaxation of the enforcement of the drivers’ hours rules: all sectors carriage of goods by road

[Page updated: 29/06/2020]

 

More information:

Temporary closure and restrictions on business and restrictions on movement and gathering of people>

Transport:

* Public transport in England;Self-isolation for travellers arriving in England;

* International travel>