Can employees reduce their pension contributions?
- Remember that employees will also be making contributions on any reduced wage under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. The amount contributed may be less, but the contribution rate will be the same, unless the following applies.
- Employees may reduce their DC employee contributions if their scheme rules allow them to do so, but no further than the statutory minimum if the scheme qualifies as the employer’s auto-enrolment vehicle.
- Employees might choose to opt-out or cease active membership of their scheme, which might cause a spike in administration at a time when administrators are likely to be understaffed. It is important that employers remember they must not do anything to encourage or induce employees from leaving an auto-enrolment vehicle as this may constitute an offence.
- Employees who leave their scheme in this way will have to be re-enrolled in due course as and when required by law.
- For DB schemes, specific considerations apply (see the last section, below).
The CMA is particularly concerned about certain activities, its guidance highlights:
- Exchange of commercially sensitive information where this is not necessary in response to the crisis
- Collaboration which unfairly excludes third parties
- Abuse of a dominant position (including a dominant position held as a result of the crisis) – particularly to charge excessive prices
- Seeking to maintain prices or prevent reductions in prices
- Cooperation going beyond what is necessary to respond to the crisis in the interests of consumers
Yes probably in our opinion, even if you are not considering taking any formal action against them. Ultimately if a doctor is suspended this could be considered as causing them reputational damage and it therefore is correct that they are afforded the protections (in particular in relation to keeping exclusion/suspension under review) of MHPS. Under Part V of MHPS there is provision for excluding practitioners if they are a danger to patients and they refuse to recognise it or if they refuse to co-operate. It doesn’t refer to a particular risk for the practitioner themselves, but it would appear logical that it would apply.
The outbreak is certainly going to have an impact on new lease negotiations.
Undoubtedly many transactions will be put on hold or indeed stop entirely. Where matters are ongoing, tenants may well look to strengthen rent suspension provision.
It is also possible that tenants and their representatives will also now seek to include termination rights for unseen events. In this regard, the concept of force majeure may start to appear more often in leases.
In both of the examples above, such attempts are not likely to be well received from landlords who will undoubtedly suggest that tenants ensure that their business interruption insurance policies are robust enough to protect the tenant in the event of any future pandemic events.
Another approach tenants might adopt going forwards in negotiations for a new lease (or indeed seeking to vary existing leases), is to move away from the traditional market rent model to a turnover rent arrangement. This will offer some protection going forward if trading conditions deteriorate, but again getting institutional landlords to agree such an approach may prove difficult.
It is almost impossible to completely guard against the risks associated with contractor insolvency, but there are some steps which can assist in mitigating and managing the risks involved. To be in the best possible position, it is worth considering the following at the outset of any project:
- Check the contractor’s financial position – particularly the specific company which will enter into the building contract, as the employer’s rights will be against this company rather than the business as a whole
- Take legal advice to ensure that the building contract is properly drafted with appropriate provisions to deal with an insolvency event
- Consider requiring a performance bond and/or parent company guarantee (each serve slightly different purposes)
- Obtain collateral warranties from the consultants and sub-contractors involved, so that there are contractual rights against other parties if the contractor is no longer able to meet claims
- Consider requiring retention bonds, advance payment bonds or vesting certificates if necessary
- Project bank accounts and escrow accounts can also provide some further assurances for the parties involved
Potentially, yes. If someone refuses to follow the health and safety measures that have been put in place to protect them, colleagues and possibly their customers, including (where appropriate) the use of PPE then this is a disciplinary issue and should be dealt with as such. Repeated failure to comply with the requirement to follow these measures, or a one off significant failure, may be sufficient to justify dismissal, depending on the circumstances.