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Can I continue to operate from my commercial premises during the crisis?

The Government guidance does not require any business to close except some non-essential shops and public venues, so in theory, all businesses can continue to occupy and operate from their existing premises. However, government guidance strongly encourages businesses to arrange for everybody able to work from home to do so. The majority of office sector business will fall into this category.

In the industrial sector, the majority of businesses will not be able to operate via home working and will, therefore, need to retain employees on site though in some cases this may be able to be scaled back.

Any tenants continuing to operate from their premises should consider whether or not they need to make any alterations to the premises to facilitate social distancing of employees and whether or not such works would require a consent from the Landlord under the terms of the lease.

Related FAQs

What are the key questions to ask ourselves as a business?

Some examples of the key questions to ask include:

  • Is there still a viable underlying business that is likely to continue beyond the current crisis?
  • What does the revised short to medium cash flow look like and will the company continue to be able to pay its liabilities?
  • Does the company have the support of all of its stakeholders – lenders, shareholders, customers, suppliers and banks – even though the business might be in breach of its own obligations?
  • What measures could (and should) the board put in place to protect creditors, including making sure that exposure to creditors (both collectively and individually) is not increased, assets are not sold at less than value and no creditor is treated more favourably than another?
  • Is there still a reasonable prospect of the business avoiding liquidation or administration?

The key question is always whether accepting the money is in the best interests of creditors as a whole bearing in mind that accepting Government support and continuing to trade might increase the company’s overall liabilities. Directors should be mindful that if the business fails, their decisions during this critical time may be scrutinised and it is therefore important that directors have up-to-date financial information and projections to form the basis of any decisions, take stock, get the right advice and document the decisions that are taken.

Should I pay my apprentice to continue training?

Employers should ensure that apprentices are paid at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage (AMW/NLW//NMW) as appropriate (and taking into account the new rates which will take effect from 1 April 2021) for training carried out where their wage received through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme does not cover this.

What are some other factors?

No one factor will determine status and the outcomes will differ depending on the nature of the work being carried out and the business of the end user client.

When you have carried out an assessment based on the relevant factors you can either get in touch with us to discuss further, check your answers against HMRC’s CEST tool or do both before making a final determination.

VIDEO EXPLAINER: Alternatives to redundancy – how to flex your workforce after furlough

This free Getting back to business webinar was held on Wednesday 6th May. On this video, employment partner Paul Scope and associate Flora Mewies looked at your options if you need to flex your employee resource or reduce cost without reducing headcount. This may apply across the business or to particular functions. They discussed a range of options when the furlough scheme comes to an end, including: lay off, short time working, reduced hours, reduced pay and other ways to be flexible.

They also discussed the pros and cons of each option, and cover what you will need to undertake with each of these routes.

Can I still progress with stopping up applications?

We are working with many of our clients to progress with stopping up applications in order to divert/stop up highways and public rights of way affecting development sites. Due to lockdown restrictions the Department for Transport stalled the progress of applications because they were unable to comply with the statutory publicity requirements. We have very recently been contacted by the Department for Transport casework team who have confirmed that the stopping up/diversion applications can now be progressed. We are aware that Councils across the country are also now progressing with applications. Please contact us if you require any advice/assistance in respect of your application.