Does Force Majeure apply to the leasing of commercial property?
Some commercial tenants have queried whether the current situation is a force majeure which may allow it to terminate the lease. Clauses which allow a party to terminate a lease for a force majeure event or, to put it another way, an “act of God”, are however extremely rare in modern commercial leases. Even if there is such a provision in your lease, it would need to be drafted to apply to an outbreak of disease.
Obtaining an employee’s Covid-19 test result will amount to processing personal data for the purposes of the General Data Protection Regulation 2016/679 (GDPR) and information about an employee’s health is a special category of data (sensitive personal data under the Data Processing Act 2018 (DPA)).
In accordance with the GDPR and DPA, there must be lawful grounds for processing such information. Most employers rely on employees’ consent to obtain medical information and process sensitive personal data and if the employee is unwilling to give consent, you will not normally be entitled to the information.
Special category data can be processed lawfully if it is necessary for the performance of a task carried out in the public interest or in the exercise of official authority vested in the data controller. Employers may be able to require an employee to disclose their Covid-19 test if there is a substantial public interest, such as ensuring that the employee self-isolate if they have a positive test. However, there is a risk that this measure could be considered disproportionate particularly if it is enforced on all employees as a blanket measure.
The application has to be made before the date on which the accounts should have been filed, so this process can’t be used if you are already late. If you don’t make the application before your filing deadline, then a fine will automatically be generated if your accounts are filed late. Whilst you could appeal against such a fine on the grounds that the delay was caused by coronavirus issues, this is likely to be a much more time consuming and uncertain process that applying in advance.
It does not appear that the process applies to Confirmation Statements or other returns.
There is not a magic number. It depends on the nature of the organisation, the work carried out, the organisational structure, the geographical spread, working patterns and conditions. We would give specific advice personalised to the organisation and taking all these and other factors in to consideration. There is no such things as too many MHFAs!
According to the guidelines laid down by the Treasury, many Start-up businesses will not be considered “viable” as they are at an early stage in the investment cycle (i.e. delivering negative returns but with strong growth prospects). This means they are unlikely to qualify for CBILS although for primarily UK based Start-ups it is still worth making enquiries as policies are rapidly evolving.
For early-stage businesses in their first two years of trading, the British Business Bank’s Start-Up Loans programme (loans £500 to £25,000 at 6% p.a. interest) may be more suitable. Visit www.startuploans.co.uk for more information.
For start-up businesses that are unable to access CBILS, the Government launched The Future Fund in May 2020 via the British Business Bank, which provides convertible loans to UK-based innovative companies ranging from £125,000 to £5 million, subject to at least equal match funding from private investors. This scheme is available until 30 September 2020 initially.
Your business is eligible if:
- it is UK-incorporated – if your business is part of a corporate group, only the parent company is eligible
- it has raised at least £250,000 in equity investment from third-party investors in the last five years
- none of its shares are traded on a regulated market, multilateral trading facility or other listing venue
- it was incorporated on or before 31 December 2019, and
- at least one of the following is true: (i) half or more employees are UK-based; and/or (ii) half or more revenues are from UK sales.
Further information is available on the Government website, www.gov.uk/guidance/future-fund
The Government is also offering additional support for small and medium size firms that are primarily focused on research and development. This targeted support is available through a continuity grant and loan scheme. The grant scheme is only available until 29 May 2020 while the loan scheme is open for applications until all the money is allocated or 31 December 2020 (whichever is earlier). This scheme is administered by Innovate UK, the national innovation agency, and this support will mostly only be available to existing Innovate UK customers.
Further information is available on the on the Government website, www.gov.uk/government/publications/access-coronovirus-business-innovation-support-package
Although these measures fall short of the level of assurance given to employees both in terms of eligibility for an immediacy of access to payments, they are a vast improvement on the support for self-employed workers that has been put in place until now. Current support includes:
- Access to business interruption loans
- Self-assessment tax payments that were due in July 2020 have been deferred until January 2021
- VAT is deferred until the next quarter
- The introduction of Time to Pay arrangements under which deferrals for HMRC payments can be agreed
- The minimum income floor for universal credit has been suspended which will allow self-employed workers to access the equivalent of Statutory Sick Pay (SSP)
- Universal credit and tax credit payments to increase by £1000 per year