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How do I access the scheme?

Those who are eligible will be contacted directly by HMRC based on tax returns they have received. If you are eligible you will be asked to fill out an online application. HMRC will pay applicants directly.

Related FAQs

How is an establishment defined?

The definition of a relevant establishment is a question of fact for an Employment Tribunal. Guidance from case law says that ‘establishment’ should be interpreted very broadly (so as to avoid employers escaping the need to collectively consult), and may consist of:

  • A distinct entity
  • With a certain degree of permanence and stability
  • Which is assigned to perform one or more tasks
  • Which has a workforce, technical means and a certain organisational structure to allow it to do so

However, there is no need for it to have the following:

  • Legal, economic, financial, administrative or technological autonomy
  • A management which can independently effect collective redundancies
  • Geographical separation from the other units and facilities of the undertaking
Should I stop paying my commercial rent?

Commercial leases generally prevent a tenant from withholding payments of rent. If a tenant stops paying rent there will be a breach of the tenant’s covenant to pay rent which, strictly speaking, will entitle the landlord to forfeit the lease and/or seek to recover the arrears in the courts. 

However, on 23 March 2020, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announced that all commercial tenants in England, Wales and Northern Ireland missing rent payments are to benefit from a government ban on forfeiture of their lease. This change, which will prevent landlords from terminating leases and evicting commercial tenants, is included in the Coronavirus Bill. It will come into force very shortly (once the Coronavirus Bill receives Royal Assent, which is expected to be in a matter of days) and will last until 30 June 2020, with an option for the government to extend this deadline.

It is anticipated that many commercial tenants will take advantage of the reprieve and withhold their rent. Importantly note the rules will apply not only to principal rent but to “any sum a tenant is required to pay”, leaving the burden of supplying services and insuring the premises on landlords.

It is also important to note however that the protection offered by the government is from the threat of forfeiture should tenants withhold rental payments. The liability to pay the rent however remains an interest on unpaid rents will accrue. Furthermore, remedies other than forfeiture may be pursued by the landlord e.g. service of a statutory demand before insolvency or ordinary litigation proceedings for arrears etc.. Tenants then ideally should look to reschedule or suspend rental payment through discussions with their landlord.       

The advantage of this being you might be able to negotiate a sensible and manageable repayment program in respect of the suspended rent, free of the threat of litigation.

Am I obliged to offer staff flexible furlough?

No, there is no obligation on employers to offer a flexible furlough arrangement to staff. Operationally, flexible furlough may not be appropriate for your business and equally, returning on a part-time basis may not be suitable for individuals already furloughed for various reasons. Concerns about returning to work part-time or at all should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

What is the over-riding statutory duty for employers to ensure the health and safety of employees?

It is worth pointing out that, despite all the guidance, survey results and other advice about managing Covid-19 H&S risk in the workplace, the law has not been changed. None of the guidance is codified by regulation/legislation, which means that you are managing this risk in the context of existing H&S law.

In very simple terms, HASWA74 requires employers to take “all reasonably practicable steps” to ensure the health and safety of its employees (and anyone else affected by your business).

“Reasonably practicable” means to balance risk reduction against the time, money and effort required. If measures are grossly disproportionate, you wouldn’t be expected to take them, but there is a strong presumption in favour of taking any steps which will protect workers.

As part of managing the health and safety of your people, you must control the risks in your workplaces. To do this, look for what might cause harm to people while they work and decide whether you are taking reasonable steps to prevent that harm. This related duty under MHSWR is to ensure you undertake a “suitable and sufficient assessment of risks.”

Can employers reduce their pension contributions?
  • Yes, if contributions to a defined contribution (“DC”) scheme exceed statutory minimum for auto-enrolment purposes, it may be possible to reduce employer contributions to the statutory minimum, but not further.
  • However, the processes required for reduction of DC employer contributions will necessitate obtaining legal advice:
    • Reducing employer contributions may require changes to the employment contracts of affected staff (as does the furlough process).
    • Reducing employer contributions may also require negotiation with trade unions or other staff representative forums.
    • Where group personal pensions are used, the contractual format may not permit changes of employer contributions, and hence it may also be necessary to enter into a new contractual arrangement. Choosing a new group personal pension plan is a not insignificant task in itself.
    • Employers with at least 50 employees are required to conduct a 60-day consultation process with affected employees if they propose to reduce employer contributions (but please see below).
    • Finally, it may require a change to the scheme rules and engagement with the scheme trustees if the scheme is operated under trust.
  • For DB schemes, specific considerations apply (see the last section, below).