How have competition law rules been relaxed in the light of the coronavirus outbreak?
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued a number of guidance documents about the application of competition law rules during the coronavirus outbreak. In general, the competition law rules are being relaxed in very specific circumstances.
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.
In practice this means that any risk assessment will need to be reviewed constantly and adjusted as our understanding of the nature and level of the risk grows.
Some service-providers are instigating special Oversight Groups to keep this issue under review but engagement and consultation with those affected is critical and making sure they feel confident to raise concerns and refuse to work if they believe they are not safe.
It remains the case that anyone who has symptoms, however mild, or is in a household where someone has symptoms, should not leave their house to go to work. Those people should self-isolate, as should those in their households.
- It is important to have a clear paper trail for any agreed reduction in salary, and hence any reduction in the amount of contributions. However, the contribution rates (as opposed to the amounts) should be the same as normal, and hence all processes and software should function as per normal and, amongst other things, remain compliant with auto-enrolment employer duties.
- However, if the period of affected contributions does not overlap precisely with the period of reduced salary, for example because of different cut-off dates, there may well be instances of non-compliance with auto-enrolment employer duties at the beginning as well as at the end of the period covered by the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
- Accordingly, where an employer takes advantage of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, good communication with the persons responsible for pensions administration and detailed record-keeping are essential to prevent non-compliances in the short-term and confusion in the long term.
All of the measures announced above are aimed at all employers in the UK and are not sector specific. However, over and above these measures the Chancellor also announced a number of financial measures that he hopes will save jobs in the hospitality industry such as the reduction of VAT on food and drink and the “eat out to help out” scheme which has already taken place. The Job Support Scheme is designed to support businesses who face lower demand due to the pandemic, and so is designed to have an impact on those sectors most badly hit.