I am due to file accounts at Companies House, but have been unable to complete them due to Covid-19. What should I do?
Every company has to file accounts at Companies House every year. If they are filed late, a fine is automatically levied. If there is a long delay in filing them, the directors are at risk of prosecution and the Registrar of Companies might start a process which could ultimately lead to the company being struck from the register.
However, Companies House has recognised that businesses might currently face exceptional problems in preparing and filing their accounts on time and so have posted a notice on their website which says that if immediately before the filing deadline, it becomes apparent that accounts will not be filed on time due to coronavirus, you can make an application to extend the period allowed for filing.
If organisations don’t have a formal home working policy, then they should set out, as soon as possible, in clear terms, what is expected of employees from a data protection perspective when working from home. These might include:
- If someone is using their own device for remote working, ensuring that any devices that hold work-related information have up-to-date anti-virus software and that broadband connections have properly configured firewalls
- Reminding staff to contact the organisation’s IT department if they encounter any issues with home working, and not to try and resolve any issues themselves
- Reminding staff that they should notify relevant individuals within the organisation if they consider that there might have been a personal data breach. A breach will still be notifiable even if it does occur at home during the pandemic. These should be logged by the organisation in their data breach log in the normal way
- Ensuring staff lock their devices whenever they are not using them
- Where possible, working in a separate part of the home to family members
- Ensuring confidentiality of information – advising staff not to have phone calls where others are likely to hear the conversation. This might mean moving to a different room, closing the door, or arranging a call for a more convenient time. If employees have smart speakers, you may want to consider advising them to either turn these off, if they are working in the same room as it, or work in a different room
- Wherever possible, avoid taking hard copy documents home, and, if papers are taken home, never placing those papers in a bin or using a home shredder – any such papers should be shredded back at the office in the usual way
- Locking any papers in a safe place
- Not using social media platforms (unless already used and permitted by the organisation) to discuss work matters
- Advising extra caution with incoming emails as at times such as this there may be an increased risk of fraud, email hacking, spear phishing etc.
- Avoiding information being sent to personal email accounts (for example, so it can then be printed at home)
- Reminding staff of your organisation’s Information Security policies, procedures and protocols. These could be emailed to all staff working from home or they could be directed to such documents on the organisation’s intranet, for example
Organisations should also ensure that their remote access systems can cope with increased demand.
Whilst the ICO appreciates the unprecedented nature of this pandemic, it does not mean that organisations can forget about their obligations as controllers of personal data. If a major data security breach were to happen, there is still the possibility of enforcement action where the organisation didn’t put in place good risk mitigation measures.
We have a specialist team of data protection lawyers here at Ward Hadaway, and would be happy to discuss any data protection concerns or issues that you might have.
The guidance is non-statutory and is not binding on business. However, businesses should be aware that there might be reputational consequences if they do not follow the guidance; we have already seen in the context of taking advantage of furlough funding that not being in breach of the law is no protection against negative publicity. Further to the extent a contract expressly requires parties to act reasonably, it could be expected that this guidance is one of the factors a court would consider in determining what is reasonable.
The Chief Coroner supports the position, communicated by NHS England and the Chief Medical Officer that Covid-19 is an acceptable direct or underlying cause of death for the purposes of completing the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) and is considered a naturally occurring disease. This cause of death alone is not a reason to refer a death to a coroner under CJA 2009.
If the cause of death is believed to be due to confirmed Covid-19 infection, there is unlikely to be any need for a post mortem to be conducted and the MCCD should be issued, and guidance is given on how this is delivered to the Registrar in the event of the next of kin/informant being in self-isolation.
In a hospital setting the MCCD process should be straightforward because of diagnosis and treatment in life. This may be more complex in a community setting. The Coronavirus Act 2020 however expanded the window for last medical review from 14 to 28 days. Outside of this, the death will need to be reported to the coroner.
Although Covid-19 is a naturally occurring disease, there may be additional factors around the death which mean it should be reported to the coroner; for example, the cause of death is unclear, or where there are other relevant factors. Guidance is given to coroners on how to manage such reported deaths, particularly where post mortem examinations may not be readily availability.
Ward Hadaway in conversation with Begbies Traynor webinar was recorded on Tuesday 16th June.
The business spotlight is firmly on Directors. Difficult, sometimes drastic decisions need to be made in unprecedented times. But the consequences of those decisions have long shadows, and Directors need to consider their future position through the lens of their creditors, shareholders, funders, HMRC and even the courts.
In conversation with leading business rescue and recovery specialists, Begbies Traynor, we focused on the proactive approach Directors can take in these exceptionally challenging times. We discussed very practical advice about the quickest routes to funding, how to bolster cash flow, protecting the Board, and ultimately how to be proactive and in control of the process if you think there is no way back for your business as a result of the pandemic.
It is important to note that the changes to insolvency law currently before parliament only deal with wrongful trading – all other duties remain the same. So Directors must still ensure they are acting in the best interests of the company, its shareholders and creditors. In this context, the webinar discussed funding options for keeping a business solvent, and how to manage the process if this is not possible.
This webinar is the first of our Yorkshire “In conversations with…” where we explore with other experts how businesses can get on the front foot in #gettingbacktobusiness.
On 6 April 2020 the Government published further guidance to clarify the position with apprentices during the Covid-19 outbreak. The full guidance is available from here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-apprenticeship-programme-response/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-for-apprentices-employers-training-providers-end-point-assessment-organisations-and-external-quality-assurance-pro
The guidance includes details of the measures implemented by the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) in order to provide flexibility in delivering apprenticeships in current circumstances. This includes breaks in learnings, delayed end point assessments and alternative arrangements for end point assessments. These measures apply immediately and until further notice.
There are a number of FAQs within the Government guidance which deal with common queries. The guidance contains some technical provisions and we recommend that you take advice if you are furloughing or making apprentices redundant. If you have any additional queries on the practicalities of implementing the ESFA measures please get in touch.
Further guidance changes to apprenticeships due to coronavirus can be found here.