What are the special considerations for DB schemes?
- Before any agreed reduction in wages, actual changes to earning patterns (loss of overtime, for example) may impact the pensionable salary as defined under the scheme rules, with knock-on effects to a number of benefit calculations, such as death in service benefits.
- Contractual changes to member salaries may adversely impact accrued benefits as the final salary figure may be reduced to a greater or lesser extent depending on the duration of furlough and the severity of any reductions in wage, and hence reductions may be difficult to agree with staff.
- Reducing employer contributions will be subject to a number of the same considerations applicable to a DC scheme listed above. There will also be a need to change the rules and interact with the trustees, although it may be possible to override the rules with a direct contractual agreement with members.
- Reducing employee contributions will also depend on the scheme rules, particularly as to whether there are any discretionary powers to suspend contributions, or pensionable service.
- The rules will need to be considered for any unexpected consequences of furlough: depending on the wording of the rules, furlough may or may not be considered a leave of absence and may or may not have the effect of terminating pensionable service. This could have far-reaching consequences.
- In particular, if the workforce’s pensionable service is inadvertently terminated as opposed to suspended in accordance with any relevant rule, this could trigger a statutory employer debt on an employer participating in a multi-employer scheme, if pensionable service continues for employees of other employers. This sort of issue is unlikely to be spotted until after the event, and therefore difficult to untangle. However, an employer should be able to take advantage of the “period of grace” provisions by notifying the trustees of its intention to re-admit employees to pensionable service within the next 12 months.
- Clearly the impact of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on DB schemes is complex and legal advice should be sought before any changes are considered.
Yes: The Cabinet Office has published a number of Procurement Policy Notes to provide instructions to Public Bodies to enable payments to continue to be made to at risk suppliers (and their supply chains) who have been affected by Covid-19. Copies of this guidance can be obtained from the Government website at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/procurement-policy-note-0220-supplier-relief-due-to-covid-19
An amendment to the Civil Procedure Rules’ Practice Directions has been approved by the Master of the Rolls and the Lord Chancellor on 1 April 2020, and is now Practice Direction 51ZA. This has the effect of allowing the parties to extend by prior written agreement up to a maximum of 56 days (rather than the usual 28 days detailed at CPR 3.8(4)) any rule, practice direction or order provided that any extension does not put at risk any hearing date. This Practice Direction will cease to have effect on 30 October 2020.
Additionally each regions’ Designated Civil Judge (DCJ) has issued a Covid-19 Protocol. There are some minor variations between the regions, but overall the guidance is very similar.
In Northumbria, Durham and Teesside the DCJ guidance for multi-track cases provides that “The parties are at liberty to extend, by consent, any step in the timetable up to a maximum of 90 days (as opposed to the present limit of 28 days)” and the Court does not need to be notified if the Trial date is not effected. Where Trial windows are likely to be impacted due to Covid-19 and the parties are in agreement to extending this, a letter can be sent to the Court with a draft order proposing a new timetable, including a new trial window and agreed availability within the trial window.
The same guidance also confirms that an electronic signature on all documents including witness statements and disclosure statements will suffice.
The guidance from the Government concerning private sector organisations is very different from the guidance for public sector and organisations that receive public funding. The guidance states:
“The government expects that the scheme will not be used by many public sector organisations, as the majority of public sector employees are continuing to provide essential public services or contribute to the response to the coronavirus outbreak.
Where employers receive public funding for staff costs, and that funding is continuing, we expect employers to use that money to continue to pay staff in the usual fashion – and correspondingly not furlough them. This also applies to non-public sector employers who receive public funding for staff costs. Organisations who are receiving public funding specifically to provide services necessary to respond to Covid-19 are not expected to furlough staff.”
This guidance isn’t particularly clear but it appears that there is a recognition that there are different types of organisations which could be caught by this:
- Organisations who will be required to provide frontline services during the Covid-19 response. It is interpreted that NHS organisations such as NHS Trusts will fall firmly into this category. Employees of such organisations are expected not to be furloughed and to continue to work and be paid their normal salary in the usual way.
- Organisations who receive public funding to provide services to respond to the Covid-19 crisis. These organisations are not expected to furlough their staff. The type of organisation that would fit into this category are those that have been commissioned to developing breathing apparatus or testing kits to meet the needs of the healthcare sector during the peak of the pandemic.
- Organisations who receive public funds for staff costs to operate services. Employers are expected to continue to pay staff if the money to pay them is publicly funded. It is strongly inferred that this is irrespective of whether such staff have any work to perform. The type of organisation that is likely to fall into this category are GP practices, charities and private sector companies that have won contracts with the public sector.
The MHFA training makes this clear, it should be made clear in the MHFA role specification and procedures and discussed during regular MHFA peer support and MHFA surgery sessions. It is important to ensure that where an Employee Assistance Programme is in place, all MHFAs have details of that scheme available so they are able to instantly share details of the scheme with those who require support. If in doubt due to serious concerns then using 999 or Samaritans is an option.
The Act should make it easier for residents to obtain relevant information. It includes an obligation for the Principal Accountable Person to prepare a strategy for promoting the participation of residents, including the information to be provided to them and consultations about relevant decisions. The strategy must be provided to residents, and there will be provision for residents to be able to request information and copies of documents from the Principal Accountable Person. The type of information and the form in which it is to be provided will be set out in secondary legislation in due course, but the explanatory notes anticipate that it will include:
- Full current and historical fire risk assessments•Planned maintenance and repair schedules
- The outcome of building safety inspection checks
- Information on how assets in the building are managed
- Details of preventative measures
- Details of fire protection measures and the fire strategy for the building
- Information on the maintenance of fire safety systems
- Structural assessments
- Planned and historical changes to the building