What criteria will HMRC use to assess applications for furlough from publicly funded organisations?
The government released further clarification on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme on 4 April. The wording referred to concerning public sector organisations and organisations receiving public funding remains the same.
The revised guidance does provide a helpful insight into how HMRC will deal with applications made to it for assistance under the scheme. It appears that there won’t be a particularly forensic approach adopted by HMRC. The guidance says you can furlough staff if you cannot maintain your current workforce because your operations have been severely affected by coronavirus.
It goes on to say that all employers are eligible to claim under the scheme and the government recognises different businesses/organisations will face different impacts from coronavirus. The need to demonstrate the impact of coronavirus on your business/organisation is not one of the criteria businesses/organisations are going to need to satisfy, so the government does not appear to intend to set a specific test to determine if a business/organisation is “severely impacted by coronavirus”. It is hoped that this should provide additional comfort to publicly funded organisations facing significant restrictions to their operations during the Covid-19 crisis.
Yes. The Land Registry published a new service update on 14 May, here:
Importantly, the Land Registry will process registrations where documents have been executed using the Mercury signing approach:
For land registration purposes, a signature page will need to be signed in pen and witnessed in person (not by a video call). The signature will then need to be captured, with a scanner or a camera, to produce a PDF, JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed signature page. Each party sends a single email to their conveyancer to which is attached the final agreed copy of the document and the copy of the signed signature page.
To summarise some further points:
- Most information enquiries are experiencing minimal delays
- Registrations of new titles, such as on sales of part or new leases, and applications to update existing titles, are experiencing more significant delays but can be expedited via the expedite service
- Cancellation dates for replying to requisitions are extended until further notice
- Access to free documents on the land registry portal has been extended to 90 days from completion of the transaction
- Identity requirements have been relaxed. The Land Registry will now raise a requisition for identity documents, and not cancel applications
- Requests for extensions to a notice or objection period will be granted if lawfully possible
- Land charges searches can be submitted electronically with PDF documents
Employers who have apprentices on fixed-term contracts due to end during the pandemic should discuss arrangements with the apprentices including whether an extension to the contract can be offered to allow them to complete their apprenticeship.
Employees continue to accrue leave during furlough (whether they are on full furlough or flexible furlough) and can take leave during periods of Flexible Furlough (so long as you top the grant up to full pay for any days taken as holiday).
Government guidance has been updated to state that “Employees should not be placed on furlough for a period simply because they are on holiday for that period.” If a period of furlough happens to coincide with an employee’s holiday then you should ensure that there are business grounds to support furlough being used in that instance so that it isn’t just being used as a means to fund holiday utilisation.
You will need to keep a copy of the written agreement for a period of 5 years. If the hours of work change from that which you initially agree, you are likely to need something new in writing to cover each separate arrangement.
You should also keep records of how many hours your employees work and how many hours they are furloughed (i.e. not working). You must keep these records for 6 years, together with a record of the amount claimed, your claim reference number and your calculations.
Follow up to date UK Government advice. This can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/guidance-for-employers-and-businesses-on-coronavirus-covid-19
For best practice and more detailed information; consult the HSE’s website at https://www.hse.gov.uk/news/coronavirus.htm
Failing to follow the guidance is likely to be regarded as failing to take all reasonably practicable steps.