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.
The latest Cabinet Office guidance published Monday 6 April 2020 titled ‘Procurement Policy Note PPN 02/20: Additional guidance. FAQs and model terms for construction’ provides model deeds of variation for JCT and NEC3 contracts to provide for such payments to be made. As the Cabinet Office guidance states, legal advice is likely to be required to make sure that the model variations work with your specific contracts. Please contact one of our construction specialists if you need advice and assistance.
For a copy of the guidance note click here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/878338/PPN_02_20._Additional_guidance__FAQS_and_model_terms_for_construction.pdf
A number of our clients and networks raised issues in the early stages of the Scheme around the requirement for personal guarantees to access finance under the Scheme. The Scheme has now been updated so that:
- For facilities under £250,000, personal guarantees cannot be taken to support lending under the Scheme.
- For facilities above £250,000, personal guarantees may still be required by a lender but the amount which can be recovered under these guarantees is capped at a maximum of 20% of the outstanding balance of the CBILS facility after taking into account any other recoveries from business assets.
The Coronavirus pandemic will have impacted businesses in many different ways, but some of the most likely impacts that could have a legal implication are as follows:
- Services were not performed in accordance with contract during the period of disruption. This could be a reduction in volume of services performed, a suspension of services, or performance in a way that does not comply with contractual KPIs
- Late delivery or non-delivery of goods because of factory closures, or disruption in the supply chain
- Changes being agreed between parties to contracts to deal with the consequences of the Covid-19 outbreak
To respond to the crisis businesses might need to exchange information to a greater extent than they would usually. They might need to discuss capacity and to coordinate supply chains (both upstream and downstream). They might need to purchase or sell jointly to ensure vital supplies are maintained. In general agreements or collaboration which:
- Avoid a shortage, or ensure security, of supply
- Ensure a fair distribution of scarce products
- Continue essential services
- Provide new services such as food delivery to vulnerable consumers
In part in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, legislation was passed by the government earlier this year which sought to assist companies to trade through the current economic climate. Included within the measures is a degree of protection from compulsory winding up.
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (The Act), was laid before parliament on 20 May, and became law on 26 June. It is important creditors are aware of what changes have been implemented and the potential and impact which it may have upon debt recovery action you may be considering or have already commenced.
The main part of the Act affecting creditors is the temporary restriction on presentation of winding up petitions and the factors that the Court has to take into account when deciding whether to wind up a company.
On Thursday 24 September 2020 the government passed a further statutory instrument which extended the operation of these restrictions. As a result, the measures which were due to expire on Wednesday 30 September 2020 have now been extended until 31 December 2020.
A key point to note is that the Act has retrospective effect so any pending petitions presented after 27 April will be affected, along with any winding up orders made after that date.
The Act has introduced the following restrictions:
- A petition cannot be presented by a creditor during the period of 27 April 2020 and 31 December 2020 unless the creditor has reasonable grounds to believe that (a) coronavirus has not had a financial effect on the debtor, or (b) the debtor would have been unable to pay its debts even if coronavirus had not had a financial effect on the debtor;
- A petition cannot be presented after 27 April 2020 if it is based on a unsatisfied statutory demand served between 1 March 2020 until 31 December 2020;
- When deciding whether to make a winding up order the Court will need to be satisfied that the grounds giving rise to the petition would have arisen even if Covid-19 did not have a financial effect on the debtor;
- All winding up orders made between the 27 April and 31 December will automatically be void (that is, of no legal effect) unless the Court would have made the winding up order if the new law was in force at the time the order was made.