What does the new Chief Coroner guidance cover?
This guidance from the Chief Coroner applies to reports of death and coroner investigations in England and Wales. It is to assist coroners in continuing to exercise their judicial decisions independently, in accordance with the law, and during the extraordinarily pressured events being faced at present.
We have developed a toolkit to assist with compliance. The Toolkit contains a specimen contract; detailed guidance; step by step guides and flowcharts; details of the factors to take into account for the status determination test; procedures for challenging the determination; and standard letters for the process. Click here to fill in a form and register your interest in the Toolkit, which contains:
- Detailed guidance in the form of Key Facts
- Employment status checklist
- Employment status assessment flowchart
- Status questionnaire and guidance
- Letter confirming self-employed status (agency)
- Letter confirming employed status (agency)
- Letter confirming self-employed status (direct with PSC)
- Letter confirming employed status (direct with PSC)
- Status disagreement process guidance
- Status disagreement process flowchart
- Letter confirming outcome of status disagreement process
- Consultancy agreement
Some commercial tenants have queried whether the current situation is a force majeure which may allow it to terminate the lease. Clauses which allow a party to terminate a lease for a force majeure event or, to put it another way, an “act of God”, are however extremely rare in modern commercial leases. Even if there is such a provision in your lease, it would need to be drafted to apply to an outbreak of disease.
You can rotate staff on furlough or flexible furlough.
One option is to make it clear in the letter agreeing to being furloughed that there is an open ended right to rotate and to be able to take them off furlough and bring them back and put them back on.
So the employer reserves the ability to rotate by building into the agreement, but only exercises it if it is permissible.
Rotation is quite key for employers who need to make a temporary reduction to their overheads but want to retain the skills base to call back when work picks up. Having furloughed staff return on a part-time basis may reduce the need to rotate.
It also helps in the employer being able to show that they are treating the workforce as fairly as possible and everyone is taking a reduction. Get in touch if you need help preparing the documentation for furlough that will permit rotation or flexible furlough.
Read more about flexible furlough and how this can be used as part of the CJRS.
The Cabinet Office has published a useful Procurement Policy Note (“PPN”) on relief available to suppliers due to Covid-19 (available here). In brief, you should not be penalised by a public sector body, if, in the current circumstances, you are unable to comply (fully or partly) with your contractual obligations. Public sector bodies are expected to work with suppliers and, if appropriate, provide relief against current contractual terms. This is in order to maintain business and service continuity and avoid claims being accepted for other forms of contractual relief, such as the occurrence of a force majeure event.
The types of relief that may be available to suppliers to the public sector will depend on the existing contracts in place. Some contracts may have a payments by result mechanism, whereas others may be based on certain key performance indicators (KPIs) being met. Other contracts may not include any such mechanisms and therefore it will be a matter for discussion between suppliers and the public sector body.
The PPN provides that, rather than a supplier seeking to invoke a clause that would permit the supplier to suspend performance of its obligations (such as a force majeure clause), public sector bodies should first work with the supplier to amend or vary the contract. Any changes should be limited to the particular circumstances and considered on a case-by-case basis. Changes could include:
- Amending the contract requirements
- Varying timings of deliveries
- Relaxing KPIs or service levels
- Extending time for performance (e.g. revising a contract delivery plan), and/or
- Preventing the public sector from exercising any rights or remedies against the supplier for non-performance (e.g. liquidated damages or termination rights).
These should only be temporary variations and the contract should return to the original terms once the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the contract has ended. Discussions with the public sector body about any changes that are agreed should be documented, in a variation signed by both parties.
A public sector may also need to take account of regulation 72 of the Public Contract Regulations 2015, to ensure that any changes to a contract (even of a temporary nature) do not trigger a requirement to conduct a new tender process. Whilst this may be unlikely to be the case with temporary variations, suppliers should still bear this in mind when discussing any changes to a contract with a public sector body.
If you are a supplier to a public sector body and you are currently struggling to meet your contractual obligations, we recommend that you take legal advice as to whether it might be possible to take advantage of the flexible approach that the PPN requires public sector bodies to adopt – it could be that you can avoid service credits or other financial deductions, or the need to serve formal notices such as “force majeure” or other relief notices.
It would apply if the contractor uses an intermediary to provide their services or labour and they would be deemed to be an employee or office holder for tax purposes if they were hired directly by the end user client rather than via the intermediary PSC. This would of course require an assessment of employment status for tax purposes.
Contractors who are not taxed in the UK and supply their services exclusively from outside of the UK are unaffected.
If IR35 applies, tax and NIC’s should be deducted under PAYE by the PSC. In reality this has not been happening so a major reform of the regime was due to be implemented in April 2020. The changes were postponed by one year and are due to take effect from 6 April 2021.
“Within IR35” means a contractor arrangement is caught by IR35 and the individual should be taxed as an employee.
“Outside IR35” means a contractor arrangement is not caught by IR35 and the contractor status is fine.