What form does the relaxation take?
The European Commission has reintroduced its “comfort letter” system for cooperation in relation to shortage of supply. This allows cooperating businesses to check what the Commission’s view of their proposals are before implementing them.
In the UK context the SMA has introduced an exemption for suppliers of healthcare services to the NHS. This allows:
- Sharing information about capacity
- Coordination of staff deployment
- Joint purchasing of goods, services and facilities
- Sharing or lending of facilities
- Division of activities, including agreeing whether to expand or reduce the volume or type of services provided by suppliers
In relation to whether the CMA will investigate cooperation, it has indicated:
- The CMA will use its discretion as to the prioritisation of its enforcement action to permit some agreements/collaboration which would otherwise potentially give rise to enforcement action (including potentially attracting fines of up to 10% of group worldwide turnover)
- The CMA will use its existing power to exempt certain agreements under the Competition Act 1998 where these are in the public interest
We have teamed up with Scaleup North East to help companies impacted by the coronavirus outbreak plan how to get back to business.
Our specialist lawyers will provide a free “diagnostic” call with eligible businesses across the NE, exploring challenges they are facing in the aftermath of the lockdown, and identify specific steps to survive, and then thrive, in these challenging times and beyond.
Through the collaboration with Scaleup North East, eligible North East-based SMEs are then able to apply for up to 40% funding towards up to £4,000 of legal advice.
These might include:
- Employment issues, such as dealing with a phased return to work
- Measures to support cash-flow, such as amendment to terms of trading and debt collection procedures
- Renegotiations and amendments to contracts, and other advice about contracts with suppliers and customers to deal with consequences of Covid-19
- Managing property costs – review of leases, advice on break clauses and formalisation of any revised arrangements recently put in place with landlords/tenants
- Health and safety implications of return to work and social distancing
Yes but the sponsor must report this on the Sponsor Management System within 10 working days and must follow normal employment law principles.
If this results in the sponsored worker’s falling below the minimum required salary the usual position is that they cannot continued to be sponsored. However the government has implemented a concession for sponsors who have ceased trading or temporarily reduced trading which allows the salary to be reduced to 80% of the figure stated on the Certificate of Sponsorship or £2,500 per month, whichever is lower.
No. You should always treat employees consistently and fairly, but this doesn’t mean treating them all the same, or applying the same requirements. For those employees who have been homeworking and doing so without any problems, then they should be allowed to continue to do so.
We would anticipate that the vast majority, if not all, businesses will be approaching the return on a phased basis, which inevitably means some employees returning to work sooner than others. In reality then, you aren’t treating everyone the same, but try to be fair and consistent; you need to do what works best from a business perspective, but can you rotate people, require them to come in at different times etc. Where people perceive that the planned return is being worked out fairly they are far more likely to buy into this, which will help avoid resentments building up between colleagues.
Yes. You should be able to furlough a suspended employee subject to all other eligibility requirements however we recommend that you take advice on this before doing so.
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.