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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

Related FAQs

Which products and services are affected?

Initially, the relaxation applied to supermarkets and food suppliers. This was subsequently widened to apply to other businesses, permitting them to collaborate where necessary to respond to the crisis in the interests of consumers.

What options do I have if I have staff with childcare responsibilities but their job cannot be done at home?

If it is not possible to find work for the employee to do at home, you do have the option of putting the employee on furlough.

What is the amendment to The Working Time legislation called?

The government introduced The Working Time (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 to amend the Working Time Regulations 1998 to allow for the change.

Would it be appropriate to suspend someone who refuses to restrict their duties?

Suspension should always be a last resort and not a knee jerk reaction. We would not advise suspension unless a the above steps around the risk assessment have been undertaken. Depending on your local policies, suspension could then be an option on the basis that their health and safety and the health and safety of others are put at risk by their actions.

Introduction - How am I going to get people back into the workplace?

As we move to look at re-opening businesses and getting people back into the workplace there is work to be done by employers, firstly in planning how they are going to do this, and secondly, communicating those plans to staff. The only way in which businesses are going to be able to manage the transition back to some form of normality is by speaking to their staff and re-assuring them about the measures that will be put in place to safeguard their health and safety in order to enable them to return. Any successful return to work will need to based on carefully thought out plans and providing re-assurances to employees that necessary action is being taken.

Employers will be focusing on:

  • How do I get my workforce back safely, and
  • How do I give my workforce the confidence to return.