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Which agreements will qualify for exemption?

There are four criteria which must be satisfied if an agreement is to be considered exempt:

  • It must improve production or distribution, or promoting technical or economic progress – the guidance suggests that cooperation ensuring essential goods and services can be made available to the public, or an important sub-set of the public such as key workers, will satisfy this criterion.
  • It must allow consumers a fair share of the resulting benefit – the guidance suggests this will be the case where the action prevents or reduces shortages.
  • It must not impose on the undertakings concerned restrictions which are not indispensable to the attainment of the above benefits – the guidance suggests this will be the case where the cooperation is the only reasonable option due to the urgency of the crisis and where the cooperation is temporary in nature.
  • It must not afford the undertakings concerned the possibility of eliminating competition – therefore the parties must endeavour to retain competition in respect of the products (in particular price competition).

Related FAQs

Can apprentices be furloughed?

The government has stated that the scheme will apply to apprentices and that they can continue to train whilst they are furloughed. However you must pay at least the Apprenticeship Minimum Wage, National Living Wage or National Minimum Wage for all periods of training during furlough leave, taking into account the rate increases from 1 April 2020 and the increases which will take effect from 1 April 2021. This means that you will be responsible for any shortfall in the amount claimed under the scheme and the appropriate minimum wage.

We recommend that you get in touch to discuss any queries on furloughing apprentices.

Can I ask furloughed staff to agree to accept less than 80% of their normal pay?

The guidance is clear that furloughed staff must receive no less than 80% of their reference pay (up to the monthly cap of £2500).

Employers cannot enter into any transaction with the worker which reduces the wages below this amount. This includes any administration charge, fees or other costs in connection with the employment.

What happens if an employee refuses to attend work because they are afraid of being exposed to COVID-19 particularly the new more transmissible strain?

An employee can refuse to attend work but their refusal to do so will have to be based on a reasonable belief that their health and safety is in danger.  Whether or not their refusal is reasonable will take into consideration factors such as the employee’s own health and whether they are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill if they contract Covid-19 and the steps their employer has out in place to mitigate the danger of contracting Covid-19 at work.

In such circumstances where the employee’s belief is deemed to be reasonable, they will be entitled to stay at home and receive full pay.

If an employee is subsequently dismissed for refusing to attend work in these circumstances, they may be able to bring a claim for unfair dismissal.

What is the reaction to the funding?

The reaction from NCVO is that this is an important first step.  However, it will not stop well run charities from closing and others will look very different in a few months’ time.

Does the introduction of CLBILS assist private equity-backed businesses?

Under CBILS, for the purposes of calculating the applicant’s annual turnover, approved lenders have been aggregating turnover across the whole of the private equity investor’s portfolio meaning they failed to qualify for the scheme as they were deemed to exceed the £45 million threshold.

For private equity-backed businesses, the removal of the upper limit on annual turnover criteria for CLBILS seemingly avoids the issue of turnover aggregation across investment portfolios seen with the CBILS, potentially enabling more private equity sponsor portfolio companies to be able to access the CLBILS funding.