Will there be further measures for self-employed announced?
The Government assured parity for the self-employed but it has since accepted that this would be difficult to achieve. The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE) has worked closely with the Government on implementing the current self-employment income support scheme. IPSE has confirmed that it will continue to work on helping to extend measures to all freelancers in need as a result of Covid-19.
The Government announced an extension to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme from 1 November 2020.
Employers will need to be flexible with employees who are unable to return to work at present due to childcare difficulties. While schools have reopened, a period of isolation may result in employees having to keep children off school/nursery and therefore have childcare issues. Some employees will be able to manage this with their partner and extended family, whereas others will not. Where an employee simply cannot make any other arrangements to care for their children in the short term then they will be unable to return to work until that situation changes. Any dismissals on the basis that someone is unable to return to work as a result of lack of childcare are likely to be unfair, at least in the short term where such employees may well be able to demonstrate that they had no options available to them.
Solicitors can be authorised to sign contracts for their clients – a signed letter of authority should be scanned and sent to avoid posting potentially contaminated documents.
Solicitors should exchange supplemental agreements on behalf of their clients to agree to postpone exchange and completion dates if it has been agreed to push these back.
The Law Society advises that electronic signatures be used as much as possible for contracts, to avoid possible contamination. However, the Land Registry confirms that the legal transfer document cannot be validly executed with an electronic signature. Solicitors should agree a completion undertaking that the original transfer document will be sent when received and after the restrictions have been lifted.
The Land Registry’s latest guidance https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-impact-on-hm-land-registrys-services published on 14 May states:
We accept deeds that have been signed using the ‘Mercury signing approach’.
For land registration purposes, a signature page will need to be signed in pen and witnessed in person (not by a video call). The signature will then need to be captured, with a scanner or a camera, to produce a PDF, JPEG or other suitable copy of the signed signature page. Each party sends a single email to their conveyancer to which is attached the final agreed copy of the document and the copy of the signed signature page.
Solicitors should be willing to adopt this procedure for completing transactions to enable them to be registered by the Land Registry.
The execution of a transfer is a deed and must be witnessed. Members of the family can witness signatures so long as they are not also a party to the document. A witness will be more credible if they are 18 or over, but this is not a legal requirement. The legal requirement is for the witness “to be present” when the document is signed. It would be possible for a witness to be on the other side of the room or the other side of a window, and validly witness the execution of a deed. The witness does need to take precautions to avoid possible contamination from the document.
A statutory declaration does not need to be witnessed but must be administered by a solicitor or commissioner for oaths. There is no legally prescribed process for this, and there is nothing to suggest that this could not be validly done via a video telephone call if the signature on the declaration can clearly be seen by the person commissioning the oath when the oath is made.
Borrowers will not have to pay a guarantee fee. Lenders will pay a fee to access the scheme. The Government will make a Business Interruption Payment to cover the first 12 months of interest payments and any lender-levied fees, allowing smaller businesses to benefit from no upfront cost.
British Business Bank has indicated that following earlier discussions with the banking industry, some lenders indicated that they would not charge arrangement fees or early repayment charges to SMEs borrowing under the scheme. Each business should check the terms of the loans being made to ensure this is the case and what the interest rate and prepayment fees will be following the period in which the Government makes payment of these amounts.
You will claim a pro rata’d amount of 80% of salary, based on the proportion of hours not worked out of the employee’s normal working hours (their “usual” hours).
There are 2 ways to calculate an employee’s usual hours, depending on whether they have fixed or variable hours/pay:
- For those with fixed hours/pay, you take the number of hours worked in the pay period before 19 March 2020.
- For those with variable hours/pay, you take the higher of:
- the average number of hours worked in the tax year 2019 to 2020 or
- the corresponding calendar period in the tax year 2019 to 2020.
If employees are paid per task or piece of work done, you should work out the usual hours for these employees in the same way as for other employees who work variable hours, if possible.
When you calculate the usual hours, you should include any hours of leave for which they were paid their full contracted rate (such as annual leave) and any hours worked as overtime (but only if the pay for those hours was not discretionary).
If you do not have a justifiable reason for insisting that your employees have the vaccine (see FAQ above) your employee could resign and bring a claim of constructive unfair dismissal if they have more than 2 years’ continuous employment. This would be on the basis that you have breached trust and confidence.
If the vaccine includes pig gelatine (as many do), and the employee refuses on religious or because they are vegan, you may face a claim for discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.