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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.

 

Related FAQs

What if you want to terminate the contract completely?

If changed circumstances mean that a business wants to exit from a contractual arrangement, then before trying to terminate it, a careful review should be carried out to see whether a right to terminate actually exists. For example:

  • Not every contract for the sale of goods contains the right for the buyer to terminate in circumstances where the supplier hasn’t done anything wrong. If a business has entered into a contract on the supplier’s standard terms, it is unlikely to contain any such provision
  • A contract for the provision of services is unlikely, if drafted by the customer, to contain a provision that allows the supplier to walk away from the arrangement at short notice, or perhaps at all

If a party tries to terminate a contract when it doesn’t have the right to do so, the other party will likely claim breach of contract and could sue for damages. In the case of a long term or high-value contract, this could amount to a very significant liability.

Even if the right to terminate the contract does exist, there might be particular rules about the following:

  • How much notice has to be given
  • How such notice has to be served (for example, it might have to be in writing to a particular address)
  • When the notice can be served (perhaps on an anniversary of the start of the contract)
  • How much a party has to pay if it cancels (for example, for raw materials, for work done to date, or even the whole contract price)

All of these factors must be taken into account, and any contractual processes for termination are followed.

Will COP hearings still be open to the public?

Transparency is considered to be central to the philosophy of the COP. The guidance provides details on issues concerning transparency of proceedings and involvement/attendance of P. Whilst there will be some difficulties with ensuring that remote hearings are accessible to the public as an ‘open court’, provisions have been made for the continued presence of the press where the facilities can accommodate this.

Can I get contracts signed electronically if signatories are working remotely?

With the outbreak of coronavirus leading to a requirement for more employees to be working remotely, especially following Government advice that all non-essential travel including to and from work should be avoided, there has been an increased requirement for businesses to be more flexible in their approach to signing contracts.

The traditional approach has been for contracts to be printed and signed with a “wet ink” signature. However, this is not a strict legal requirement in the majority of circumstances and contracts can be formed without this degree of formality. English law recognises that contracts can be formed by electronic means – including the exchange of emails or the typing of a name into a document to signify agreement to it.

Whilst this approach offers a lot of flexibility, more sophisticated electronic signature tools are recommended for important documents, to enable the identity of the signatory to be validated and reduce the possibility of fraud.

If businesses are considering changing their contracting processes because of coronavirus, or because of a general shift towards paperless working, it is important to ensure that proper approval processes remain in place, and to consider whether a software tool should be used to complement them. Systems such as DocuSign are widely used.

There also remain some situations where legal advice is recommended before relying on an electronic signature:

  • Where the other party is abroad – as local laws that are different from English law might apply
  • If executing a deed – the law requires certain types of document to be executed as a deed (for example, transfers of land and powers of attorney), and the issues around electronic signature and witnessing are more complicated here
Do I still need to pay instalments of Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) while the development site is closed?

Payments of the Community Infrastructure Levy (“CIL”) are tied to commencement of development, and where an instalment policy is in place, the instalments are usually tied to periods of time following commencement rather than build out rates. Therefore where a development has commenced, payments of CIL are likely to fall due in respect of a site notwithstanding that the site may have temporarily closed or build out rates have slowed.

New regulations now in force, provide some additional relief for those developers with an annual turnover of £45 million or less. Such relief will allow the Council to defer payments, disapply late interest charges, and refund late interest charges that have already been levied since 21 March 2020.

For those developers that cannot benefit from the new provisions, unless a Council has adopted an exceptional circumstances relief policy the regulations do not provide for any relief to be provided in instances where payment of CIL will create viability issues. Most Councils have not adopted such a policy, and in those circumstances the CIL liability will remain due in accordance with the payment schedule on the demand notice.

Councils are at liberty to amend their instalment policies in accordance with their own internal procedures, and the Government is encouraging Councils to explore this option to provide some relief to developers. However this will only assist in respect of any prospective instalments where the development commences after the new instalment policy has been adopted.

For those developers whose annual turnover exceeds £45 million, the Government seems to be taking the view that such developers can afford their CIL liabilities regardless of the current climate. The only concession the Government has proposed is to encourage Councils to make use of the existing discretion they have in respect of the imposition of surcharges for late payments.

How has the law changed?

In part in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, legislation was passed by the government earlier this year which sought to assist companies to trade through the current economic climate. Included within the measures is a degree of protection from compulsory winding up.

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (The Act), was laid before parliament on 20 May, and became law on 26 June. It is important creditors are aware of what changes have been implemented and the potential and impact which it may have upon debt recovery action you may be considering or have already commenced.

The main part of the Act affecting creditors is the temporary restriction on presentation of winding up petitions and the factors that the Court has to take into account when deciding whether to wind up a company.

On Thursday 24 September 2020 the government passed a further statutory instrument which extended the operation of these restrictions. As a result, the measures which were due to expire on Wednesday 30 September 2020 have now been extended until 31 December 2020.

A key point to note is that the Act has retrospective effect so any pending petitions presented after 27 April will be affected, along with any winding up orders made after that date.

The Act has introduced the following restrictions:

  • A petition cannot be presented by a creditor during the period of 27 April 2020 and 31 December 2020 unless the creditor has reasonable grounds to believe that (a) coronavirus has not had a financial effect on the debtor, or (b) the debtor would have been unable to pay its debts even if coronavirus had not had a financial effect on the debtor;
  • A petition cannot be presented after 27 April 2020 if it is based on a unsatisfied statutory demand served between 1 March 2020 until 31 December 2020;
  • When deciding whether to make a winding up order the Court will need to be satisfied that the grounds giving rise to the petition would have arisen even if Covid-19 did not have a financial effect on the debtor;
  • All winding up orders made between the 27 April and 31 December will automatically be void (that is, of no legal effect) unless the Court would have made the winding up order if the new law was in force at the time the order was made.