Home » COVID-19 Advice For Employees And Employers

COVID-19 Advice For Employees And Employers

This guide is being written during a coronavirus pandemic that continues to bring about major disruption, with seemingly daily changes to the rules, guidance and procedures which affect the life and work of individuals and employers. This guide will be updated accordingly, as the situation develops.

In writing this guide, we provide helpful information, in the form of questions and answers (Q&As), to some of the pressing issues now facing both individuals and employers as a result of the coronavirus having taken hold in the UK.

The first two cases of the new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, were confirmed in the UK on 31st January and the disease was declared  to be a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on 11th March.

By mid-March the Government began moving towards a policy of ‘social distancing’.  The Government announced that all schools would close after 20th March.  On 23rd March, the Prime Minister announced stricter social distancing measures, known as the ‘lockdown’.  These were introduced through the Coronavirus Act 2020 which became law on 25th March. Originally set to cover three weeks, on 17th April the Government announced the lockdown would continue for at least another three weeks.

On 10 May 2020, the Prime Minister announced some easing of restrictions. This included greater encouragement for workers that cannot work from home to travel to work. The Government also encouraged face-coverings in certain enclosed spaces.

The Government later announced that, from 1 June 2020, schools would start to reopen for different years, starting with reception, Year 1 and Year 6. You can now meet in a group of up to six people outdoors.

On 28 May 2020 the Government launched the NHS Test and Trace service, under which you can be told if you have been in contact with a person who has coronavirus, and be asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

As of 28th May, 270,000 people have tested positive for coronavirus. Sadly, more than 37,000 people have died who tested positive for COVID-19 at the time of their death.

Coronavirus and public health measures

What are the social distancing (lockdown) measures?

On 31 May 2020 the Government introduced new social distancing guidelines known as ‘Staying alert and safe’. Some of the key areas are:

  1. Staying at home

Although the ‘stay at home’ message has been dropped, the Government still sees staying at home as a key part of social distancing measures and you should only go out for specific reasons, including:

  • for work, where you cannot work from home
  • going to shops that are permitted to be open – to get things like food and medicine, and to collect goods ordered online or on the phone
  • to exercise or spend time outdoors for recreation
  • any medical need, to donate blood, avoid injury or illness, escape risk of harm, or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person

When you go outside you should follow ‘staying outside your home’ guidelines. This includes keeping two metres apart from other people and wearing a face covering in enclosed public spaces, where social distancing is not possible, or where you come into contact with people you do not normally meet.

From 1 June 2020, groups of up to six people will be able to meet outdoors in England, including in gardens and other private outdoor spaces. However, other social distancing measures continue to apply.

  1. Business and venues

Many businesses are still required by law to remain closed, including restaurants, cafes, pubs cinemas, libraries, hotels and places of worship.

On 25 May the Government announced that outdoor markets and car show rooms will be able to reopen from 1 June 2020. Furthermore, all non-essential shops will be expected to be allowed to open from 15 June, subject to the Government’s 5 tests being met and subject to a risk assessment in consultation with trade unions.

Certain outdoor sports facilities, including tennis courts, golf courses and bowling greens are open.

Other businesses can remain open and their employees can travel to work, if they cannot work from home.

  1. Visiting public places

You can exercise outside as often as you like. As of 1 June 2020, a group of up to six people can meet outdoors. However, you must still observe other social distancing measures, for example, staying two metres apart.

You must still not spend time inside the homes of friends and families, other than to access the garden or toilet.

  1. Going to work

The Government now encourages people to travel to work, where working from home is not possible.  Workplaces should be set up to meet COVID-19 secure guidelines. All workers must adhere to guidance around self-isolation if they or anyone in their household show coronavirus symptoms.

  1. Clinically vulnerable people and extremely vulnerable

This general guidance applies to people who are ‘fit and well’. Those who are aged over 70, or with specific pre-existing conditions or who are pregnant, are considered clinically vulnerable and at a heightened risk. These people should continue to minimise contact with others outside their household.

In addition to this group, there is a further category of people who have serious underlying health conditions and who are considered ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. People in this category have specific guidelines and should have received a letter telling them they are in this group. Such people are advised to ‘shield’. Shielding originally meant not leaving the house and not attending any gatherings.

However, latest guidance is people shielding can now leave their home if they wish, provided they can maintain strict social distancing. Time spent outdoors can be with members of your own household. If you live alone then you can spend time outdoors with one other person from another household. This should, ideally, be the same person each time.

What about schools?

In response to the pandemic, the Government closed all schools, effective from 20 March 2020. However, on 10 May 2020 the Government announced that, from 1 June 2020, there would be a phased return of school pupils. Nursery, reception, year 1 and 6 are the first to return. On 24 May 2020 it was further announced that, from 15 June, up to a quarter of Year 10 and Year 12 will be allowed ‘some contact’ to prepare for their exams.

Is school attendance compulsory?

The Department for Education poses this question, but does not clearly answer it. Eligible children are ‘strongly encouraged to attend’, unless self-isolating or clinically vulnerable.

Families should notify the school or nursery if their child cannot attend, to ‘explore the reason with them and address barriers together’. However, parents will not be fined for non-attendance during this time.

Do schools need to enforce social distancing?

The Government appears to concede that standard social distancing will not work in schools, particularly amongst early years and primary school children. There are, however, various safeguarding measures which must be adopted.

As well as frequent hand cleaning and regular cleaning of settings, staff and students will mix, where possible, in a ‘small and consistent group’. That group should stay away from other people and groups and be kept two metres apart.

Primary classes should normally be split in half, with no more than 15 pupils per small group. The same should apply to secondary schools and colleges. To find out more about the measures schools are supposed to take, see the Department for Education guidance, here.

Who is required to self-isolate?

Following the introduction of ‘lockdown’ measures, most people are already required to stay at home.  However, in addition to this, you must also ‘self-isolate’ if you have symptoms of coronavirus or live with someone who does.

Self-isolation means you must not leave your house for any reason.  If you need food or medicine, then you need to either order online or ask someone to drop this off at your door. You should not attend a GP surgery, pharmacy or hospital.

If you have symptoms you must self-isolate for seven days.  After seven days, if you do not have a high temperature, you do not need to self-isolate. If you still have a high temperature you must keep self-isolating until your temperature returns to normal.

You should arrange to have a test to see if you have the virus.

If you live with someone who has symptoms, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days from the day their symptoms started.  Further information regarding self-isolation is here.

What is ‘Test and Trace’?

A key part of the Government’s new strategy is the NHS Test and Trace service, which launched on 28 May. Anyone who tests positive for the virus will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace and will be required to share information about their recent interactions. This includes household members and people with whom they have been in direct contact with, or within 2 metres for more than 15 minutes.

Any person so identified must in turn stay at home for 14 days, regardless of showing symptoms. Members of an identified person’s household do not have to stay at home unless the identified person becomes symptomatic. Further NHS advice on Test and Trace is here and here.

All symptomatic individuals can now request a test if they need one. Furthermore, anyone with a new, continuous cough, a high temperature or a change in their sense of smell or taste is asked to immediately report these symptoms and book a test at nhs.uk/coronavirus.

What about the 14-day quarantine for travellers to the UK?

Alongside measures to ‘ease’ the lockdown, the Prime Minister has introduced quarantine measures for people arriving at UK airports, ports and Eurostar railway stations. Such people will be required to self-isolate for two weeks. They will be required to complete an online form and specify the address at which they will self-isolate. Individuals will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS tracing app.

Where international travellers are unable to identify where they will self-isolate, they will be required to self-isolate in government arranged accommodation.

These measures will apply to travellers, including British citizens. However, anyone travelling to the UK from Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man is exempt. In addition, there is a long list of people undertaking specific roles or entering the UK for a specific purpose that are exempt from the quarantine requirement, such as road haulage workers or a registered health or care professional coming to provide essential healthcare.

What can we do to stop the spread of COVID-19?

As well as the ‘lock down’ and self-isolation measures above, the NHS also advises the following to minimise the spread of the infection:

  • Washing your hands with soap and water often, and for at least 20 seconds each time
  • Use hand sanitiser gel if water is not available
  • Wash your hands as soon as you get home
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • Put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterwards

What are coronavirus symptoms?

According to the NHS, you should not leave your home if you have:

  • a high temperature (meaning you feel hot to touch on your chest or back)
  • a new continuous cough (meaning coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours.
  • loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – meaning you cannot smell or taste anything, or things taste or smell different to normal

COVID-19 Advice for employees

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme for employers that cannot maintain their current workforce due to operations being severely affected by the coronavirus.

Employers may furlough an employee and receive a reimbursement from HMRC. Up until August 2020 this will be for up to 80% of their wage, up to a maximum of £2500. In addition, the employer receives associated Employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions (up to the level of the minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contribution).  It is open to the employer to pay a furloughed worker more than these reimbursement limits.

From August, the Government will start tapering the furlough scheme. From August, the Government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to £2,500, but employers will need to pay NI and pensions contributions.

From September the Government will pay just 70% of wages, up to a cap of £2,187.50, with employers topping up the 10% difference up to 80% and the £2,500 cap. Employers will continue to pay NI and pension contributions.

From October the Government will pay 60% of wages, up to £1,875, with the employer topping up the difference.

What does ‘furlough’ mean?

A term that is well-known in USA employment but less so in the UK, to furlough means to grant a person leave of absence.  Under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, employers that are unable to afford your salary due to the effects of the coronavirus, can place you ‘on furlough’ which means you stop working but remain an employee and on the payroll.

Does my employer need my agreement to furlough me?

Yes, employers should discuss this with you and any decision to furlough must be by agreement – unless your contract expressly states otherwise, which is rare.  If your employer furloughs you it must not breach equality and discrimination laws.  However, in practice employees will often have little option but to agree as, for most, the alternative may be dismissal by reason of redundancy.

If I have not been furloughed already, when is the latest that I can be furloughed?

The final date by which you can be furloughed for the first time is 10 June.

If I am on sick leave or self-isolating, can I be furloughed?

Yes, if you are off sick and your employer has business reasons for doing so, then you can be furloughed like any other employee.  However, government guidance makes it clear that neither short-term illness nor self-isolation should be a consideration in deciding whether to furlough you.

Government guidance confirms that you can also be furloughed if you are on long-term sick leave or are being ‘shielded’.  Shielding is a measure to protect individuals considered to be at very high risk of severe illness from coronavirus – shielded people have tighter rules relating to social distancing.

I am on a zero-hours contract.  Am I still covered by the scheme? If so, how is my pay calculated?

Yes, any type of employee is covered by the scheme, including someone on a zero-hours contract.  If you have been working for your employer for 12 months or more, then you would be entitled to the higher of either, the:

  • same month’s earning from the previous year, or
  • average earnings for the 2019-2020 tax year

If you have been with your employer for less than 12 months, then you are entitled to 80% of your average earnings since you started work until the date you are furloughed.

If you have been employed for less than a month then your employer should work out a pro rata for your earnings so far, of which you would receive 80%.

Can I still work if I am furloughed?

During any period you are on furlough, you cannot work for your employer if that involves making any money for, or providing any service for, your employer.  You can take part in volunteer work or training when on furlough.

If your contract allows, you can work for another employer whilst on furlough.

Up until July, you were not allowed to work at all if on furlough. However, the Chancellor has stated that, from July, as part of ‘flexible furloughing’, workers will be allowed to return to work part-time with their employers. Employers will be responsible for paying wages whilst at work. The Government will continue to pay for any time on furlough, although the ‘tapering’ will kick in from August.

What are the rules for holiday entitlement when furloughed?

Workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year. Guidance confirms that workers placed on furlough will continue to accrue statutory holiday entitlements, as well as any additional holiday under their contract of employment.

What about holiday pay during furlough?

The general principal behind holiday pay is that it should reflect what they would be paid if they were working and that a worker should not be financially worse off through taking holiday.

If a furloughed worker, receiving 80% of normal pay, decides to take holiday, then the employer must ‘top up the difference’, so that the worker is paid the correct holiday pay in accordance with current legislation.

Can my employer oblige me to take annual leave during furlough?

The latest guidance confirms that employers can oblige you to take annual leave during a period of furlough, subject to standard notice periods. Employers should engage with you and explain their reasons, before requiring you to take leave during furlough. Your employer must consider whether restrictions, such as the need to socially distance or self-isolate, would prevent you from ‘resting, relaxing and enjoying leisure time, which is the fundamental purpose of holiday’.

What about the coronavirus and carrying forward leave?

New regulations allow you to carry forward holiday where, due to the coronavirus, it has ‘not been reasonably practicable to take it in the leave year to which it relates’. Untaken holiday up to four weeks may carried forward into the following two leave years.

Bear in mind that, as noted above, employers can oblige you to take annual leave during furlough.

If, however, the employer is unable to pay a furloughed worker the additional pay which will usually be required for holiday leave, then this would usually make it ‘not reasonably practicable for the worker to take their leave, allowing you to carry leave forwards’.

What rights do I have if I am furloughed?

As you remain an employee you will retain the same rights at work.  This includes the likes of:

  • Statutory Sick Pay
  • Maternity and other parental rights
  • Rights against unfair dismissal
  • Redundancy payments

Where can I find out more about furlough and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

Most of the Government’s guidance around the scheme is here.  ACAS also has advice for employees, here.

If you would like to speak to a member of our Employment team to discuss your situation, then book a consultation with us.

What is my employer’s duty to me in respect of protecting me from the risk of getting COVID-19 whilst I am at work?

  • As an employee, your employer owes you a duty of care. There is an implied term to provide this duty of care in all contracts of employment. By duty of care, we mean that your employer must care for your physical and mental wellbeing whilst you are at work. This includes ensuring that you are not made to work in unhealthy or unsafe conditions. An employee is a person employed under a contract of employment. This contract provides you with statutory and contractual rights. See our guide on employment status.
  • By virtue of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HASAW) an employer has a statutory duty to protect the health, safety and welfare at work of their workforce. This means that the duties imposed on your employer by the HASAW, are in a written and binding piece of legislation that’s been made into law by parliament.
  • Contracts of employment and other contracts for the personal performance of work or services, contain written and implied terms of contract. This includes the implied duty of trust and confidence.
  • There is a duty under the Equality Act 2010 not to discriminate against employees with protected characteristics e.g. age, race, disability, pregnancy and maternity, gender, philosophical belief, sexual preference, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership.
  • There is also a duty on the employer to make sure that the health and safety of persons other than employees who use the premises are protected.

In terms of protecting you from the risk of getting coronavirus, first and foremost, employers should be making every possible effort to allow you to work from home.  Where working from home is not possible then workplaces should be complying with social distancing measures.

Government advice is that, where it is not possible to follow social distancing guidelines in full in relation to an activity, then employers should consider whether that activity needs to continue for the business to operate.  If it must continue then your employer should take all mitigating actions possible to reduce the risk of transmission between staff.

There is helpful and detailed guidance covering specific sectors from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which your employer should be following and a failure to do so could be indicative of a breach in its duty of care towards you.

The issue of the provision of PPE to workers, especially those working with patients and residents in hospitals and care homes, has been a matter of growing concern.  For an interesting in-depth analysis of the legal issues around this issue, you can look at articles by Darragh Coffey from 1 Crown Office Row, here.

I work in a shop serving customers – what rights do I have to request that my employers provide me with a mask?

In its COVID-19 advice to employers the Government has said that employees are not being recommended to wear facemasks to protect against the virus, outside of clinical or care settings. It only recommends that facemasks are to be worn by symptomatic individuals to reduce the risk of transmitting the infection to other people.

Government advice is that entry to a store should be managed, allowing a limited number of people in the store at any time.

It reiterates that the best way to avoid infection is to avoid close contact – any nearer than 2 metres – with anyone.

Furthermore, ‘if feasible’ employers should put up plexiglass barriers.

Section 4 of The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Regulations 1992 provides that:

“Every employer shall ensure that suitable personal protective equipment is provided to his employees who may be exposed to a risk to their health or safety while at work except where and to the extent that, such risk has been adequately controlled by other means which are equally or more effective.”

In the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) guide to PPE, there are recommendations as to the types of protection that should be provided for different types of hazard. Disposable filtering face pieces are recommended as one of the types of protection from ‘dust, vapour, gas, oxygen-deficient atmospheres.’ Unsurprisingly there is nothing that specifically covers the current problem that we are currently facing with coronavirus.

This is an undesirable situation. On the one hand the Government’s advice is that it advises that employees do not need to wear masks. However, other than stating that personal hygiene in the form of hand washing is the best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, it does not provide an answer to the original question posed. This poses a problem both for the employee and potentially for the employer.

What if the shop assistant becomes infected with COVID-19 as a result of transmission from a customer they have served? If an employee has previously asked to wear a mask, been refused permission and then catches the disease, hasn’t the employer been in breach of his duty of care to his employee? Isn’t the employer in danger of breaching his duties to the employee under s2 of the HSWA?

The employer can point to the guidance provided by the Government, that employees are not being recommended to wear face masks and therefore as the Government is likely to have based its advice on the basis of expert evidence, then the employer is entitled to rely on that advice. We imagine that claims will be issued, in due course, on this point, which will need to be decided by the courts.

Many of the cheaper types of paper, partial face covering masks are not effective in terms of preventing the spread of viral particles, of the type that pass on Covid-19.

A more specialised and expensive mask, an N95 respirator, can protect against COVID-19. However, they are not likely to be made available for wider public use. This is partially because of the cost of doing so, but also because they are not very practical to use for a long period. They are also difficult to put on.

The other important point to bear in mind too, is that in the unfortunate event of your catching COVID-19, then it’s going to be very difficult, if not impossible, to prove from whom you caught it. The person that infects you may be someone who sneezed near you on public transport, in the street, a pub or in the cinema.

If you were to bring a personal injury claim against your employer, you would need to prove to the court, that you caught COVID-19 off a customer whilst at work and that will be nigh on impossible to do, unless there has been a confirmed tracing.

Can I refuse to work if my employer refuses to provide me with or allow me to wear a mask in these circumstances?

The answer, given the Government’s advice, is that refusing to work, could ultimately lead to you being subject to disciplinary proceedings. However, given the current situation, prudent employers will be advised to first listen to your concerns to see if there are any alternatives, such as working in a non-client facing role temporarily.

In any event employers would be advised to have a ready supply of tissues and hand sanitiser available to employees and to put up posters advising customers to be mindful of others if they need to sneeze or cough e.g. by ensuring that they move away from being too close to others and using a tissue to cover their mouth and nose.

Can I resign and make a claim for constructive dismissal?

We would always advise anyone to think very carefully before taking this step even in cases where there is a very strong likelihood that a claim for constructive dismissal would succeed. Constructive Dismissal is where an employee decides to resign in response to a serious breach of contract by the employer’s, entitling the employee to walk out based on the employer’s conduct. The employee is entitled to treat him or herself as having been “dismissed”.

Given our previous advice, we don’t believe that a claim for constructive dismissal would have any real prospect in this situation.

I don’t want to go in to work because I’m worried about coronavirus. Am I within my rights to stay away?

First of all, our assumption, from the question, is that you do not fall into one of the groups who PHE has advised to self-isolate. Assuming that to be the case, then as ACAS note, you should expect your employer to listen to your concerns and take steps to protect you. Most employers, given the circumstances, will have some sympathy for employees who are genuinely worried. It may be that some form of agile working arrangements could be made.

If your employer is able to suggest suitable alternatives, including offering alternatives that take into account any disability or special circumstances that you might have, then a mutually acceptable compromise may be reached.

Employers need to take into account the needs of employees who have particular concern to be worried about the risk of infection, such as pregnant women.

If you simply dismiss any reasonable alternative ways of working that are put to you, and you decide to stay away from work anyway, you do run the risk of disciplinary proceedings being brought against you by your employer, for your refusal to attend work. You would not be entitled to pay during your absence and may run the risk of being dismissed if you stay away.

I have contracted coronavirus due to a failure by my employer to take adequate steps to control the risk of infection. What are my legal rights?

ACAS has set out some simple steps that it advises employers (and employees) to take to help protect the health and safety of staff.

The advice is that it is good practice for an employer to:

  • keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
  • make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  • make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace develops the virus
  • make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  • provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
  • consider if protective face masks might help for people working in particularly vulnerable situations
  • consider if any travel planned to affected areas is essential
  • prepare and as often as may be appropriate, revise a written statement of the general policy with respect to the health and safety at work of employees and of the organisation together with the arrangements for the time being in force for carrying out that policy, and to bring the statement and any revision of it to the notice of all employees.

Bearing in mind that employers owe a duty of care to their staff, failure to follow these simple steps may be indicative of failure to comply with their health and safety duties should an employee become infected with COVID-19 whilst at their place of work. This might open the employer up to a potential accident at work claim being made against them by the affected employee.

Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act is also relevant here, because it imposes a duty on employers to:

  • ensure the health and safety of their employees
  • provide such information, instruction, training and supervision as is necessary to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety at work of employees (this information, instruction and training, would now need to be updated and implemented to specifically indicate the steps that are being taken within the business to attempt to avoid the spread of coronavirus in the workplace)

You may be able to make a personal injury compensation claim against your employer if you can show that that the employer failed to reasonably control the risk of you being infected with COVID-19.

If your employer has failed to implement any of the safeguards suggested by ACAS and to comply with s2 of HASAW, then that may be indicative of his failure to ‘reasonably control the risk of you being infected’.

As an employee, if you find yourself in this situation, you should seek legal advice.

Would my employer be liable to pay compensation to me if I became infected with coronavirus through contact with a co-worker who has been allowed to come to work despite the fact that the employer knew they were at risk?

An employer has a duty of care to protect the health, safety and welfare of their employees. Employers must do whatever they reasonably can to achieve this.

This requires them to ensure that workers are protected from anything that may cause harm, by effectively controlling any risks to their health that could arise in the workplace.

Therefore, if they allow an employee to come into work, who they know or ought reasonably to know, is a risk (because the employee has recently returned from travel to an affected area) and as a result of this a work colleague catches coronavirus, then the employer may be held liable for breach of duty of care, to the employee who becomes ill.

Immigration advice for individuals

Coronavirus is having a huge impact on the UK’s immigration system, with important announcements coming out almost daily which could affect your status in the UK or how your visa or citizenship application is processed.   For up-to-the-minute developments check out Coronavirus and UK Immigration – Live Updates.

My visa is about to expire but I cannot leave the UK due to the coronavirus. What should I do?

There are two key concessions which are likely to help you.

First, on 27th March 2020, the Home Office announced a concession for individuals who cannot leave the UK due to the Coronavirus. This concession has since been extended, so that people can request a visa extension until 31 July 2020.

The measure applies to individuals of any nationality whose leave to remain (i.e. visa) expires between 24th January 2020 and 31st July 2020.  On 6th April 2020 the Home Office released a dedicated online form to complete to request the extension.  The Home Office say they will respond to you within five working days. If your leave had already been extended to 31 May 2020 under this concession, then your leave should automatically be extended to 31 July 2020.

A second key concession is to allow individuals to ‘switch’ into longer-term visa routes from within the UK, rather than them requiring them to apply from outside the UK.

If you want to change from one visa route to another, often you must first leave the UK before entering under the new category.  For example, if you are here as a visitor, you cannot ordinarily ‘switch’ into the spouse category, instead you must normally return home before applying for your visa.

This new concession means these people can simply apply to ‘switch’ from within the UK.   This applies if your leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 July 2020, and includes if you have already had your leave extended under a previous concession to 31 July 2020.

It is important to understand that this concession is not some big green light to allow anyone here to necessarily be able to switch; for although the requirement to apply from abroad is being waived, the other rules of any given category you want to switch into, will still need to be met.   And you must pay the same application fee.

Nonetheless, if you are already in the UK, this could be a good opportunity to regularise your stay in a longer-term category, a sliver of a silver lining in these generally unforgiving times.

Book a consultation with us if you want to discuss either of these options in more detail.

Are overseas visa application centres closed? Can I still apply?

Although most overseas visa application centres remain closed, some centres are resuming service. From 1 June 2020, the following centres will open:

  • Bangkok
  • Beijing
  • Berlin
  • Brisbane
  • Canberra
  • Chongqing
  • Dusseldorf
  • Fiji
  • Guangzhou
  • Hong Kong
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Melbourne
  • Minsk
  • Munich
  • Perth
  • Shanghai
  • Sydney
  • Taipei
  • Ukraine

The visa centres are run by either VFS Global or TLS Contact. You should check their company’s website and then check the specific location, to see the latest. For VFS go here, for TLS Contact, it is here.

Even if a centre is closed, it is still possible to submit your application online – you just cannot complete the application process as you cannot attend a visa application centre to enrol your biometrics.

Any application already submitted is likely to be subject to extensive delay.  You might want to refrain from applying for now.  On the other hand, there might be important reasons why you wish to still submit your application, even though you will be unable to get a biometrics appointment for some time.

Bear in mind, the ‘date of application’ is the date you submit the application online and pay for your fee.  Therefore, there may be tactical reasons why you would still wish to apply sooner rather than later.  For example, if you are considering making a spouse application, and your (or your partner’s, if an eligible income source) anticipated pay is likely to decrease in the future then your best chance of meeting the Financial Requirement might be to apply now.

Also, if you apply now then it will still be closer to the front of the queue, when restrictions are lifted, and the Home Office start work on the inevitable backlog.

Contact us if you want to discuss this further.

I need to renew my visa, but are the visa application centres in the UK closed?  What should I do?

Those applying for leave to remain from within the UK are required to enrol their biometrics through UK Visa and Citizenship Application Services (UKVCAS).  Most of UKVCAS has been outsourced to the private company Sopra Steria.

All UKVCAS centres were closed, meaning it was not possible to enrol biometrics (or submit supporting documents via UKVCAS).

Some UKVCAS centres are reopening on 1 June 2020. A list of those centres that are reopening is here. At present, only those who had already booked an appointment prior to the centres closing are being invited to attend. New customers cannot book an appointment.

However, if you are a ‘new customer’ then you are still able to submit your online application, you just cannot complete the next step of enrolling your biometrics.  If your visa is expiring then it is likely that you should continue to submit any extension on or before the date of expiry of your visa, although you may want to contact us to discuss this further.

Does my visa allow me to be furloughed?

Yes, the Government has made it clear that foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed and that any grant under this scheme is not classed as ‘access to public funds’.  The guidance confirms that this applies to employees on all types of visa.

Will I be quarantined when I return to the UK?

The Prime Minister has quarantine measures for people arriving at UK airports, ports and Eurostar railway stations. Such people will be required to self-isolate for two weeks. They will be required to complete an online form and specify the address at which they will self-isolate. Individuals will also be strongly advised to download and use the NHS tracing app.

Where international travellers are unable to identify where they will self-isolate, they will be required to self-isolate in government arranged accommodation.

These measures will apply to all travellers, including British citizens. However, those travelling from France appear to be exempt. There is no date yet for when these measures will be introduced.

Help! My 30-day visa has expired. What can I do?

If you are applying for a visa to come to the UK, then you will often be given a 30-day initial visa or ‘vignette’ (a sticker) which is placed into your passport. You are expected to enter the UK within the validity of this 30-day period.

This has naturally caused a headache for many who, due to the pandemic, have been unable to enter the UK within this timeframe. The standard way to get a new 30-day sticker in your passport was to apply for a Transfer of Conditions, a process which would cost £169 and which required further biometric enrolment, something not possible when all the visa application centres are closed.

Now, you can make the request by contacting the Coronavirus Immigration Help Centre by email. Further detail about what to include in your email is here. Once your visa application centre reopens you will be contacted to arrange a replacement sticker being placed in your passport.

I am a frontline worker. Will my visa be automatically extended?

On 30 March 2020, the Government announced that doctors, nurses and paramedics would have their visas automatically extended by one year if their visa was/is due to expire by 1 October 2020. This would be at no cost, so no application fee or Immigration Health Surcharge.

This concession has now been extended to ‘frontline workers’, including midwives, radiographers, social workers and pharmacists. This includes those working in the NHS and independent sector. Family members are also covered.

This concession applies to anyone whose visa expires between 31 March 2020 and 1 October 2020. Anyone who has paid for an ‘unresolved application’ (i.e. an application which has not been decided) will be offered the ‘option of a refund’ (quite why someone needs the ‘option’ of a refund is unclear).

Making a Will during the coronavirus

Unsurprisingly, a lot of people are using this time to reflect and put their affairs in order. There is a rise in Wills and Lasting Powers of Attorney being executed. However, the current unique situation gives rise to some new challenges to the correct execution of these documents.

What are the formalities for executing a Will?

By law, for a Will to be valid it needs to be signed by the will-maker in the physical presence of two witnesses, who also have to sign the Will to confirm they have witnessed the execution.

The witnesses must see the will-maker writing his or her signature on the Will.

The witnesses cannot benefit from the Will or be related/ married to someone who benefits from the Will. Otherwise, any gifts made to them in the Will will not be valid. This presents an obstacle in view of the social distancing guidelines currently in place, which do not allow people to see others outside of their household.

How will remote signing work during the coronavirus?

The majority of the case law on Will formalities predates the use of online methods of communication. The courts have considered what is considered as ‘signing in presence of…’. However, currently, there is no authority on whether a Will can be witnessed by a video link.

The Law Society and the Ministry of Justice are presently in discussions about relaxing the requirements for making a valid Will. However, until there is new law in place, it is best to proceed on the basis that the will-maker and the witnesses have to be physically present in the same location.

How can I observe social distancing whilst executing a Will?

Lawyers had to come up with some creative ways on how Wills could be executed whilst still complying with the social distancing restrictions. The most important formality here is that the will-maker and the witnesses have uninterrupted line of sight during the process. The following suggestions have been made. It is recommended everyone involved wears gloves and uses their own pen.

Following the execution, before the gloves are removed, the Will should be put in a sealed bag and left for 72 hours, which should be enough time for any residual virus on the paper to perish.

  • The will-maker arranges for two neighbours to watch him or her sign the Will through a window and then the Will is passed to the neighbours through the letter box. The witnesses would then sign it near a window, so that the will-maker can see them.
  • The execution takes place in an open space, whilst ensuring the recommended 2 m distance is being observed. This could involve arranging for the execution to happen in the front garden/ outside your house where a table could be set up. The will-maker would sign first, whilst the witnesses observe from a safe distance. Then, the will- maker leaves the Will on the table and walks away and the witnesses then take their turn to sign.
  • The will-maker signs the Will whilst in a car and the witnesses observe this through the windows; then the witnesses sign the Will, e.g. on the bonnet of the car where the will-maker can see them.

If you have like our assistance or have a query about about making a Will, contact us today.

Personal injury claims

Like most areas of law, personal injury has been affected by the changes the government have implemented to combat COVID-19. In view of this, necessary adaptations to the way in which we all deal with the progression of cases have had to be made by all the parties involved, some of which are detailed below.

Will coronavirus delay my personal injury claim?

We have found that coronavirus has caused some delays to personal injury claims. The main delay seems to be due to the many parties involved in the progression of claims not being set up to work from home effectively. This being said, we have found that everyone is more willing to work together to progress claims during these challenging times. We have also found that correspondence with other parties has become much easier now that more people are adapting to corresponding electronically rather than by post.

Statement of Intent for Progressing Claims during the COVID-19 Crisis

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) and the Association of Consumer Support Organisations (ACSO) have produced a set of principles that encourage parties to work together to continue progressing claims during the COVID-19 crisis. While it is stressed that the emergency measures will be removed once the crisis is over, we hope that parties will continue to work together to resolve disputes for the benefit of all parties involved.

Will I still be able to see a medical expert if I am classed as vulnerable and having to self-isolate?

Due to the government lockdown, where possible, many experts have made the decision to carry out remote medical assessments. Remote medical assessments do not require approval by the other side, it is the medical experts who have been deciding whether this is appropriate on a case-by-case basis. If the circumstances of your personal injury claim mean that an expert can make an assessment via video call to produce their report then many of the experts have offered these types of appointments. Where remote medical assessments are not appropriate, experts have advised us accordingly and in such cases we have had to let our clients know that in order to remain compliant with government advice and to keep everyone safe, we will have to wait for face-to-face appointments to resume.

In light of the possible easing of the lockdown rules, it is likely that face to face appointments will be able to begin to resume over the next month or so, albeit with the necessary safety measures in place. These safety measures will likely include less appointments being available each day to minimise the amount of people visiting the expert at their designated location, personal protective equipment such as facemasks for the expert and any clients and of course the usual social distancing rules where possible.

Will I be able to attend remote rehabilitation appointments?

Where appropriate, remote physiotherapy appointments have been going ahead via video calls. Unfortunately, those clients who are not set up to use video calling technology with smartphones/laptops will have to wait for the rules to be eased and for face-to-face appointments to resume.

Some psychologists have been able to make initial assessments over the telephone with clients, it is then for clients and their psychologists to decide whether remote appointments are appropriate on a case by case basis. Remote appointments are not offered by all psychologists. We understand that remote appointments can be daunting for some clients wanting the extra comfort and support provided by face to face appointments and in these instances, the clients may choose to wait for face-to-face appointments to resume.

My claim has dropped out of the Claims Portal process at stage one

We have found that due to a number of reasons, defendants have been taking slightly longer to respond to claims submitted on the portal. It is understandably more difficult to investigate claims during lockdown and we have therefore ensured that we are updating our clients and managing their expectations on portal response times accordingly. In some cases, reasonable deadlines may be extended where defendant investigations have been delayed due to COVID-19 and claims have dropped out of the portal in line with working together to progress claims. If you have any specific questions regarding your claim, it is best you contact your solicitor directly.

COVID-19 Advice for employers

What is the Bounce Back Loan Scheme?

The Bounce Back Loan Scheme is a new initiative aimed at small and medium-sized businesses, allowing eligible businesses to borrow between £2,000 and £50,000, on favourable terms. Importantly, for the Scheme to function properly, loans are backed by the Government. Loan terms will be up to six years.

Will I pay interest?

The Government has confirmed there will be no fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. The Government has said there will be a ‘low rate of interest’, for the remainder of the loan.

On 12 May 2020 the Government announced that £8.378 billion of cumulative loans had been approved.

Who can apply?

Your business must be based in the UK. You must have been negatively affected by the coronavirus, a seemingly low threshold to satisfy for most business, it appears.

Who is excluded?

Certain types of business are specifically excluded from the Scheme. These are:

  1. banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  2. public-sector bodies
  3. further-education establishments, if they are grant-funded
  4. state-funded primary and secondary schools

Aside from these exclusions, your business must not have been an ‘undertaking in difficulty’, on 31 December 2019.

What if I am already claiming funding under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme?

If are already claiming under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, then you cannot apply for a Bounce Back Loan. However, if you have already received a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan of up to £50,000 and would like to transfer it to the new Bounce Back Loan Scheme, then you can arrange this with your lender.

When did the Scheme open?

4 May 2020.

How do I apply?

You will need to contact one of the 11 lenders participating in the scheme. You will be asked to complete a short online application form. Find a lender here.

What is the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The Job Retention Scheme is a temporary scheme for employers that cannot maintain their current workforce due to operations being severely affected by the coronavirus.  Earlier guidance made it clear that the scheme was for employees who would otherwise have been laid off due to the pandemic.   The new guidance is less strict and in practice, it appears that any entity is eligible as there is no requirement to show evidence of the impact of the pandemic on your organisation.

Under this scheme you can furlough employees and receive a reimbursement from HMRC. Up until August 2020 this will be up to 80% of their wage, up to a maximum of £2,500. In addition, you will be reimbursed for the associated Employer National Insurance contributions and pension contributions (up to the level of the minimum automatic enrolment employer pension contribution).

From August, the Government will start tapering the furlough scheme. From August, the Government will continue to pay 80% of wages up to £2,500, but employers will need to pay NI and pensions contributions.

From September the Government will pay just 70% of wages, up to a cap of £2,187.50, with employers topping up the 10% difference up to 80% and the £2,500 cap. Employers will continue to pay NI and pension contributions.

From October the Government will pay 60% of wages, up to £1,875, with the employer topping up the difference.

Up until the end of June 2020, any furloughed worker could not undertake any work for the employer. However, from July 2020, employers can bring back to work any previously furloughed employee on a part-time basis. The employer must pay the employee for their employees whilst at work. They can still claim through the scheme for the employees normal hours not worked.

Is my business eligible for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

The scheme is open to any entity with a payroll, including businesses, charities, recruitment agencies and public authorities.

In addition, you must have:

  • created and started a PAYE payroll scheme on or before 19 March 2020
  • enrolled for PAYE online
  • A UK bank account

Which employees are covered by the Job Retention Scheme?

Employees on any type of employment contract.  This includes part-time, agency, flexible and zero-hours contracts.

You can only furlough employees that were on your PAYE payroll on or before 19 March and which were notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020.

In respect of any employee employed and on the payroll as of 28 February 2020 who was made redundant or stopped working for you prior to 19 March 2020, you would need to re-employ them but they would then be eligible to be furloughed.

Is there a minimum furlough period?

Yes, any employee placed on furlough must be furloughed for a minimum period of three consecutive weeks.

How do I select which employees to furlough?

When deciding who to furlough, there is no requirement that you carry out the equivalent to a redundancy selection process.  Sometimes it might be clear that a certain group of employees are no longer required to work.  However, if you need to furlough some employees from one group whilst needing others to carry on working, then it may help to use a documented process like a redundancy selection process.

As you would be changing the status of your employees you must comply with existing employment law, including equality and discrimination legislation.

Do I need the employee’s agreement to be furloughed?

Yes, unless the employee’s contract has a term allowing you to impose furlough on them, which is unlikely.  Government guidance states that you should discuss any changes with your staff and that any changes to an employee’s contract must be by agreement.

In practice, most employees will agree to be furloughed, rather than face dismissal by reason of redundancy.

Can I furlough an employee that is self-isolating or on sick leave?

Government guidance highlights that the scheme is not to be used to cover short-term absences from work due to sickness, hence the three-week minimum furlough period.

Although neither short term illness nor self-isolation should be relevant to a decision to furlough, if there are business reasons to furlough an employee who is off sick or self-isolating then you may do so.

Can I furlough a shielding employee?

Yes, you can furlough an employee that, in line with government advice, is shielding.

Is there a minimum furlough period for each employee?

Yes, as the scheme is not intended to cover short-term absences, there is a three-week minimum furlough period.

Can I furlough an employee more than once? Can I rotate staff who are furloughed?

Yes, there is no restriction on how many times you can furlough an individual, so long as each instance of furlough lasts at least three weeks.

There is also nothing in the guidance to stop you from rotating staff on furlough, provided you adhere to the minimum three-week rule.

Can an employee still work if furloughed?

When on furlough, an employee cannot do any work that makes money for you, or any organisation linked or associated with you. They also cannot provide any service for you, or for any organisation linked or associated with you.

Your employee can, however, take part in volunteer work or training.

If their contract allows, they can work for another employer whilst on furlough.

Up until July, you were not allowed to work at all if on furlough. However, the Chancellor has stated that, from July, as part of ‘flexible furloughing’, workers will be allowed to return to work part-time with their employers. Employers will be responsible for paying wages whilst at work. The Government will continue to pay for any time on furlough, although the ‘tapering’ will kick in from August.

Is there a deadline to furlough an employee?

From 30 June, an employer can only furlough an employee that they have previously furloughed for a full 3 weeks prior to 30 June. This means that there is a cut-off point by which an employer can furlough an employee for the first time, of 10 June (so that the employee can complete 3 weeks’ furlough by 30 June).

What if the reduction to 80% of pay brings the employee’s pay below the minimum wage?

In most cases this will not be a problem for you, as you must only pay the National Living Wage/National Minimum Wage for the hours that individuals are working.  Furloughed employees are not working and so can be paid below the minimum wage.

However, be aware that furloughed employees can still do training, and training is treated as working time, for the purposes of minimum wage calculations.  You will therefore need to ensure that your employees’ furlough payments are enough to cover any training hours.

If the furlough payment is less than the appropriate minimum wage, then you will need to ‘top up’ to ensure the minimum wage is paid for 100% of the training time.

What are the rules for holiday entitlement when furloughed?

Workers are entitled to 5.6 weeks’ paid holiday per year. Guidance confirms that workers placed on furlough continue to accrue statutory holiday entitlements, as well as any additional holiday under their contract of employment.

What about holiday pay during furlough?

The general principal behind holiday pay is that it should reflect what an employee would be paid if they were still working – a worker should not be financially worse off through taking holiday.

If a furloughed worker, receiving 80% of normal pay, decides to take holiday, then the employer must ‘top up the difference’, so that the worker is paid the correct holiday pay in accordance with current legislation.

Can an employer oblige a worker to take annual leave during furlough?

Yes. The latest guidance confirms that employers can oblige a worker to take annual leave during a period of furlough, subject to standard notice periods. Employers should engage with the worker and explain their reasons, before requiring the worker to take leave during furlough. An employer must consider whether restrictions, such as the need to socially distance or self-isolate, would prevent a worker from ‘resting, relaxing and enjoying leisure time, which is the fundamental purpose of holiday’.

What about the coronavirus and carrying forward leave?

New regulations allow a worker to carry forward holiday where, due to the coronavirus, it has ‘not been reasonably practicable to take it in the leave year to which it relates’. Untaken holiday up to four weeks may carried forward into the following two leave years.

However, bear in mind that, as noted above, employers can oblige a worker to take annual leave during furlough.

If the employer is unable to pay a furloughed worker the additional pay which will usually be required for holiday leave, then this would usually make it ‘not reasonably practicable for the worker to take their leave, allowing you to carry leave forwards’.

Where I can I find more information and analysis about the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

Most of the Government’s guidance around the scheme is contained here.

Do I have to pay an employee if he has the Coronavirus or is self-isolating?

If your employee is absent from work because they have coronavirus, or because they are following government advice and self-isolating, then they are eligible for SSP.  Of course, depending on their contract of employment they may be entitled to a higher rate of pay than SSP.

What if people are discriminating against, bullying or harassing work colleagues?

We have heard reports that in some workplaces there has been harassment and bullying of work colleagues from South East Asia and China specifically, by some of their co-workers who have displayed prejudice in their attitude to the risk of getting COVID-19. As an employer it is important that you respond immediately to any allegations of racist or bullying types of behaviour and that you have taken reasonable steps to prevent this type of conduct. Ensure that you have strong equality policies in place and are seen to be enforcing them.

What if an employee wants to take time off because their child’s school has closed?

If employees are unable to attend work because their child’s school is closed or they need to look after a dependant who has coronavirus, they may be legally entitled to reasonable unpaid time off (and not to their detriment in so far as returning to work is concerned). This right is identified in s.57a  of the Employment Rights Act 1996. The company may also have a policy about what should happen if an employee requires leave to care for dependants. If such a policy exists, it could be triggered in these circumstances

An employee must inform their employer as soon as reasonably practicable of the reason for their absence.  This type of leave is intended for short periods and the novel nature of COVID-19, means that putting an estimate on when the employee will be back at work, may be difficult to do.

There is no statutory right to be paid during this type of absence, although the employee’s contract of employment or employee handbook may provide for pay to be made in such circumstances.

ACAS guidelines on good practice

ACAS has some useful guidance for employers on how they can support the health, safety and wellbeing of staff and customers.

  • make sure everyone is social distancing if they come into the workplace
  • be especially careful and take extra steps for vulnerable groups, including those who are pregnant, aged 70 or over, or who have a long-term health condition
  • hold meetings as remote calls and avoid travel as much as possible
  • make sure managers know how to spot symptoms of coronavirus and are clear on any relevant processes, for example sickness reporting and sick pay, and procedures in case someone in the workplace shows symptoms of the virus
  • make sure there are clean places to wash hands with hot water and soap, and encourage everyone to wash their hands regularly
  • provide hand sanitiser and tissues for staff, and encourage them to use them
  • make sure everyone’s contact numbers and emergency contact details are up to date
  • keep everyone updated on actions being taken to reduce risks of exposure in the workplace
  • keep up to date with the latest government advice

As an employer, what extra steps (other than those recommended by ACAS) should I be taking to control the spread of coronavirus in my workplace and to help my employees, should they get coronavirus?

  • Examine the current risk assessments you have in place. Consider whether a specific risk assessment is required to deal with the risks posed by coronavirus.
  • Consider increasing your employer’s liability insurance cover.
  • Offer your employees death in service insurance cover as a benefit. Death in service insurance pays out a lump sum to the family of the individual if they die whilst in the service of their employer.

Immigration advice for employers

Are foreign nationals eligible for the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

Yes.  The government has confirmed that foreign nationals are eligible to be furloughed and that any grant under this scheme is not classed as ‘access to public funds’.  The guidance confirms that this applies to employees on all types of visa.

Can a Tier 2 or Tier 5 worker start work before their visa is decided?

Ordinarily, there is a general rule which prevents an individual from commencing employment with an employer until their Tier 2 or Tier 5 visa is granted by the Home Office.  However, a new concession allows individuals who have applied under Tier 2 and Tier 5 to start employment with their employer, before their application has been approved.

This is provided that:

  • The individual has been assigned a certificate of sponsorship
  • The individual submitted their application before their current visa expired
  • The role they will be employed in is the same as is stated on their certificate of sponsorship

The new policy reminds us of existing guidance, that an employer’s responsibility towards the employee starts from the date the certificate of sponsorship is assigned to the individual (as opposed to the date their visa is approved).  The employer is expected to continue to maintain proper records and monitoring in respect of the individual.

Naturally, if the individual’s application is refused or rejected then their employment must be immediately terminated.

How can I carry out a Right to Work check given social distancing?

Right to Work checks usually require face-to-face contact with the employee to undertake a document check, something of a problem in present times.  It is therefore unsurprising that measures have been introduced to allow for remote checks to be done.

As of 30th March 2020, checks can now be carried out remotely through video calls.  Right to Work documents can now be sent as scanned documents or as a photograph of the document, rather than as original documents.

If a person cannot provide an acceptable document then the employer is invited to use the Employer Checking Service.   If the person has a right to work then the employer is given a Positive Verification Notice, giving the employer a statutory excuse for six months.

Once the measures end (and apparently, we will be told in advance when they will end) then you will need to do ‘normal’ checks going forwards.

It is also important to note that, when the measures end, you will be required to carry out retrospective checks on existing employees who either started working for you during the special measures, or who required a follow-up right during this time.

For further information on precisely how to carry out Right to Work check during the special measures, and how to conduct a retrospective check, look at the detailed guidance.

If you are an employer and would like to discuss any immigration matter, book a free consultation with us.

Advice for the self-employed

What is the Coronavirus Self-employment Income Support Scheme?

The Self-Employment Income Support Scheme is a government cash grant for those who are self-employed or a member of a partnership. Under this Scheme there are two grants available. Under the first grant you can claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits, up to £2,500 per month.

Further to the initial grant, the Government has announced that those eligible will be able to claim a second and final grant in August. The second grant will be reduced to 70% of average monthly trading profits, covering three months’ worth of profits, capped at £6,570.

Who is eligible for the Scheme?

You must be self-employed as a sole trader or be a member of a partnership to qualify for the Scheme. Further requirements are that:

  1. you are trading when you apply, or would be except for coronavirus
  2. You intend to continue to trade in tax year 2020/21
  3. you traded in the tax year 2019 to 2020
  4. you submitted your Self Assessment tax return for the tax year 2018/2019
  5. you must confirm that your business has been adversely affected by coronavirus

You must also meet key eligibility requirements which relate to your ‘trading profits’ and ‘total income’:

  1. you must have lost trading profits due to coronavirus
  2. your trading profits must be no more than £50,000 for either the tax year 2018/19 or for the average of the last three tax years (2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19)
  3. your trading profits from self-employment must make up at least 50% of your ‘total income’

How does the Government calculate ‘trading profits’ under the Scheme?

In calculating your trading profits, HMRC will go by the figures on your tax returns for your total trading income (turnover). HMRC will then deduct any allowable business expenses and capital expenditure.

There is a list of deductible business expenses, and further guidance on how these calculations are made, here.

How badly affected by the coronavirus does my business need to be, to qualify?

The guidance makes it clear that your business must have been ‘adversely affected by coronavirus’ and that you must have ‘lost trading profits due to coronavirus’. You will need to give your bank details to HMRC. The Government will take a risk-based approach when ensuring you are complying the Scheme.

How does the Government calculate ‘total income’ under the Scheme?

The Government will add together:

  • income from earnings
  • trading profits
  • property income
  • dividends
  • savings income
  • pension income
  • miscellaneous income (including social security income)

How much will I get?

The grant is based on your trading profit over the previous three tax years (2016/17,2017/18,2019/20): the trading profit of each year is added together then divided by three.

If you have not submitted a Self Assessment tax return for all three years, then HMRC will work out your average trading profit based on continuous periods of self-employment. This will be either:

  • tax years 2017/18 and 2018/19, or
  • the tax year 2018/19 only, even if you were self-employed in the tax year 2016/17

Under the first grant, your grant will be based on 80% of your trading profit, divided by 12 to get a monthly amount. The monthly amount you can receive is capped at £2,500. At present you can claim up to three months.

The second grant will be reduced to 70% of average monthly trading profits, covering three months’ worth of profits, capped at £6,570.

What if I have more than one trade?

The Government will work out the profits and losses from all your self-employed work, to work out your trading profit.

What if I have not yet submitted my 2018/19 tax return yet?

The normal deadline to file your latest self-assessment was 31 January 2020. The recent guidance extended this to 23 April 2020. Unfortunately, if you have not filed by 23 April 2020 then you are not eligible for the Scheme.

If I submitted changes to my tax returns after filing, is this taken in account?

When working out your eligibility or amount of grant, HMRC will not take account changes to submitted returns after 26 March 2020.

Is the Scheme subject to Income Tax and National Insurance Contributions?

Yes.

Can I also claim Universal Credit?

You can claim for Universal Credit whilst waiting for your grant. Any grant you receive under the Scheme is treated as self-employed income and as earnings for universal credit and will affect the amount of Universal Credit you will get. Universal Credit claims from an earlier period are not affected.

Can I still work if I claim?

Yes, you can continue to work or take on other employment or voluntarily work. This Scheme is not to be confused with the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, under which you must generally stop working for your employer if furloughed.

How will HMRC identify who is eligible?

HMRC will use data from their records on 2018/2019 tax returns to see who is eligible.

How do I make a claim?

HMRC state they will contact you if you are are eligible for the Scheme. If deemed eligible, you will be invited to claim through the GOV.UK online service. You are specifically requested not to contact HMRC as this will delay work on the Scheme.

What are the deadlines to apply for the grants?

The deadline for the first grant is 13 July. Applications for the second grant will open in August.

When will I receive payment?

The aim is that payments will be made by early June 2020.

This article does not constitute legal advice. Legal advice should be sought to address specific circumstances relating to COVID-19 and how it affects employers, employees and others. Information on COVID-19 is changing on a daily basis and the first port of call for public health guidance should be Public Health England.

social

Share Legal Guide

Share on facebook
Facebook
Share on twitter
Twitter
Share on linkedin
LinkedIn
Share on email
Email
Share on print
Print

Fill out our online form and we’ll come back to you:

Consent(Required)
Consent

Or call us today:

Harrogate 01423 788 538
Leeds 0113 483 1200

Fill in our contact form or call today:

Harrogate
01423 788 538

Leeds
0113 483 1200

Consent(Required)
Consent