Bounce Back Loans scheme for small businesses

The Chancellor has announced a new loans measure, known as the Bounce Back Loans Scheme (BBLS), which will allow small businesses to borrow up to 25 per cent of their turnover, up to a maximum of £50,000.

The BBLS will be 100% backed by a Government guarantee, unlike the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan scheme (CBILS) and will offer an interest-free period for 12 months.

Businesses will be able to apply online via a short and simple two-page self-certification form and because the loan is entirely Government-backed it is hoped that lenders will have the confidence to offer finance without the lengthy and complex red tape associated with CBILS and other loan schemes. 

Importantly, firms applying for the new loans will only have to prove that they were viable in the past before the crisis, not that they will remain viable after the crisis.   This future viability criteria has been a major issue with CBILS. 

There remains some concern that banks will still wish to assess the latest financials through a ‘cash available to service debt’ calculation. Where there isn’t sufficient cash to service the debt then there are fears that the loan may still not be granted despite the Government guarantee. Further clarification is expected soon.

The scheme has been designed specifically for small firms, including sole traders, that require ‘vital cash injections’ to help them operate during these challenging times.    It will launch for applications from 9am on Monday 4 May and the loans will be provided through a network of accredited lenders.

The Government said that loans will be “advanced as quickly as possible” and that they will “agree a low standardised level of interest for the remaining period of the loan.”

We will keep you up to date on the application process once more is known. 

Statutory Residence Test changed to allow skilled workers from around the world to assist the UK’s coronavirus response

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has written to the Treasury Select Committee, to inform it that the Statutory Residence Test (SRT) is being relaxed temporarily so ‘highly skilled’ individuals from around the world can join the UK’s coronavirus response without jeopardising their tax status.

The measures apply to workers such as anaesthetists and engineers working on ventilator design and production.

The move means that time spent in the UK working on the country’s coronavirus response between 1 March and 1 June 2020 will be disregarded for the purpose of the SRT. The period the relaxed measures apply to may be extended.

Without the measure, these skilled workers could have seen their global earnings becoming taxable in the UK.

Full details of the changes to the SRT are set to be included in the Finance Bill 2020.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme extended to end of June

The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a further extension to the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS), which will see employers able to furlough employees for an additional month.

The CJRS allows employers to retain employees on the PAYE Payroll who are not carrying out work for them by placing them on furlough and to claim a grant of 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s usual pay, plus employer National Insurance Contributions (NICS) and minimum employer auto-enrolment pension contributions.

It means that employers can retain their workforce while reducing their staffing costs, although furloughed workers cannot carry out any work for the employer.

Business groups had sounded the alarm that employers could start the ball rolling on the redundancy process if the scheme was not extended beyond the end of May, because of the requirement for consultation periods if employers expect they will have to make collective redundancies.

Employers expecting to dismiss 20 or more employees within a 90-day period must hold a 30-day consultation, while those expecting to dismiss 100 or more employees must consult for 45 days.

This means that had the CJRS ended on 31 May, employers expecting more than 100 redundancies would have needed to have started consultations on 16 April 2020 if they planned to make employees redundant at the end of their furlough period. Meanwhile, Those expecting more than 20 redundancies would have needed to begin consulting on 1 May 2020.

Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme online portal launches

The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) online application portal went live at 8am on Monday 20 April 2020.

The CJRS allows employers to retain employees on the PAYE Payroll who are not carrying out work for them by placing them on furlough for a period of between three weeks and four months, unless the scheme is extended further.

The employer can then claim a grant of 80 per cent of a furloughed employee’s usual pay, plus employer National Insurance Contributions (NICS) and minimum employer auto-enrolment pension contributions.

According to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), the portal can handle as many as 450,000 applications an hour. It says that grants will be in employers’ bank accounts within six days of applying.

At the same time, HMRC has published detailed guidance on how employers can calculate the amounts they are entitled to claim, including for those where salaries vary or there is other complexity in the employment relationship. The new guidance is available here.

Amid fears that the scheme is vulnerable to fraud, HMRC has also launched an online portal for employees and members of the public to report suspected fraudulent claims.

OGR Stock Denton – Coronavirus Precautions

We are committed to containing and delaying the spread of Coronavirus in the UK and are following government advice to ensure we protect our staff, clients and contacts from the COVID19 outbreak and to help prevent the spread of the disease.

We already have contingency plans in place to try and ensure that the essential services we provide will not be affected.

Thanks to the technology we employ within our practice, we are still open for business, with the majority of our staff working remotely from home and doing more meetings by telephone rather than face-to-face.

We understand that this is a difficult time for many of us and appreciate your understanding. We kindly request that should you be required to send us any information, that you do so electronically wherever possible rather than post anything to our offices (please note that we continue however not to accept service by post without our prior authorisation).

If you have any queries regarding our procedures for the Coronavirus or if we can assist you in anyway please do not hesitate to contact us. 

Cyclist who lost costs ruling after equal blame crash with pedestrian settles for £30,000

A cyclist who was involved in a collision with a pedestrian who was crossing the road while looking at her phone in an incident a judge ruled they were equally to blame for, but where he was responsible for the legal costs of both parties, has settled for £30,000.

The cyclist, Robert Hazeldean, and the pedestrian, Gemma Brushett, were both left unconscious following the July 2015 collision.

While Brushett sought compensation from Hazeldean, who had no insurance in place, he did not counter-claim, meaning he was deemed responsible for the legal costs of both parties on top of damages of £4,300 to be paid to Brushett.

Under the qualified one-way cost shifting system that was introduced in 2013, people involved in an accident who do not counter-claim can be liable for their own and the other party’s legal costs.

The lawyers acting for Brushett initially claimed costs totalling £112,000, but have now settled with Hazeldean for £30,000.

In addition to covering Brushett’s lawyers’ costs and her £4,300 compensation, Hazeldean also had to cover his own legal fees of £25,000.

Following the initial ruling, a GoFundMe appeal was set up by friends of Hazeldean, which ultimately raised more than £59,000 towards his costs. After costs, interests, damages and GoFundMe’s fees were taken into account, Hazeldean was left £2,979 out of pocket.

Speaking to The Guardian, Hazeldean said: “It’s not the result I was hoping for, but everything was spiralling and the risk of being bankrupted regardless of the outcome was too high. I felt I didn’t really have a choice.”

Annual legacy income predicted to exceed £3.9 billion by 2024

Legacy research firm, Legacy Foresight, has issued revised forecasts that predict legacy income will rise by 3.6 per cent annually between now and 2024, representing a rise from £3.2 billion to £3.9 billion in 2024.

The revised forecast was issued after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published official data predicting the number of deaths in the UK will rise from the current level of 600,000 a year to 645,000 a year in 2024.

Legacy Foresight expects that this will mean an increase in the number of legacy gifts of 10,000 from 120,000 to 130,000 between now and 2024.

The forecasts also factor in predicted rises in UK GDP and house prices over the coming years.

Jon Franklin, Economist at Legacy Forecast said: “For now, legacy market growth will not return to the levels seen in the run-up to Brexit when incomes were growing at 4.1 per cent per year.

“However, at a time when many charities are reporting flat or falling donations, these forecasts are welcome news for fundraising teams across the UK.”

Richard Hill, Programme Manager at Legacy Foresight, added: “We believe that come unusually large bequests bolstered income growth in early 2019.

“We saw total bequest numbers down nine per cent or 2018 figures. We estimate that three per cent of this fall was due to a short-term reduction in deaths after the unusually severe winter of 2018/19. The remaining six per cent drop was caused by the widely reported delays at probate courts.

“These delays now appear to be lessening, with a backlog of around 3,200 bequests to be processed over the coming months. Legacy notifications should return to ‘normal’ levels during 2020.”

Good Work Plan to be phased in from April 2020

Described as one of the most significant overhauls of the UK’s employment law in 20 years, the implementation of the Good Work Plan is just weeks away. 

Businesses will be expected to familiarise themselves with the wide-reaching changes and take steps to prepare for the new rules, which are due to come into force from on 6 April 2020.

To help you get to grips with the key changes, here is a brief rundown of what the Good Work Plan will mean for employers.

Written contracts of employment

The plan introduces several changes to the rights to receive a written Statement of Main Terms (SMT).

This document will need to include an employee’s key terms of employment, including pay and annual leave entitlement. Employers currently have two months to provide it to a new employee. Importantly, this document will now need to be provided on day one to all workers.

Holiday Pay

The mandatory reference period for calculating holiday pay will increase and employers will have to use a reference period of 52 weeks, (instead of the current 12 weeks) when calculating holiday pay for staff whose pay varies, including the zero-hours workforce.

This calculation method will result in a payment which balances out any peaks and troughs of working hours throughout the year.

Employment status

The Government has confirmed that the tests used to determine who is an employee, worker or self-employed will be adjusted.

The results of this are likely to be that many self-employed individuals will be re-classed as workers.

Agency Workers

‘Swedish derogation model’ contracts for agency workers will be banned. These contracts proceed based on a legal loophole to avoid the requirement to pay agency workers the same basic pay as direct recruits at the hirer organisation after 12 weeks of an assignment. 

Those who are currently engaged on these contracts will be entitled to a statement to explain the effect of the ban on their pay. As a separate measure, all agency workers will be entitled to a key facts sheet explaining the details of their payment.

Employers must consider the impact of these changes on their business and how employees are paid. 

Dispute over cat leads to four-year legal battle

A dispute between neighbours over the feeding of a cat has reached a conclusion after a four-year legal battle.

The dispute saw Jackie and John Hall commence proceedings against their neighbour, Nicola Lesbirel, accusing her of the theft of Maine Coon, Ozzy.

The couple accused Ms Lesbirel of repeatedly removing the cat’s collar and replacing it with one marked with her phone number alongside the words ‘my home’.

After fitting Ozzy with a GPS collar, the couple says that they discovered that he was entering their neighbour’s home on a regular basis.

The couple had been seeking an injunction that would prevent Ms Lesbirel of taking Ozzy into her home or feeding him and the case was due to be heard at Central London County Court.

However, Ms Lesbirel agreed out of court to make legally binding promises that she would restrict her interaction with Ozzy, which include not feeding him, letting him into her home, or putting him in a box or basket.

The Cats Protection League said: “We have never come across a case in which the courts have granted an injunction to prevent someone from feeding their neighbours’ cats.

“We have been contacted from time to time by people who want to know what to do when neighbours feed their cats and, in effect, encourage the cats to relocate.

“In practice, most people who feed other peoples’ cats do so in the well-meaning and honest belief that the cats are strays, have no owners and are hungry.

“From a legal point of view, cats are regarded as property and an offence would be committed under the Theft Act 1968 if the ‘feeder’ dishonestly appropriated the cats with the intention of permanently depriving the owners of their cat.”

Link: Couple sue neighbour for feeding their cat in four-year £20,000 legal battle

Survey reveals increased willingness to challenge Wills

A survey that was carried out by Direct Line Life Insurance has found that people in the UK are increasingly willing to challenge the contents of a Will.

The insurer found that more than 12.6 million people in the UK would be prepared to instigate court proceedings to a challenge a Will if they thought that the way assets were divided would be inappropriate.

The findings are backed up by official figures, which show that in 2017 the number of contested probate cases increased by six per cent in 12 months.

Wills can be challenged on a number of grounds:

  • Lack of testamentary capacity
  • Lack of valid execution
  • Lack of knowledge and approval
  • Lack of financial provision
  • Undue influence
  • Fraud

Challenges on the grounds of undue influence are thought to be the most common, but also the least successful because of the inherent difficulty of demonstrating that this was the case.

Jane Morgan, Business Manager at Direct Line Life Insurance, said: “While people are increasingly contesting Wills, everyone has the right to choose how they’d like to distribute their assets, even if it seems unusual or excludes even the closest family members.”

Link: Millions of Britons would dispute an inheritance if unhappy with result, says poll