27th March 2020
COVID-19 DAILY UPDATE
Job Retention Scheme
Publication this morning of the details of the Government’s Job Retention Scheme has answered many of the questions that I have been asked over the past week since the Chancellor announced he would support 80% of employers wage costs.
I hope my summary this morning has answered your queries but please do get in touch if anything is not clear. There are still some outstanding issues to resolve and I am desperately trying to get answers from the Treasury on these as we speak. The principal question being: do furloughed employees accrue holiday (and with it therefore the liability for holiday pay)?
There a couple of observations on the JRS that may be useful having been speaking with members over the course of today.
- Firstly, if you are a senior manager or director and you have to undertake certain statutory tasks and you are furloughed, then completion of these tasks is not considered to be work for the purposes of the scheme.
- Secondly, it is possible for you to put people on furlough and take them off again as many times as you’re like. The only criteria you must observe is that the furlough must last a minimum of three weeks.
It does seem that Directors who take income mainly as dividends do fall between the JRS and the self-employed support scheme.
Bacta itself has taken the decision to furlough four of its staff. Sarah Lovell, Tony Waldron, Murray McDougall and David Miller will therefore not be able to do any work until further notice. All enquiries that would otherwise have gone to them should be directed towards me.
Access to Finance
This should be getting easier. Please let me know if it isn’t. The FT has reported the banks got a telling off for, as I called it in my letter to the Chancellor, profiteering from the CBILS. As mentioned yesterday they cannot seek security on your home or go after it as part of a personal guarantee. To be clear and thanks to Tom Saxty of Claratus for this:
- facilities between £25,001 and £100K are to be secured on a short form guarantee
- for £100,001 to £250k a short form guarantee and debenture
- for £250k+ secured with a personal guaranteed, debenture and tangible security (but this cannot be your permanent private residence)
Local Authority Fees
I would advise all members affected to apply to their Local Authority to have their premises licences or any other fees rebated or suspended for the duration of the lockdown. Please let me know how local authorities react to the request.
Time to Pay
HMRC have published another helpline number open 8am – 4pm, Monday to Friday – 0800 024 1222
Update on Ongoing Work
We still have a number of asks on our list and we are doing all we can to get these heard by Government.
- Getting the leisure industry 100% rates relief formally extended to the leisure industry supply chain, i.e manufacturers, distributors and single site operators. I suggest these companies say to their local authorities that you are part of the leisure sector and therefore get the relief and are therefore not paying your rates. Again let me know how LAs respond.
- Getting the leisure sector grants cap of £51k raised. There are a number of members who are just over the cap and need this extra help.
- Getting the Scottish Government to award grants on a per venue basis rather than per business. I have asked Scottish members to write directly to their MSPs and MPs on this point. I was able to raise it with Fergus Ewing, Scottish Tourism Minister on a Conference call on Wednesday. I also pressed CBI DG to raise it in her call with Nicola Sturgeon the First Minister of Scotland. She reported back that she had made the point that consistency across all countries of the UK was important for business.
- I have written to the CEO of the Gambling Commission asking for understanding on the payment of fees as well as on completion of annual returns – the last thing anyone wants to be doing at the moment is filling in forms. I also asked for the Commission’s view on the payment of donations for GambleAware and other RET charities in light of the crisis. It does not seem unreasonable for these to be suspended or even cancelled for the moment. It is unlikely these charities will be busy given the entire retail gambling sector is shut.
- On the JRS a key ask is for some furloughed workers to be allowed to conduct simple routine (and not time consuming) maintenance and security jobs. Our businesses have been told to close. We have to look after our empty premises, not least for insurance purposes. If a business has a number of venues often spread out geographically, it is not unreasonable to ask a furloughed worker, who may even be a key holder for if the alarm goes, to just pop their head in to make sure everything is alright. Given statutory work is exempt so should this be without jeopardising their furloughed status.
Finally, can I again remind all members if you can find the time to write, email or ring your elected representatives of whatever kind to keep them posted on the impact this crisis is having. The more people saying the same thing the better.
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