To try and give you a helping hand through the coronavirus outbreak and beyond, we’ve collated some useful resources from various statutory bodies. This information is constantly being reviewed and we’re keeping this web page updated so please be sure to check in here regularly in order to keep abreast with all the latest developments.
Update 06.11.2020: Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme & Job Support Scheme
As of the beginning of the second national lockdown on 05.11.2020, the Job Support Scheme which was due to start on 01.11.2020 has been postponed and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, otherwise known as furlough, has been extended until March 2021.
To remind you about previous furlough arrangements, it was originally winding down in September and October with the government contribution being reduced to 70% and 60% respectively. These latest revisions reset the furlough scheme back to what it was in August; this being an 80% government contribution. The main points to note are as follows:-
A list of your furloughed staff and wages should be submitted via the HMRC portal. Read more about the Government Gateway at gov.uk/guidance/claim-for-wages-through-the-coronavirus-job-retention-scheme. There's specific advice on this scheme for law firms at lawsociety.org.uk/topics/coronavirus/coronavirus-covid-19-job-retention-scheme-guidance-for-law-firms.
Note that for clients of our Payroll service, we manage your portal submissions as an integral part of our service to you. If you aren’t using our outsourced Payroll service and want to, please drop us a line at email@example.com.
Update 05.11.2020: Guidance from the SRA, Law Society & CLC
The Law Society has responded to the second national lockdown by giving an overview of the new rules as applicable to law firms including confirming that the definition as key workers still applies, and property market and courts will remain open. Take a look at lawsociety.org.uk/topics/coronavirus/new-national-lockdown-in-england.
There's also older Law Society guidance on returning to the office at lawsociety.org.uk/topics/coronavirus/practical-framework-for-law-firms-and-sole-practitioners-on-return-to-the-office and lawsociety.org.uk/topics/coronavirus/safe-return-to-the-office-toolkit-for-firms.
On a related note, The Law Society's 'return, restart and recovery' campaign is, as its name suggests, set up to assist law firms to return to the office, restart the economy and drive recovery after coronavirus. Read more at lawsociety.org.uk/campaigns/return-restart-and-recovery.
With coronavirus generating so many questions from law firms relating to home working and continued regulatory obligations, the SRA has helpfully compiled some common queries with answers at sra.org.uk/sra/news/coronavirus-qa and published a coronavirus update at sra.org.uk/sra/news/coronavirus-update. Topics cover everything from confidentiality and deadlines to missing key role holders and progressing matters without having the client present.
Here’s CLC guidance for conveyancing specialists: clc-uk.org.
Update 24.09.2020: Winter Economy Plan
The government's Winter Economy Plan offers financial support through job protection, longer VAT repayments and loan pay back flexibility. For more information and to sign up your law firm to these schemes, please visit gov.uk/government/news/chancellor-outlines-winter-economy-plan.
Further information specifically regarding the VAT payments deferral scheme can be found below.
Update 01.09.2020: Cuts to Standard Monthly Payments
Resulting from low billing over the past few months, some law firms are having their Standard Monthly Payments cut by the Legal Aid Agency. In a statement issued on 19.08.2020, the Law Society explained it’s asked the government to provide comprehensive support for cashflow for legal aid firms, as yet to no avail.
As such, the Law Society recommends not relying on help being offered this way. In addition, it advises speaking to your contract manager if you face similar cuts, raising the possibility of ‘exceptional circumstances’ applying and drawing attention to obligations set out in Public Procurement Notes 02/2020 and 04/2020. Read more at lawsociety.org.uk/topics/legal-aid/cuts-to-standard-monthly-payments-guidance-to-firms.
Update 17.08.2020: Self-Employed Income Support Scheme
Self-employed individuals or members of a partnership can claim a grant if earnings have been adversely affected. Once eligibility has been confirmed, grants should be paid within 6 working days. Access record-keeping and reporting requirements, and find out how to submit a claim at gov.uk/guidance/claim-a-grant-through-the-self-employment-income-support-scheme. You must make your claim for the second grant on or before 19.10.2020.
Update 29.07.2020: Legal Aid Agency financial relief guidance
The Legal Aid Agency has published changes to its ways of working and financial support available to legal aid practitioners facing cash flow problems at gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-legal-aid-agency-contingency-response.
The Ministry of Justice has announced additional support packages, on top of the Legal Aid Agency's measures, to keep the justice system running. Changes include reducing the threshold for work done to £1000 from £5000. Read more at gov.uk/government/news/support-package-for-legal-providers-will-ensure-access-to-justice-during-coronavirus-outbreak.
Update 09.07.2020: Ad hoc financial support
Check out this government web page for other financial assistance schemes to support your business through this ongoing period of disruption: gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19/covid-19-support-for-businesses.
There’s also the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme offering loans of up to £5 million for SMEs through the British Business Bank; a new lending facility from the Bank of England to help support liquidity among larger firms, helping them bridge coronavirus disruption to their cash flows through loans; and small business grant funding of £10,000 for all business in receipt of small business rate relief or rural rate relief.
Update 14.05.2020: Government advice for conveyancing specialists
The government's early advice to conveyancers centred around 'prioritising the health of individuals and the public'. As such, conveyancing specialists were initially told that occupied property moves should only happen if contracts had already been exchanged and deferral was impossible. Instructions dictated that moves into unoccupied properties should only continue subject to certain caveats: lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/advice/articles/guidance-to-conveyancers-advising-clients-on-house-moves.
The latest guidance from The Law Society regarding the conveyancing marketplace is that safe home moving can now take place, with further details available at lawsociety.org.uk/topics/coronavirus/coronavirus-covid-19-guidance-to-conveyancers-advising-clients-on-house-moves.
Update 04.05.2020: Bounce Back Loans Scheme
Small businesses and sole traders can apply for loans between £2,000 and £50,000 to help make it through the coronavirus outbreak and protect jobs. These loans are charged at 2.5% interest but the first 12 months' repayments are covered by the government. Find out if you're eligible and apply for a loan at gov.uk/government/news/new-bounce-back-loans-to-launch-today.
Update 01.04.2020: Data protection obligations
Both the Information Commissioner's Office and organisations are being urged to take a proportionate approach to data protection to permit more frequent remote working and use of personal electronic devices. However, firms are still expected to consider the security implications of homeworking and the need for any risk mitigation.
With regards to employees contracting COVID-19 and employers' data protection requirements, colleagues (and potentially prospects, clients and others to whom contact has been made) should be informed but employers need to decide whether it’s necessary to identify the individual concerned. Find out more by visiting lawsociety.org.uk/support-services/coronavirus/coronavirus-and-data-protection.
Update 26.03.2020: Deferral of VAT payments
Two key takeaways of deferral of VAT payments as explained on the gov.uk/guidance/deferral-of-vat-payments-due-to-coronavirus-covid-19 web page: First, submit your VAT return on time in the normal way. Second, if you want to defer payment and normally pay by direct debit, cancel your DD instruction now. You'll have to pay the outstanding VAT by the end of March 2021.
In its subsequent announcement, the government advised that the VAT payment holiday implemented in March to help businesses manage their cash flow has NOT been extended. This means if you cancelled your DD to HMRC to take advantage of this deferral, you'll need to reinstate your DD or make other payment arrangements in time for the first payment after 30.06.2020.
Update 13.03.2020: Sick pay and isolation
Employees who have symptoms, have been told they have symptoms or live with someone who has symptoms must get an isolation note from 111.nhs.uk/isolation-note. You should expect your employees to complete the online process and pass the final form to you. This will give you an audit trail to support your claim for SSP if you’re inspected once the dust has settled.