Category: Covid-19 update

Travelling during COVID-19: Travel corridors

COVID-19 brought a lot of uncertainties to travellers. The change of policy on travel from France and the Netherlands shows that decision on travel restrictions can virtually be made overnight.

In this article, we will explain which travel corridors are currently open and how you can avoid complications while travelling.

What is a travel corridor?

A travel corridor (often referred to as an air bridge) is a reciprocal arrangement between two countries allowing travel without the need to quarantine for 14 days. Those travel corridors are under a constant review by the government and might exclude any country that has seen a rise of coronavirus cases.

The countries currently included in the travel corridor exemption, as listed on the Government website of 14 August 2020, are as follows:

 

  • Akrotiri and Dhekelia
  • Anguilla
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba
  • British Antarctic Territory
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • Brunei (added 11 August – if you arrived in England from Brunei before 11 August, you will need to self–isolate)
  • Cayman Islands
  • the Channel Islands
  • Croatia
  • Curaçao
  • Cyprus
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Dominica
  • Estonia
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Fiji
  • Finland
  • French Polynesia
  • Gibraltar
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Greenland
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe
  • Hong Kong
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • the Isle of Man
  • Italy
  • Jamaica
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Macao (Macau)
  • Malaysia (added 11 August – if you arrived in England from Malaysia before 11 August, you will need to self–isolate)
  • Mauritius
  • Montserrat
  • New Caledonia
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands
  • Poland
  • Reunion
  • San Marino
  • Seychelles
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • St Barthélemy
  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
  • St Kitts and Nevis
  • St Lucia
  • St Pierre and Miquelon
  • St Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Turkey
  • Vatican City State
  • Vietnam

 

 

What if My Time was Split between Countries on the list and not on the list?

If you spent time in a country which is not on the list and go to a country on the list it will depend on the number of days you spent in those countries. For example, if you spent 7 days in a country not on the list and 7 days in a country on the list, you will have to self-isolate in England for 7 days because 7 out of 14 days you spent in an exempt country.

What is Meant by Self-isolation?

Self-isolation effectively means that you cannot leave the place where you are staying in the UK for the first two weeks after arrival. You should (as taken from the Government website):

“not have visitors, including friends and family, unless they are providing essential care. The only friends and family who you can have contact with are those who travelled with you or people who you are staying with.

You cannot go out to work or school or visit public areas. You should not go shopping. If you require help buying groceries, other shopping, or picking up medication, you should ask friends or relatives or order a delivery.

In England, you must only exercise within your home or garden. You cannot leave your home to walk your dog. You will need to ask friends or relatives to help you with this.

NHS Volunteer Responders are also available if you need help collecting shopping, medication, or would like a telephone ‘check-in and chat’. Call 0808 196 3646 (8 am to 8 pm) to arrange volunteer support. You can arrange one-off support, or schedule more regular help whilst you are self-isolating.

In England, you can only leave your accommodation in limited circumstances. These include where:

  • you need urgent medical assistance (or where your doctor has advised you to get medical assistance)
  • you need access to basic necessities like food and medicines, but only in exceptional circumstances such as where you cannot arrange for these to be delivered
  • you need to access critical public services such as social services and victim support services, but only in exceptional circumstances
  • you need to go to the funeral of a family member or someone you live with
  • you need to visit a dying or critically ill family member or someone you live with
  • you need to fulfil a legal obligation such as participate in legal proceedings
  • there’s an emergency

You are not allowed to change the place where you are self-isolating except in very limited circumstances, including where:

  • a legal obligation requires you to change address, such as where you are a child whose parents live separately, and you need to move between homes as part of a shared custody agreement
  • it is necessary for you to stay overnight at the accommodation before travelling to the place where you will be self-isolating for the remainder of the 14 days
  • there’s an emergency

If this happens, you should provide full details of each address where you will self-isolate on the public health passenger locator form. If in exceptional circumstances, you cannot remain where you are staying, you must update the form as soon as possible”.

Final words

The travel corridors change on a daily basis. We recommend you to frequently check the governmental website if you are planning to go on holidays in order to avoid unnecessary complications.

 

Employing EU citizens after Brexit

Recently, the Home Office started to refuse more and more applications for EU settlement scheme. As of June 2020, there were 3.71 million applications. In May 2020 Home Office made 900 refusals and in June 2020 it refused 1,400 applications.

A lot of UK employers have a significant number of EU employees as a part of their workforce. If employees lose their permission to work in the UK, employers might bear a lot of costs. If your employees apply as early as possible it will give them a chance to resubmit the application if it is refused. If, however, the employees wait until the deadline of 30 June 2021 they might lose permission to work in the UK and might not be able to re-apply. The process is also taking longer at the moment because of the COVID-19.

If an employee does not have valid permission to work in the UK past the deadline, it might lead to their dismissal. This will not only have a negative effect on the employee but also the employer can lose a valuable part of the workforce.

In order to avoid any complications with your application, you can consult one of our experienced lawyers for the EU settlement scheme application.

Contact us: contact@sterling-law.co.uk or 07 305 966 531

 

Covid & Visa sponsorship: Tier 2, Tier 4, Tier 5

The Home office has updated their guidance for Tier 2, 4 and 5 visa sponsors in the UK who are sponsoring those affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).

If your student or employee is absent

No enforcement action will be taken against sponsors who continue to sponsor students or employees despite absences due to coronavirus.

Sponsors do not need to report student or employee absences related to coronavirus.

This can include absences due to illness, their need to isolate or inability to travel due to travel restrictions.

Sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship if because of coronavirus:

  • a student is unable to attend for more than 60 days
  • an employee is absent from work without pay for more than 4 weeks

The above will be kept under review.

If you have issued a Certificate of Sponsorship (CoS) or a confirmation of acceptance for studies (CAS) and the sponsored employee or student has not yet applied for a visa

The employee or student will still be able to apply for a visa.

The start date for the course or employment stated on the CoS or CAS may have changed. We will not automatically refuse such cases.

For example, we may accept a CoS or CAS if they have become invalid because the employee or student was unable to travel as a result of coronavirus. We will consider this on a case by case basis.

If you’re sponsoring a student who’s waiting for their Tier 4 visa application to be decided

You may allow students to start their studies before their visa application has been decided if:

  • you are a Tier 4 sponsor (other than Tier 4 Legacy Sponsors)
  • you have assigned the student a CAS
  • the student submitted their application before their current visa expired and has shown you evidence of this
  • the course they start is the same as the one listed on their CAS
  • the student has a valid Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS) certificate if required

Your reporting responsibilities start from the date that you issue the CAS, not from the date that their application is granted.

If the student’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused you must terminate the student’s studies.

If you’re sponsoring employees who are working from home

You do not have to notify us if you’re sponsoring employees who are working from home due to coronavirus.

Other changes to their working arrangements must still be reported as usual.

If you’re sponsoring an employee who’s waiting for their Tier 2 or 5 visa application to be decided

You may allow employees to start work before their visa application has been decided if:

  • you have assigned them a CoS
  • the employee submitted their application before their current visa expired
  • the role they are employed in is the same as the one on their CoS

Your reporting responsibilities for an employee start from the date you have assigned them a CoS, not from the date that their application is granted. You will not be able to report information to us using the sponsor management system. You must however ensure that you record and maintain all the relevant information set out in the sponsor guidance on your own systems. Any changes that will impact the eventual consideration of the migrant’s visa application should be updated on the CoS, as normal.

If the employee’s application is eventually rejected as invalid or refused you must terminate their employment.

If you cannot pay the salaries of sponsored employees because you’ve temporarily reduced or ceased trading

You can temporarily reduce the pay of your sponsored employees to 80% of their salary or £2,500 per month, whichever is the lower.

Any reductions must be part of a company-wide policy to avoid redundancies and in which all workers are treated the same.

These reductions must be temporary, and the employee’s pay must return to at least previous levels once these arrangements have ended.

 

Contact Oksana Demyanchuk for further information:

oksana@sterling-law.co.uk

+44 020 7822 8535

Litigation funding

As a consequence of the Covid-19 crisis, we expect a rise in disputes regarding supply and service contacts. However, due to the limited cash flow, a lot of firms will not be able to afford the litigation. The solution to this can be litigation funding.

The recent case of ChapelGate Credit Opportunity Master Fund Limited v Money and others showed that fewer professional funders are prepared to fund the full dispute.

Previously, professional funding could assist smaller businesses with distinct but often expensive immediate costs, such as expert witnesses.

However, in recent years, we have seen the emergence of tech start-ups in the litigation funding industry. These start-ups use special algorithms to evaluate risks.

What should I take into account when considering professional litigation funding?

1. Tailored solution

Many professional funders will offer funding solutions based on their own set of rigid criteria, often driven by lawyers they instruct to protect them. As every dispute is different, you need to carefully consider all the options of funding available to you.

2. Self-regulation

As litigation funding is not regulated by a governmental body, there is little protection for small businesses. Therefore, you should ensure that the contract is correctly written and affords you sufficient protection.

3. Legal advice

Legal professionals are obliged to advise and act in the best interests of their client. This includes making them aware of alternative ways of financing their dispute. A law firm cannot promote one funder over another but can detail the options available for the client to decide which may be suitable for your business.

Why you need flexible and creative litigation lawyers

You should ensure that the litigation lawyers are open to new creative solutions and take a flexible approach in order to succeed in your litigation case and funding.

Contact us for a solution:

020 7822 8535

contact@sterling-law.co.uk

REDUCTIONS IN THE GRANT UNDER THE FURLOUGH SCHEME

The Government previously announced that the salient features of the Furlough Scheme will continue unchanged until 31 July 2020. The Government will continue to pay 80% of an individual’s wages up to a maximum cap of 2,500 per month, together with national insurance costs and mandatory pension contributions on that salary.

The first change is that from 1 August 2020, the Government will no longer make any contribution to an employer’s NIC’s and pension contributions.

From 1 September 2020, the Government will, in addition to the changes introduced in August, reduce the amount of the Furlough

Scheme grant. This will move to pay 70% of the employee’s wages up to a maximum of 2,187.50 per month. In addition, however, the employer must also pay a minimum of 10% of an employee’s salary (up to 312.50), as well as the employer’s NIC’s and pension contributions. Employers will no longer be able to furlough staff on the basis that the only money received by the individual will be the Furlough Scheme grant, and, in addition to paying the employer’s NIC’s and pension contributions on the wages covered by the Furlough Scheme, the employer must now pay 10% of the employee’s normal salary during September.

In October, the employer must contribute 20% of the employee’s salary (i.e., up to 625), and the Government grant goes down to 60% of the normal salary (i.e., up to a maximum of 1,875 per employee).

The Scheme then ends on 30 October 2020.

 

If you need help, contact us on contact@sterling-law.co.uk

EPC Contracts

We have reviewed the EPC contract and provided a legal opinion on force majeure clauses (re Covid-19) and its implications.

Engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning (EPC) contracts are the most common form of contract used to undertake construction works by the private sector on large-scale and complex infrastructure projects. Under an EPC contract, a contractor is obliged to deliver a complete facility to a developer who needs only turn a key to start operating the facility, hence EPCC contracts are sometimes called turnkey construction contracts. In addition to delivering a complete facility, the contractor must deliver that facility for a guaranteed price by guaranteed date and it must perform to the specified level. Failure to comply with any requirements will usually result in the contractor incurring monetary liabilities. The EPC contractor coordinates all design, procurement and construction work and ensures that the whole project is completed as required and in time. He also may or may not undertake actual site work.

Key features of an EPC contract are:

  • A “firm” contract price with limited ability for the contractor to claim additional amounts.
  • A fixed date for project completion with limited ability for the contractor to claim an extension of time (EOT).
  • Single point responsibility.
  • Contractor responsibility for proving the performance and reliability of the completed asset or facility.
  • A focus on the long-term performance of the asset or facility and its ability to generate revenue.

Xena Semikina

Senior Solicitor

xena@sterlinglawyers.co.uk

 

Michael Iatsukha

Trainee Solicitor

michael@sterlinglawyers.co.uk

 

 

 

Photo credits: stillmiracle.com

What is the impact of coronavirus on immigration detention centres?

Throughout the last two months, we have seen that the coronavirus is very contagious; we have witnessed that it can spread very quickly, especially in crowded places. Immigration detention centres are some of the places where an outbreak of the coronavirus will put the lives of many immigration detainees at risk.

Furthermore, a recent article published in the Guardian highlights another issue with immigration detention centres; that there are immigrants who have been unlawfully detained. As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, the release of some detainees has been delayed. There are two reasons for this:

1) detainees who were particularly vulnerable to contracting coronavirus were placed in solitary confinement for a minimum of three months;

2) detainees cannot be removed to their home countries because of the pandemic. This means that the detention of such detainees may have become unlawful.

According to the leaked data from the Home Office released by the Guardian:

The Home Office is only supposed to detain people if there is a realistic prospect of removing them from the UK. Yet two people who have received letters telling them to stay in their cells for the next three months come from countries on a Home Office list of about 50 that officials cannot currently remove people to because of coronavirus.’

(‘Revealed: at-risk immigration detainees ‘to be put in solitary confinement’’ by Diane Taylor, published in the Guardian on 02 April 2020)

If an individual is still in detention that is unlawful, it may be possible to:

  • Challenge the unlawful detention in Court;
  • Challenge the detention procedure;
  • Ask the Court for compensation; and
  • Ask the Home Office or the detention centre for a formal apology.

Sterling Law is here to help those who have been victims of unlawful detain. In addition to the above, we can advise whether a human rights claim can be brought depending on how long the detention was and what treatment was received in detention.

If we are instructed on behalf of an individual to challenge their unlawful detention at Court, we will represent and guide them throughout the entire court process. Our immigration specialists have significant experience in dealing with the same or similar complex immigration cases.

If you or a member of your family are in a similar situation, or you know somebody who has been detained unlawfully, please contact us on contact@sterling-law.co.uk .

Signing documents during the Covid-19 outbreak

As a lot of legal professionals are working from home at the moment, one of the main questions is how to execute remotely documents that require signatures.

An electronic signature can take a form of the typed name in the contract, pasting the signature in a form of an image into the contract, making a signature through Docu Sign or Adobe Sign, using a finger or stylus and touchscreen to sign electronically, scanning a printed document with a signature on it.

Use of electronic signature under English law

Simple contact

Indeed, according to the Law Commission, an electronic signature can be used to execute a document. The signatory party should intend to authenticate it and formalities for the execution of the documents have to be satisfied.

Deed

One of the key requirements for the execution of a deed is that it has to be signed in the presence of a witness. The Courts have stated on numerous occasions that a deed cannot be witnessed through a video call. This, of course, poses some concerns during the pandemic.

One way to solve the issue is for either two directors to sign the deed or director and a secretary. Those two parties can one after another sign the deed electronically. The parties will need to stay the date when the deed was executed and delivered.

One of the common questions that arise is how can one sign a document if they are unable to print it. There are several electronic platforms (DocuSign or AdobeSign) that allow signing the deed electronically. One can also type their name into the contract and this signature will be valid.

While it is clear that the simple contract can be executed by an electronic signature, it is less obvious how the more complex contracts should be approached. We, therefore, advise those with more complex issues to receive professional legal help in order to ensure that any transaction goes smoothly.

Still unsure? Speak to us: 07 305 966 531 or contact@sterling-law.co.uk

Self-employment income support scheme (SEISS) – what you need to know

In response to COVID-19 pandemic, the government announced the Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) for those self-employed and members of partnerships whose income has been lost due to the coronavirus outbreak.

This scheme will allow you to claim a taxable grant worth 80% of your trading profits up to a maximum of £2,500 a month, for 3 months (but may be extended).

The grant will be subject to Income Tax and National Insurance contributions but does not need to be repaid.

Unlike Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, the SEISS allows recipients of the grant to continue to work or take on another employment.

Eligibility:

  • You have filed a tax return for 2018/19,
  • You have continued to trade into the tax year 2019/20,
  • You intend to continue to trade into the tax year 2020/21 and trading when the application is made (or would have been trading had the coronavirus outbreak not occurred).
  • You have lost trading profits due to coronavirus.

Trading profits need to be no more than £50,000 and more than half of the individual’s total income for either:

  • the tax year 2018/19, or
  • the average of the last three tax years (2016/17, 2017/18 and 2018/19)

 

You can make a claim for Universal Credit while you wait for the grant. You should record the grant as part of your self-employment income, and it may affect the amount of Universal Credit you get. This will not affect Universal Credit claims for earlier periods.

The SEISS is intended to make payments by early June and claims will be backdated to March and paid in one instalment. There is no application process at the moment. HMRC will use tax returns already submitted to contact those who are eligible by mid-May and invite them to apply online.

If you require any assistance with applying for the SEISS scheme we provide such assistance via our sister company Sterling & Beanland[1] for FREE provided you sign a 12-month contract  with them for accounting services. Please speak to Dina Taimunkenova +44(0)745 068 4215 or email at dina@sterling-beanland.co.uk for further assistance.

[1] CIMA accredited city-based firm of Chartered Management Accountants.

Tier 2 & Covid-19

Recently, the government has issued immigration guidance for Tier 2, 4, 5 and sponsors in response to COVID-19, and as a managing partner at Sterling Law, I would like my Corporate clients to stay updated. This update is related to changes in reporting obligations of Sponsors, sick and furlough leave of the Tier 2 employees:

General rules

You do NOT need to report Tier 2 employee absences related to coronavirus (absences due to illness, their need to isolate or inability to travel due to travel restrictions);

You do NOT have to notify the Home office if you’re sponsoring employees who are working from home due to coronavirus;

Sick leave and Statutory Sick Pay is also available for Tier 2/ Tier 5 employees as it does not constitute public funds. For more details click here.

You still MUST report a reduction in your Tier 2 migrant’s salary within 10 days. (let us know if you require assistance)

You CAN furlough your Tier 2/ Tier 5 employee (However, certain conditions may apply, for example, you will require the furlough agreement to cover certain points. For further details, please speak to us.)

If a new employee is applying to switch into Tier 2 in the UK, they can do so inside the country until 31 May 2020 if the requirement previously was to apply from outside the UK. The applicants will still need to demonstrate that they meet the requirements of the visa they are applying for and pay all the applicable fees, including Home Office fees and IHS. Furthermore, expiring Tier 2 visas are now extended to 31 May 2020.

If your potential Tier 2 employee has been issued CoS, applied for a visa and is just waiting for the decision on the application, they can start working for you BEFORE they receive their visa decision. (conditions apply)

Ongoing Sponsor Duties

If a Tier 2 visa has been granted but the employees cannot travel to the UK:

The Home Office has not yet confirmed its position on this. The general rule is that the start date cannot be posted beyond 28 days from the start date on the CoS or 28 days from when the visa is issued. If it’s postponed to longer, you usually would have to apply for a new one. At the moment, the Home Office has not confirmed whether the rule will be waived.

Unpaid leave due to the Covid-19:

The general requirement is that Tier 2 migrants cannot have unpaid leave for more than 4 weeks per calendar year. The COVID-19 immigration guidance provides that there is no need to withdraw sponsorship if absence from work is due to COVID-19.

Employees stacked abroad

If your Tier 2 employees are currently outside the UK, they may get caught by a cooling-off period which would prevent them from returning to the UK on Tier-2 visa for 12 months. This requirement doesn’t apply if the salary is above £159,600 or if they are applying for a Tier 2 Intra-company transfer visa and their salary is above £120,000 or if the CoS was granted for three months or less. Furthermore, the ILR might also be affected if an employee is outside the country for over 180 days per year. The current guidance says that the Home Office will consider serious and compelling reasons such as illness or nature disaster. Coronavirus has not been added to the list yet.

Conducting the right to work checks:

Due to the coronavirus, the following rules have been adopted for the right to work checks:

· The scanned documents for checks can be sent via e-mail or through a mobile app
· An employee should hold the documents in front of the camera for the employer to
check the copy
· You should record the date when the check was made and mark it as “adjusted check undertaken due to Covid-19”

In addition, you might be aware that the government introduced a package of temporary business support measures including Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, Self-employment Income Support Scheme, Business Interruption Loan Scheme, deferring VAT and self-assessment payments and other measures. You can also visit Sterling Law COVID-19 update page for additional information and useful COVID-19 related templates (e.g. Working from home Policy, Furlough Agreement etc.)

If you require any assistance with applying for Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme/ Business Interruption Loan Scheme and other supporting measures we provide such assistance via our sister company Sterling & Beanland if you sign a 12-month contract for accounting services (if you are not a client yet). Speak to Dina on 0745 068 4215 or email dina@sterling-beanland.co.uk

We value you as a client and we will answer your immigration, employment, commercial and other business-related questions for FREE during this period: please do not hesitate to send your questions to info@sterling-law.co.uk – we are here to help!