As you will be aware, this month the Government eased the lockdown measures in England. As of 15 June 2020, non-essential retail premises were permitted to open, as were drive-in cinemas, retail art galleries, betting shops, auction houses, aquariums, zoos and safari parks. On 23 June 2020, the Prime Minister announced the further easing of lockdown measures in England which came into effect on 4 July 2020. The relaxations included allowing numerous venues in the hospitality sector to reopen, including pubs, restaurants, hotels and campsites.
The Government has also launched five new business-focused groups in response to the economic fall-out caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. They will be tasked with addressing one of the following themes:
- The future of industry
- Green recovery
- Backing new businesses
- Increasing opportunity
- The UK open for business
The Information Commissioner's Office also published further guidance on data protection during the recovery phase of the COVID-19 pandemic as lockdown restrictions ease and businesses begin to reopen.
On 22 June 2020, the Government announced plans for the clinically extremely vulnerable in England to ease shielding. From 1 August 2020, employees who have been shielded and who cannot work from home will be able to return to their workplaces. The Government understands that employees may feel uncertain about returning to work and is calling on employers to ease the transition for their clinically extremely vulnerable employees, ensuring that robust measures are put in place for them to return to "COVID-19-secure" workplaces.
The Government published details of flexible furlough under the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) in June. From 1 July 2020, employers can bring furloughed employees back to work while still being able to claim under the CJRS in relation to hours not worked. The Government's contribution under the CJRS will gradually taper down from 1 August 2020 and the CJRS will permanently close on 31 October 2020.
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (CIGA 2020) obtained Royal Assent and commenced on 26 June 2020. The CIGA 2020 changes parts of the corporate governance regime that the COVID-19 lockdown rules had made unworkable. It contains an easing of some of the filing and AGM requirements, and crucially a provision suspending the period during which a company's directors could incur personal liability for wrongful trading with effect from 1 March to 30 June 2020.
The Business and Planning Bill 2019-21 has completed all its stages in the House of Commons. It includes several urgent measures intended to help businesses in certain sectors to adapt to new ways of working as the economy reopens following the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.