Questions posed to DCMS prior to second lockdown (England) on 5 November
At the time that restrictions are brought in, if people are currently on holiday and it is not reasonable for them to curtail their stay, they may finish their holiday as planned; the duration of stay should only be as long as reasonably necessary and they should return home as soon as practical. People must comply with the ‘stay at home’ requirements and make every effort to reduce socialising indoors outside of their household whilst in holiday accommodation in the meantime.
Overnight stays and holidays away from primary residences will not be allowed. This includes staying in a second home or caravan, or staying with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with. Caravan parks may remain open for the specific reasons set out in law, where guests:
- Are unable to return to their main residence
- Use that accommodation as their main residence
- Need accommodation while moving house or attending a funeral
- Need to self-isolate as required by law
- Need accommodation for the purposes of their work, or children who need accommodation for the purposes of education
- Are elite athletes, their coach or (in the case of an elite athlete who is a child), the parent of an elite athlete, and need accommodation for the purposes of training or competition
- Are currently in that accommodation at the time when national restrictions come into force
- Are visiting from abroad on holiday or for work purposes
- Are being provided accommodation to relieve homelessness.
Accommodation providers may keep their business open to provide accommodation to vulnerable groups including the homeless, or for any purpose requested by the Secretary of State, or a local authority.
Accommodation providers are also encouraged to work cooperatively with Local Authorities to provide accommodation to vulnerable groups during this period of national restrictions.
Anyone who needs accommodation for the purposes of their work may stay in guest accommodation. There is no legal definition of ‘work’ i.e. no restriction to only allow key workers as there was during the initial national lockdown.
Accommodation providers should take all reasonable steps to encourage guests to adhere to government restrictions, including informing guests of restrictions when taking bookings and communicating to all customers, including those with existing bookings, reminding them not to travel unless it is essential (such as for work purposes or attending a funeral). Enforcement of the law remains a matter for the police and Local Authorities.
Business meetings and events are advised against, but may take place with up to a total of 30 people if reasonably necessary – for example for the purposes of work that cannot be done at home – if social distancing can be maintained and the venue can demonstrate it has followed the COVID-19 guidance.
All employers with a UK bank account and UK PAYE schemes can claim the grant. Neither the employer nor the employee needs to have previously used the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.
Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) – March 2020
The Government announced the introduction of a temporary job retention scheme, open to all UK employers
for at least 3 months, starting from 1st March 2020.
The objectives are simple.
1) It is to keep as many workers as possible employed (albeit on a reduced wage).
2) Avoid large numbers of people defaulting on rent and/or mortgages.
3) Assisting companies to maintain their skilled workforce ready for when the current crises ends and
their skills are needed.
4) Assist with the social distancing regulations.
Any UK employer can potentially claim.
The claim can be backdated until 1st March 2020.
The employer can also claim if they made employees redundant since 28th February 2020.
There are some caveats, specifically around Public Sector Organisations where the Government already funds the wages.
- The limit is the lower of £2,500 or 80% of the furloughed employees’ wages.
- The employer must have had a payroll scheme in operation by 28th February 2020.
- The employer must have a UK bank account.
- The employee cannot carry out any duties for the employer while on furlough.
- The employer needs to write to the staff advising them that they are being furloughed. The normal employment regulations in terms of record keeping apply.
- Employees hired after 28th February 2020 are not eligible for furloughing.
- Employees must be furloughed for a minimum of 3 weeks and for up to 3 months (although this may be extended) from 1st March 2020.
- Employees who are on sick leave or self-isolating cannot be furloughed but may be furloughed once they come back to work. Statutory Sick Pay applies whilst they are on sick leave or self-isolation and the government have made temporary changes to this throughout the coronavirus crisis.
- Employees shielding from the virus in line with public health guidance can be furloughed.
- Available for full-time, part-time, agency, flexible and zero-hour contracted employees.
- Whilst on furlough the employees wage will still be subject to tax and other deductions.
Those employees on reduced hours or reduced pay will not be eligible for this scheme and employers will have to continue paying their salary subject to the terms of the employment contract agreed.
Employers should discuss with their staff and make any changes to the employment contract by agreement. When employers make the decision in relation to the process, including who to offer furlough to, equality and discrimination laws will apply in the usual way.
Employers can furlough any employee who has been subject to PAYE, including directors. Where directors are using dividends to top up their income, these amounts are unlikely to form part of the CJRS calculation as dividends are not subject to PAYE.
This scheme will include an allowance for the 3% minimum employer Auto-Enrolment contributions as well as Employer NI liabilities for salaries up to £2,500 a month (these will be based on the lower furlough wage).
Employers paying above the minimum contribution will not be able to claim back this additional contribution above the 3%.
Employers can not stop their pensions scheme during lockdown.
Employees will be expected to continue to pay their minimum contribution. Whilst they can opt out, this would mean that they lose valuable employer contributions.
What happens to salary sacrifice schemes?
Where furloughed staff are participants in a salary sacrifice scheme, unless the employees contractual terms are varied, the salary sacrifice is likely to continue from the furloughed pat and the benefits available to the employee are likely to continue. Current guidance does not specify refer to this.
It may be possible to cancel the salary sacrifice and associated provision of a benefit as part of a contractual variation. As with all contractual variations, this should be discussed and agreed with the employee and if necessary, employment law advice taken by the business.
The calculator is designed to assist our members with calculating the cost of furloughing staff instead of laying them off.
There are cashflow implications for doing this as HMRC have stated that the online portal will not be active until late April 2020.
Your business is therefore funding the furloughed staff for a minimum of 2 months if you are able to backdate the scheme to 1st March 2020.
There are other options available from the Government to assist with the above identified short-time cashflow issue, mainly loans available from your bank, and these will be covered off under a separate document.
The calculator has both tax years included, to allow for changes in current and next tax year.
The password is ncc-furlough.
HMRC have currently not released some of the finer details, specifically around Employers Ni and Employers pensions. The calculations are based on the tax year 2019/20. An updated schedule will also be available.
Notwithstanding the above, the calculations are fairly straight forward.
We have used 2 examples to demonstrate how the calculations work. An employee earning £1,100 per month and an employee earning £3,200 per month.
1. Employee earning £1,100 per month:
a. Calculate the Base claim. In this case it is 80% of the gross wage, being £880.
b. Calculate the Employers Ni. On current rules and assuming no change to the 0% threshold, the total is ((£880 – £719) * 13.8%) = £22.22.
c. Calculate the minimum pension contribution. On current rules and assuming no change to the minimum threshold, the total is ((£880 – £512)* 3%) = £11.04.
d. Calculate the total. The total claim under current rules is £880.00 + £22.22 + £11.04 = £913.26.
2. Employee earning £3,200 per month:
a. Calculate the Base claim. In this case it is capped at £2,500. (£3,200 * 80% = £2,560).
b. Calculate the Employers Ni. On current rules and assuming no change to the 0% threshold, the total is ((£2,500 – £719) * 13.8%) = £245.78.
c. Calculate the minimum pension contribution. On current rules and assuming no change to the minimum threshold, the total is ((£2,500 – £511)* 3%) = £59.64.
d. Calculate the total. The total claim under current rules is £2,500 + £245.78 + £59.64 = £2,805.42.
3. The figures above change slightly in April and May 2020 with the updated thresholds to £903.18 and £2,795.34 respectively.
4. Please note that the claim is reduced in 2021 because there is an increase in the 0% employers Ni threshold, thereby reducing the amount paid.
Pitch fee refunds
The legal advice indicates that for a caravan owner to claim that they are entitled to money back from the park owner, they first need to establish that they have a legal basis or justification for the return of the amount claimed, e.g. that the park owner is in breach of their legal obligations. Counsel’s opinion is that this is unlikely to succeed as there is no legal justification; however, it did come with a health warning which park operators should be aware of. For more detail, download a copy of the NCC’s Guidance.
This is a decision for each park operator, based on the best strategy for their business, and taking account of a number of practical issues: retaining loyal customers and your ability to make any refund etc. One size will not fit all, but whatever you decide, it must be appropriate, fair and consistent.
The impact of the COVID-19 provisions extends to businesses and owners. Many owners may now find themselves in very different financial circumstances. While any refusal to pay the pitch fee constitutes a breach of contract, it is in everyone’s interest to take time to talk through any failure to pay with the caravan owner, and to try and agree some arrangement for payment.
Most caravan owners aren’t looking to leave the park by terminating their agreement – it is worth the time and effort to try and agree a way forward.
The business rates ‘holiday’ differs across the different nations of the UK. Caravan owners who have made a contribution to the rates in their pitch fee should have the benefit passed back in due course, when any refund has been made to you by the Local Authority.
As a park business, you do not have to apply for the business rates to be refunded – this should happen automatically – but if you are in any doubt give the rating section at the Council a call.
While there are no restrictions on how far you can travel to get to the countryside, everyone should adopt social distancing at all times and certainly not stay overnight. Holiday caravan parks remain closed under the Government order dated 24 March. This is law and Government has made it clear that you cannot visit a second home – so owners should not be visiting their holiday caravan.
Holiday park owners should ensure that they have appropriate security measures in place which includes padlocks on gates, wash blocks, car parks etc. There is more security advice here.
Government advice on accessing green spaces can be found here.
This document is for guidance only.
Any decision on furloughing staff is a business decision and should be taken in conjunction with your normal legal and professional and financial advisors.