Fourteenth Report Contents

Instruments relating to COVID-19

Business practice and regulation

Coronavirus Act 2020 (Residential Tenancies and Notices) (Amendment and Suspension) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/994)

22.This instrument returns requirements regarding the notice of intention that landlords have to give to seek possession of property under various statutory tenancy types to the position before the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the Act”). The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG, now the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) explains that the Act and subsequent instruments introduced emergency measures requiring residential landlords to provide extended notice periods of up to six months when seeking possession of a social or privately rented property. The measures were introduced to protect tenants from eviction during the pandemic. MHCLG says that following the easing of national restrictions and the progress of the vaccination programme, the extended notice periods have been reduced gradually, and that this instrument returns the notice periods to their pre-pandemic position. The instrument retains until 25 March 2022 a power for the Government to impose longer notice periods as an emergency measure should there be a future need to do so. The instrument also prescribes new versions of the forms that are used for giving notice seeking possession.

23.Asked whether the Government will make available support to help tenants pay off arrears which have built up during the pandemic, MHCLG told us that:

“The Government has provided financial support to help prevent people getting into financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 and the vast majority (91%) of private renters are up to date with their rent. Of those in arrears, two thirds are in arrears of less than 2 months. This shows that the package of support provided by the Government has prevented wide spread rent arrears as a result of COVID-19.

To support the most vulnerable renters, we have invested nearly £1 billion in raising Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rates to the 30th percentile of local rents.9 A change that has already benefited 1.5 million households. For renters who require additional support, £140 million pounds of Discretionary Housing Payments (DHP) are available. As emergency measures are lifted support remains in place for renters through the welfare system.

We continue to monitor the effectiveness of other examples of support, such as those from the devolved administrations in the UK, and note that uptake for loan support has been relatively low in Scotland and Wales.”

Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers’ Liabilities) (Closure) Regulations and the Statutory Sick Pay (Coronavirus) (Funding of Employers’ Liabilities) (Northern Ireland) (Closure) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1013)

24.This instrument closes the Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) Rebate Scheme, with effect from 30 September 2021, so that any absence related to coronavirus occurring after that date will not be eligible for the rebate. The instrument provides a three-month administrative period for businesses to make any remaining claims for eligible SSP costs incurred up to 30 September 2021. The administration period will end on 31 December 2021.

25.According to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Government have concluded that the SSP Rebate Scheme, which was launched in May 2020, is no longer necessary. We asked HMRC whether employee sickness levels had returned to more normal levels. HMRC told us that the Office for National Statistics “collected fortnightly data on the levels of COVID-19 absence during the pandemic via the Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey. The survey asks what percentage of a respondent’s workforce is ‘off sick or in self-isolation due to coronavirus with statutory or company pay’. Though there is significant variance between industries, the overall trend shows a significant decline in those off work due to COVID-19 sickness with statutory or occupational sick pay since March 2020.10 This suggests the forthcoming closure of the temporary SSP Rebate Scheme at the end of September as always intended is unlikely to have a significant impact on employers when the legislative instrument to enact the closure comes into force.”

Childcare (Childminder Agencies) (Registration, Inspection and Supply and Disclosure of Information) and Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Fees and Frequency of Inspections) (Children’s Homes etc.) (Coronavirus) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1019)

26.These Regulations make three changes to early years childcare and children’s social care:

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Amendment of Schedule 10) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1029)

Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Amendment of Schedule 10) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1091)

27.SI 2021/1091 introduces new temporary tapering measures which restrict the use of winding up petitions.12 The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) explains that the current temporary measures were introduced by the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 and subsequently extended.13 They placed restrictions on the use of statutory demands14 and winding-up petitions and were due to expire on 30 September 2021. BEIS says that, with effect from 1 October, this instrument introduced a tapering effect to protect companies from aggressive creditor enforcement as the economy opens up, and to allow business to get back to a more normal way of working. The new temporary measures will be in place until 31 March 2022 and include:

28.SI 2021/1091 revokes and substitutes an earlier instrument, SI 2021/1029, which contained an error in the commencement provisions.

Direct Payments to Farmers (Inspections) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1057)

29.This instrument reduces the Cross Compliance on-farm inspection rate from 1% to 0.5% for the 2021 claim year for Direct Payment schemes in England. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that this is in response to the difficulties that the Rural Payments Agency (RPA) continues to have in planning and carrying out on-farm inspections because of the pandemic. There are currently two Cross Compliance regimes in operation in England: a domestic regime which applies to Direct Payments for farmers, and an EU Cross Compliance regime which applies to ongoing payments under EU schemes, primarily agri-environment and forestry schemes.

30.Last year the European Commission published a derogation to reduce the rate to 0.5% for EU schemes and Defra laid an equivalent instrument,16 also reducing the Cross Compliance inspection rate to 0.5% for the 2020 scheme year. According to Defra, some difficulties in planning and carrying out on-farm visits have continued this year and the European Commission has published a further derogation to reduce the Cross Compliance inspection rate to 0.5% again for the 2021 claim year. As in 2020, this instrument mirrors the EU derogation for the 2021 scheme year. Defra says that a single Cross Compliance inspection rate for all schemes in England ensures that farmers and land managers receiving payments from EU and domestic schemes are treated consistently and fairly, and that the RPA will continue to carry out a range of other measures, such as remote sensing, to monitor compliance.

Official Controls (Extension of Transitional Periods) (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2021(SI 2021/1096)

31.This instrument extends further certain transitional periods in relation to sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) checks on imports to England and Wales of products of animal origin (POAO) and animal by-products, in response to the “unprecedented adverse effects” of the pandemic. The extension was announced by the Government in a statement on border controls on 14 September.17 The instrument ensures that a requirement for pre-notification of agri-food imports, which was due to be introduced on 1 October 2021, will now be implemented on 1 January 2022 instead, while requirements for Export Health Certificates (EHCs) and documentary checks on POAO and animal by-products at Border Control Posts will no longer be introduced on 1 October 2021. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says that Scotland is taking forward similar legislation which will delay the introduction of these requirement there until 1 March 2022.

32.The instrument does not include a new commencement date for the requirements for EHCs and documentary checks. Instead, these requirements will be implemented once the current transitional staging period for the introduction of border controls on SPS imports from the EU ends. This transitional staging period was originally intended to end in July 2021. It was subsequently extended until 1 March 202218 and has now been extended further until 1 July 2022 to reflect the challenges businesses have faced as a result of the pandemic which, according to Defra, “has impacted supply chains across Europe”, especially in the agri-food sector. Defra told us that a further instrument will be laid no later than 1 December 2021 to implement the change in the end date of the transitional staging period to 1 July 2022 and to confirm that the introduction of requirements for EHCs and documentary and physical checks on SPS goods at Border Control Posts will be delayed until then.


Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) (Amendment) (No. 11) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1033)

33.This instrument amends the International Travel Regulations19 to update the list of specified competitions in Schedule 5 which permits the exemption of elite sportspersons from some requirements imposed by those Regulations.

34.The instrument also exempts international footballers travelling to or through a Category 3 country or territory from relevant measures in Schedule 11 if they arrive in England to play in a football match in the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) Champions League, Europa League or Europa Conference League. The Department of Health and Social Care states that this should only affect one to three players per European club side in scope, and that the players will be subject to the usual conditions imposed through Schedule 4 around elite sport exemptions to minimise public health risk. UEFA has indicated that if these changes were not made, the English club sides’ home fixtures would be moved abroad to neutral venues. This would cause significant disruption to English clubs and home fans. The first home fixtures affected are due to take place on 14, 15 and 16 September.

Law and order

Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/1037)

35.This instrument makes changes to the Rules for Employment Tribunals which, according to the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), continue to face significant pressures from the impact of the pandemic and an increase in claims following the abolition of Employment Tribunal fees in 2017. The instrument allows the name of more than one prospective respondent to be included on a single early conciliation notification form in order simplify the way that multiple claims are handled. BEIS says that this will reduce the administrative burden and allow parties to focus on dispute resolution rather than technical procedural issues. The instrument also clarifies the position on notice for preliminary hearings which was left unclear by a previous instrument.20 The instrument requires reasonable notice to be given of the date of the hearing and, in the case of a hearing involving any preliminary issues, at least 14 days’ notice. The instrument further enables a Tribunal to direct a preliminary hearing as the result of an application by a party, to ensure consistency with other provisions which authorise legal officers to determine certain applications made in relation to preliminary hearings.

9 This means that LHA has been raised to cover the rents of up to 30 in every 100 homes in an area.

10 ONS, ‘Business insights and impact on the UK economy’ (07 October 2021): [accessed 14 October 2021]. HMRC: “In March 2020 the % off sick or in self-isolation due to coronavirus with statutory or company pay across all employers was 4.5%. There has been a consistent decline in these figures with only minor spikes in December 2020 and Spring 2021. In many rounds, including the most recent data from the 27th of August to the 9th of September, this figure is now unreported as it is statistically insignificant from 0.”

11 Early years childcare providers in England must register with Ofsted or with a CMA. CMAs themselves must be approved and registered by Ofsted and are inspected by Ofsted.

12 A winding up petition is an application that is made to the court to close or ‘wind up’ a company that cannot pay its debts.

13 The most recent extension was through the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Extension of the Relevant Period) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/375).

14 A statutory demand can be made to ask for payment of a debt from an individual or a company. The individual or company will have 21 days to pay the debt or reach an agreement to pay it.

15 Business Tenancies (Protection from Forfeiture: Relevant Period) (Coronavirus) (England) (No. 2) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/732).

16 Direct Payments to Farmers (Inspections) (Coronavirus) (England) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/575).

17 Border Controls, HLWS280, 14 September 2021.

18 Border Controls, HLWS833, 11 March 2021.

19 Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel and Operator Liability) (England) Regulations 2021 (SI 2021/582).

20 Employment Tribunals (Constitution and Rules of Procedure) (Early Conciliation: Exemptions and Rules of Procedure) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1003).

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