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New Rent Debt Ring-Fencing Legislation

New Legislation to Ringfence Commercial Rent Debt Accrued During the Pandemic

The Government has announced that they will introduce new legislation to deal with the commercial rent arrears which have built up as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The legislation is expected to be introduced before the end of the moratorium on forfeiture proceedings for non-payment of rent (25 March 2022).

The key proposals are as follows:

  • To ringfence commercial rent arrears that built up since March 2020 (due to business closures), until restrictions for their sector were lifted. Once the arrears are ringfenced, landlords will not be able to forfeit the lease for non-payment of these arrears or take insolvency proceedings against the tenant for this debt.
  • To encourage landlords and tenants to negotiate in good faith and reach a solution where possible, using the principles set out in the revised Code of Practice (referred to below).
  • Landlords are expected to “share the financial burden with tenants” and “defer or waive entirely an appropriate proportion” of those ringfenced arrears.
  • Where the parties can’t agree on how to settle the rent arrears, the last resort will be for the parties to undertake a binding arbitration.
  • The voluntary Code of Practice introduced last year will be revised and strengthened to set out the principles that the parties and arbitrators should follow, and the revised Code will become mandatory by putting it into legislation. If parties don’t negotiate in good faith, they may be penalised.
  • To ensure that tenants should pay any rents which accrued before the pandemic and any rents payable since the restrictions were lifted. Now that all restrictions have been lifted, tenants in England should be paying their rents henceforth.

At this stage, the Government has only made an announcement and the finer details of the proposed legislation are not yet known. Many questions remain unanswered, for example:

  • How will the ringfencing of rents work in practice?
  • When are the restrictions deemed to have been lifted?
  • The restrictions were not continuous, so how will the Government treat those periods where lockdown was eased for a few months?
  • Will those businesses which were not forced to close, but which have been indirectly affected by the pandemic be able to benefit?
  • Precise details of how the arbitration process will operate in practice are also not yet known.

Both parties will have to wait for further details to find out exactly what is proposed under the legislation. Tenants should continue to pay their rent where they are able to do so. Where tenants cannot pay their arrears, the Government is encouraging the parties to come together to negotiate in good faith and find solutions as soon as possible.

Classic job post faux pas

Everyone knows how difficult it can be to apply for work these days. Just ask all the people currently on the hunt for their perfect jobs. However, what’s often skipped over is just how tricky it can be for firms to post vacancies successfully. There is a real art form to generating appropriate and effective job ads, and there are also a variety of legal pitfalls to avoid.

Thinking about this inspired us to draw attention to some examples of when things go wrong, and to offer some advice covering what to avoid when creating job posts.

Don’t take your cue from these firms!

There are some bad job ads out there. Highlighting this fact, the Daily Edge compiled a list of some classic recruitment faux pas. Among the epic fails were: “Apply today, pizza cook. Qualifications: Not be a crybag,” and “Now hiring: Fried Turkeys”. Other blunders included “Now hiring: 1 pretty & 2 ugly dancers”, “Help Wanted. Must dominate the English language” and “Now hiring: Must have clue”.

We’re not quite sure what was going through the heads of the individuals who came up with these ads. To help ensure you don’t end up red-faced thanks to your recruitment efforts, take a look at these top tips.


The 90s have been and gone

It’s always tempting to take shortcuts when you’re busy at work, and so you might consider cutting and pasting job ads that were created by your firm in years gone by. If you do this, make sure you update the information and make it relevant to now. You don’t want to come across like a bona fide troglodyte!

For example, perhaps remove the section where it says “Fax, post or email CV to…”.


The law is the law

The last thing you want when trying to hire new staff is to end up in an altercation with the law. This means you have to stay on the right side of anti-discrimination legislation. Phrases to avoid include “young and dynamic” (the dynamic bit’s fine, just not the young), “able-bodied” or anything that implies a gender bias, such as “salesman”. Also, take care not to accidentally discriminate on the basis of religion, race or sexuality.


Unnecessary jargon’s a no no

Stay away from unnecessary jargon too. Phrases like “blue sky thinking” and “laser focussed” have been overused and they can really put potential candidates off. Studies suggest that six in ten job seekers consider jargon annoying. Stick to the facts and you should be OK.


Double and triple check your spelling, and then get someone else to!

After you’ve written job specs and ads, it’s vital that you double and triple check them for typos and spelling mistakes. It also pays off to get someone else to have a look. When you’ve been staring at a document for a long time, it can be impossible to see your mistakes. Remember, you’re representing your organisation, so it’s really important that your text is professional and accurate.

The Importance of Trusting Your Instincts in Business

The secret of success in business is not one that can be taught. Instead it is one that comes from within. Or at least that was the message from Mary Portas, the retail expert and TV star who hosted this years Small Business Showcase Awards.

When asked about the most important aspect of running a small business, Portas said:  “Follow your instincts. Often we underestimate that… The best things in my life have happened where I’ve followed my instincts.”

These suggestions could be both a blessing and a curse, allowing individuals to have far more control over their own destiny, but far less help on hand to guide them to the right conclusion. However, whilst certain signs may be saying to go one way, if your gut is telling you to do something different, it will indeed be important to trust those instincts over the more logical nature of the brain.

In business, what will set you apart from a pack that all does the same thing is ignoring the route that everyone else will take and opting instead to follow what your intuition tells you. For SMEs, it is a dog eat dog world, and those only following logical paths formulated by ruminating on the pros and cons of a given issue are likely to fall behind. Obviously, there will be many times when such a cerebral approach is sensible, but if your gut is screaming at you to do something else, this deviation from logic could well be what makes you.

How do you know if instinct is right?

Another top tip from Portas is to employ “really great people.” This will help you to understand if your instincts are right. Guiding from the head and not the gut will lead to many anodyne decisions that see you stagnating early and never reaching your full potential. Leading from the gut when it overrules the brain is what will push you ever further and allow you to achieve your goals.

By making sure that every member of your team is excellent at their given role, you will have individuals on hand to help guide your decision-making process. When making decisions about things you are not an expert on, having the opinions of those you can trust will be vital, whilst bouncing ideas off the same people when your instincts are telling you to make a certain decision will help you to see if that decision will indeed be the right move or is just a temporary blip of insanity.

Going your own way

The secret to success is therefore likely to be all about ignoring what seems to make sense and following what you believe – just so long as every other member of your trusted team isn’t screaming warnings against it. Here at Simply Docs, we are aware just how important it is to do things your own way rather than enlisting the help of so-called experts who will not have the same financial or emotional investment in what you are trying to achieve. This is why we offer top-class business templates to help you create business documentation that suits your own unique approach to business, and not documents that so-called outside experts will end up interfering with.

Statutory Sick Pay Changes

No more Statutory Sick Pay reclaims – Abolition of Percentage Threshold Scheme

The Government has ended the Percentage Threshold Scheme (PTS) under which employers who suffered from high levels of sickness absence were able to reclaim a portion of their SSP payments. Using the money saved from PTS, which has been described by the DWP as “an outdated system which does nothing to promote or support active management of sickness absences by either the employer or employee”, the Government plans to set up a new Health and Work Service – expected to be set up by the end of the year – which will offer advice, voluntary medical assessments and treatment plans for employees who are off sick. The Government has estimated that the existing arrangements cost £50m per annum and that the new service will cost between £25m to £50m per annum.

Taxable revenues are anticipated to increase by £100m to £215m.

What’s the cost to employers?

A recent survey by MetLife found that one in five SMEs suffers “serious disruption” as a result of staff illness, with employee absence costs taking up around 13% of payroll on average. Although the DWP argues that the “financial loss to business from the ending of the PTS will more than likely be offset by a reduction in lost working days, earlier return to work and increased economic output” some commentators are not reassured. David Heaton of accountants Baker Tilly fears that the inability to reclaim SSP will prove a “huge burden for a small business to bear” and could even result in some small businesses having to close. Meanwhile, speaking in the House of Lords, Baroness Sherlock noted that micro-employers could be particularly heavily hit by the changes.

Will the Health and Work Service work?

According to a leading independent occupational health adviser, there are not enough occupational health therapists to meet the timescale of the Health and Work Service and that proposed phone assessments could end up being “templated rubbish.” So it remains to be seen if the abolition of PTS will simply amount to a further challenge for SMEs without any effective replacement. What do you think – how will the changes affect your business?

Employment Law Changes

It’s that time of year again and April heralds some new changes to Employment law.

Claimants wishing to bring an employment claim will first have to lodge one with ACAS and engage in conciliation before they can proceed to a tribunal, the rationale being that an agreement can be reached between the parties and litigation can be avoided.

Employers will need to exercise greater caution regarding any potential breaches of employment law as the presence of any “aggravating features” exacerbating the breach will land employers with a financial penalty of 50% of the claimant’s award. This penalty will be between £100 and £5,000 but can be reduced if paid within 21 days. Additionally, the compensatory award for unfair dismissal will increases from £74,200 to £76,574 with the weekly pay consideration rising to £464.

The statutory rates have risen again as usual with maternity, ordinary and additional statutory paternity and adoption pay increasing from £136.78 to £138.18. Statutory sick pay has also risen to £86.70.

Employers now have six weeks instead of a month to enrol jobholders into a qualifying pension scheme and the ability for an employee to obtain information from their employer about discrimination has been abolished.

Share your Ideas

As always at Simply-Docs we’ll be continuing to frequently add and refresh the documents we have available on the website.  We understand that we can always be doing more so we’ll be remodelling the corporate and business folders to ensure that you get the most from them.

This year, we also would like to hear more from you. We recognise that we may not always have the documents you are seeking available on the website.  However, we’d like you to let us know what documents you feel could be added to the Simply-Docs website so we can make reasonable endeavours to make them happen for you.

If you have any document suggestions, we would love to hear from you. We want 2014 to be the year where our document expansion is bigger than ever.

We have already created new documents for Business Continuity, a Dress and Appearance Policy and Sponsorship Agreements amongst others as a result of requests we have received in the past.

So if you have any ideas you would like to share with us, let us know and leave your suggestions below.

Whistle Blowing

Whistle blowing is making the news again with officers, past and present, of the Metropolitan police giving evidence at the Commons public administration committee that crime figures have been manipulated to account for lower crime rates than were actually true.

This is not the first time whistle blowing has made headlines, after Julie Bailey exposed the rampant neglect at Mid Staffordshire hospital that had led to hundreds of unnecessary deaths. Whilst Bailey’s revelation led to a public inquiry report damning the lack of “care, compassion, humanity and leadership” at the hospital, she unfortunately suffered a backlash that saw her being bombarded by hate mail and her mother’s grave vandalised.

Although Bailey’s whistle blowing has led to significant changes in the NHS which would see gross neglect of patients become a criminal offence, her quest to seek greater protection for whistle blowers by prosecuting Managers who ignored or silenced them was unsuccessful.

This protection seems ever more warranted after officers at the Metropolitan Police claiming that those who attempted to come forward about the manipulation of crime figures were treated unfairly and often persecuted.  Peter Barron told the committee that whistle blowers were “marginalised” and “judged not to be a team player.”

Another officer, PC Patrick, was also ordered after whistle blowing “not to have contact with the public, external agencies or stakeholders.” Karen Todner, his lawyer, said “He is a whistleblower and what this is about is freedom of expression. This is someone who has tried to raise his concerns through the legitimate channels but was not able to do so.”

In both cases it would appear that the whistleblowers involved had suffered to their detriment when speaking out against practices they felt endangered the public. Patrick notes that there were “serious consequences” of maintaining the status quo. Perhaps Bailey is correct in demanding better protection for whistle blowers if the consequence of failing to do so allows malpractice to go unchecked.

Should you wish to ensure your business has a Whistle blowing Policy that sets out your company’s guidelines and methods in relation to this please see the one available on our website for further guidance.