General Business Help & Support News England - 06.12.2021

Below is our weekly roundup of changes to government support information generally and for businesses, employers and the self-employed.

Omicron variant - New safety measures announced

It is expected that Parliament will endorse the weekend Government announcements on new safety measures for the Omicron variant and from Tuesday 30 November face masks will be compulsory in shops and on public transport in England, and UK arrivals are expected to have to take PCR tests.

The measures will be reviewed in three weeks.

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Last week South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola were added to the travel red list.

People aged 40 to 49 can now get a booster vaccine 6 months after their second dose and all young people aged 16 and 17 can now get their second vaccine dose from 12 weeks after their first one. All young people aged 12 to 15 can now get their first vaccine dose. Book your vaccination appointment online or find a walk-in clinic.

See: Coronavirus (COVID-19): guidance and support - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

Working Minds campaign launches

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) are calling for a culture change across Britain’s workplaces where recognising and responding to the signs of stress becomes as routine as managing workplace safety. 

Work-related stress is now the number one cause of employee sickness absence, with major factors causing work-related stress including workload pressures - tight deadlines, too much responsibility and a lack of managerial support. Employers, particularly smaller ones, are not aware of their legal duties or how to spot the signs of stress.

Working Minds raises awareness about how to recognise and respond to the signs of stress and reminds employers of their legal duty to protect workers and support good mental health to help people to stay well. The organisation also provides small businesses with relevant information and practical tools. 

See: Working Minds - Work Right to keep Britain safe (campaign.gov.uk)

HMRC webinars - November and December 2021

There are a number of webinars available this November and December from HMRC that will help employers with payroll, give the self-employed an understanding of key taxes that affect them and help those individuals and businesses trading outside Northern Ireland get to grips with import and export procedures. The webinars are free and last around an hour.

See: HMRC videos, webinars and email alerts - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

New laws and code to resolve remaining COVID-19 commercial rent debts

New laws and a Code of Practice are being introduced to resolve the remaining commercial rent debts accrued because of the pandemic. 

The Code sets out that, in the first instance, tenants unable to pay in full should negotiate with their landlord in the expectation that the landlord waives some or all rent arrears where they are able to do so.

From 25 March 2022, new laws introduced in the Commercial Rent (Coronavirus) Bill will establish a legally-binding arbitration process for commercial landlords and tenants who have not already reached an agreement, following the principles in the Code of Practice. 

The Bill will apply to commercial rent debts related to the mandated closure of certain businesses such as pubs, gyms and restaurants during the pandemic. Debts accrued at other times will not be in scope.

These laws will come into force in England and Wales, and Northern Ireland will have a power in the Bill to introduce similar legislation.

See: New laws and code to resolve remaining COVID-19 commercial rent debts - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

New requirements for importing animal and plant goods from 1 January 2022

From 1 January 2022, pre-notification will be required for imports to Great Britain of most products of animal origin, animal by-products, high-risk food not of animal origin and regulated plants and plant products from the EU.

Businesses (or a representative acting on their behalf) importing these goods from the EU may be required to pre-notify authorities on the relevant IT system that their consignment will be entering Great Britain.

See: Import or move food and drink from the EU and Northern Ireland to Great Britain - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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