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In-house agenda: April 2021

Robert Clay

07 Apr 2021

REUTERS/Regis Duvignau (Photo)

Lockdown restrictions are expected to be eased in England from 12 April 2021. Restart Grants will be available in England from 1 April and, from 6 April, the Recovery Loan Scheme will open to all UK businesses and most changes to the Immigration Rules will come into force.

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COVID-19

Lockdown restrictions are expected to be eased in England from 12 April, with the following venues allowed to reopen:

  • Non-essential retail businesses
  • Personal care premises, such as hairdressers and nail salons
  • Indoor leisure facilities, such as gyms (but only for use by people on their own or in household groups)
  • Most outdoor sites and outdoor hospitality venues (including restaurants and pubs, table service only, but no need for a substantial meal, and no curfew)
  • Zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas
  • Self-contained accommodation, such as campsites and holiday lets, where indoor facilities are not shared with other households

Several measures in the Spring 2021 Budget were aimed at helping businesses to recover from the economic fallout of COVID-19. These included Restart Grants in England. The government will provide one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for non-essential retail businesses and up to £18,000 per premises for hospitality, accommodation, leisure, personal care and gym businesses. Grants will be available from 1 April. In addition, the Recovery Loan Scheme will be open to all UK businesses to access loans of between £25,000 and £10 million. The scheme will launch on 6 April.

Immigration

The UK government has published a statement of changes to the Immigration Rules, most of which come into force on 6 April. The statement includes revisions to the UK’s shortage occupation list, including the addition of eight occupations in the health and care sectors, and introduces a new minimum hourly rate to the Skilled Worker category. It also formalises the introduction of the new Graduate route, which opens on 1 July, allowing international students to stay in the UK and work, or look for work, at any skill level for up to two years after they successfully complete a course at a UK higher education provider (three years for those awarded doctorates).

Audit

BEIS has published a consultation paper on restoring trust in audit and corporate governance, following the highly publicised collapse of companies including Thomas Cook Group, Carillion and BHS. It also published the recommendations of several independent reviews into audit and corporate reporting. Proposed reforms relate to public interest entities, directors, auditors and the audit market, shareholders, and the establishment of the new regulator, the Audit, Reporting and Governance Authority (ARGA).

The deadline for responses to the consultation is 8 July.

Non-financial reporting

BEIS has published a consultation seeking views on proposals to require mandatory TCFD-aligned climate-related financial disclosures from publicly quoted companies, large private companies and LLPs. Among other things, BEIS proposes that companies will be required to report climate-related financial information in the non-financial information statement that forms part of the strategic report.

The consultation closes on 5 May.

Board diversity

Two reviews on board diversity have been published recently:

  • The Hampton-Alexander Review on improving gender balance in FTSE leadership. Among other things, the report states that as at 11 January women held 36 percent of FTSE 100 board positions (up from 32 percent in 2019), but 32 FTSE 100 companies had not yet achieved the 33 percent target.
  • The Parker Review Committee on the ethnic diversity of boards. While 74 FTSE 100 companies reported a director from a minority ethnic group on their board (up from 52 in January 2020), 21 companies reported no directors from a minority ethnic group on their board.

Annual general meetings (AGMs)

A working group including ICSA and the City of London Law Society Company Law Committee has published guidance aimed at helping public companies plan for AGMs and other general meetings in 2021. The guidance includes sample wording for:

  • AGM circulars for closed physical meetings in a restricted local or national lockdown scenario
  • Hybrid meetings in a restricted local or national lockdown scenario
  • Meetings where shareholders are to attend

UK Listing Review

HM Treasury has published the report of the UK Listing Review, chaired by Lord Hill. The report identifies an urgent need for reform, not least of the Listing Rules and the prospectus regime, to ensure the attractiveness of the UK as a place to take a company public post-Brexit. Among the Review’s recommendations are modernising the Listing Rules to allow dual class share structures in the premium listing segment.

Environment: waste prevention

The government is consulting on a waste prevention programme for England, which sets wide-ranging actions across seven key sectors:

  • Construction
  • Textiles
  • Furniture
  • Electrical and electronics products
  • Road vehicles
  • Food and packaging
  • Plastics and single-use items

The consultation closes on 10 June.

Gig economy

The Spanish government is to become the first European country to legislate to give employee rights to gig economy workers following a Spanish supreme court ruling last year that people working for a food delivery app were employees. In February 2021, the European Commission launched a consultation seeking views on possible EU action to improve working conditions in the gig economy.

Modern slavery

The government has launched its registry for Modern Slavery Act 2015 statements and added the government’s modern slavery statement to the registry. The registry is currently voluntary, but all organisations are strongly encouraged to submit their statements online, and in due course it will be mandatory for organisations that are legally required to produce a statement to submit that statement to the registry.

Key dates for your diary

1 April 2021

6 April 2021

23 April 2021

Consultation on service sector exclusions in UK Internal Market Act 2020 closes.

Written by our Practical Law experts. To see the original article, on the Practical Law In-house blog, please click here (free access).
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