Following the Prime Minister’s announcement regarding the delay in the move to step 4 in the UK Government COVID-19 roadmap, here is a round-up of the latest official updates which include the wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and celebrations guidance, the funerals and commemorative events guidance, and the limits for out-of-school residential stays being increased to groups of up to 30 children from 21 June. In addition, extensions to temporary insolvency measures and eviction protection have been announced.
Updated guidance for wedding and civil partnership ceremonies, receptions and celebrations
From 21 June the rules for wedding and civil partnership ceremonies; and wedding receptions and civil partnership celebrations will change. There will no longer be a maximum number cap for attendees set out in law. Instead, the number of attendees at weddings, civil partnerships and receptions will be determined by how many people the venue or space can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. This will be based on the COVID-19 risk assessment of the venue or outdoor space, and the measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19. In a COVID-secure venue, where the premises are operated or used by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body (such as a place of worship or a hospitality venue) venues will advise organisers the maximum number of people who will be able to attend. Some restrictions on ceremonies and receptions remain in place to enable them to take place safely. These include Step 3 requirements on table service, face coverings, social distancing, and restrictions on dancing and singing. Viewings can continue to take place at any venue which is not required in law to remain closed, so long as appropriate COVID-19 mitigation measures are in place. This includes, for example, any restaurant or indoor visitor attraction. Funeral and commemorative event guidance updated From 21 June, the rules on funerals and commemorative events, such as stone-setting ceremonies, the scattering of ashes or a wake, will change. There will no longer be a maximum number of attendees set out in law for funerals or commemorative events. Instead, the number of attendees will be determined by how many people the venue or outdoor space can safely accommodate with social distancing measures in place. This will be based on the COVID-19 risk assessment of the venue or outdoor space, and the measures put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19.
In a COVID-secure venue, where the premises are operated or used by a business, a charitable, benevolent or philanthropic institution or a public body (such as a place of worship or a hospitality venue), venues will advise organisers the maximum number of people who will be able to attend. Group size for out-of-school residential visits increased From 21 June, limits for out-of-school residential stays have also been increased in England, meaning that hotels and other forms of group accommodation will be able to offer residential visits for groups of up to 30 children, rather than groups of 6. Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) guidance updates The guidance for businesses to check if they are eligible for the ARG grant has been updated to clarify which sectors are eligible to receive it. Whilst local councils have the freedom to determine the eligibility criteria for these grants, the Government has set out an expectation that the funding should help businesses that are severely impacted by the restrictions. Local councils are encouraged to support:
Businesses from all sectors that may have been severely impacted by restrictions but are not eligible for the Restart Grant scheme, including those which do not pay business rates.
Businesses from sectors that remain closed or severely impacted by the extended restrictions, even if those businesses have already been in receipt of Restart Grants. This may include the travel and tourism sector, wedding industries, nightclubs, theatres, events industries, wholesalers, English language schools, breweries, freelance and mobile businesses including caterers, events, hair, beauty and wedding-related businesses.
The spending allocation deadline for the ARG has been extended to 30 July 2021 and the guidance for Local Authorities has also been updated. Eviction protection extended for businesses Businesses that have had to remain closed during the pandemic and are unable to pay rent on their commercial property will continue to be protected from eviction. Legislation will be introduced in this session to ring-fence outstanding unpaid rent that has built up when a business has had to remain closed during the pandemic.
Landlords are expected to make allowances for the ring-fenced rent arrears from these specific periods of closure due to the pandemic, and share the financial impact with their tenants. The legislation will help tenants and landlords work together to come to an agreement on how to handle the money owed – this could be done by waiving some of the total amount or agreeing a longer-term repayment plan. This agreement should be between the tenant and landlord and, if in some cases an agreement cannot be made, the law will ensure a binding arbitration process will be put in place so that both parties can come to a formal agreement. This will be a legally binding agreement that both parties must adhere to. In order to ensure landlords are protected, the Government has said that businesses who are able to pay rent, must do so. Tenants should start paying their rent as soon as restrictions change, and they are given the green light to open. The existing measures in place to protect commercial tenants from eviction will be extended to 25 March 2022. Temporary insolvency measures extended The Insolvency Service has announced that regulations are set to be laid that will mean restrictions on statutory demands and winding up petitions will remain for a further three months until 30 September 2021 with a view to protecting companies from creditor enforcement action where their debts relate to the pandemic. Other Government updates
The domestic cruise ship travel guidance has been updated to say it is expected that England will move to Step 4 on 19 July, though the data will be reviewed after 2 weeks in case the risks have reduced. By step 4, the Government hopes to remove all legal limits on social contact. This includes lifting capacity limits for domestic cruises.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme guidance has been updated with a reminder that from 1 July 2021, the Government will pay 70% of wages up to a maximum cap of £2,187.50 for the hours the employee is on furlough.
Guidance has been published for people who are organising a wedding or civil partnership, or funeral, wake or commemoration, including in a private home or garden.
Version 2 of the guidance and FAQs for local authorities have been published for the Welcome Back Fund which is to enable local authorities in England to put in place additional measures to create and promote a safe environment for local trade and tourism.
We will continue to keep you updated. In the meantime, visit our Business Advice Hub for practical guidance to help you operate in a COVID-19 Secure way during the pandemic. See all COVID-19 updates and guidance for businesses here.