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Ashfords' Business Bulletin - May 2022

This quarter’s bulletin focuses on a wide range of articles from Employment, Corporate, Commercial, Restructuring & Insolvency and Data Protection.

Employment

Employers should treat long COVID as a disability states the EHRC

The Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Head of Employment Policy has suggested that, to avoid organisations inadvertently breaching equality law, they should treat their employees who have long Covid-19 symptoms as if they have a disability for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010.

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Immigration

Update: Digital Right to Work Checks for British and Irish

From 6 April 2022, the Home Office is introducing a number of changes to right to work checks.

One of the key changes is the introduction of a new digital right to work check for British and Irish nationals. At a time where remote working has become the norm for so many businesses, this will be a welcome change for many employers, as it will mean that right to work checks do not have to be carried out in person or involve checking physical documents.

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Restructuring and Insolvency

Spouse directors: the risks of saying ‘I do’

The recent decision of Manolete Partners Plc v Ronojay Nag and Amanda Nag has been a useful reminder of the law in relation to the silent spouse directors who opt to blindly follow their partners instructions without questioning for themselves whether it is right to do so. We look at the case in more detail and the appropriate steps that could be taken by directors in this type of situation. 

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Corporate

New National Security Act | A Guide 

You may think it would be obvious if your transaction would be a national security concern, but the wide ranging powers introduced by the Government in the National Security and Investment Act 2021 (the "Act") enable the Government to call in a wide range of transactions (investments, share acquisitions or asset purchases) for reasons of national security. Given the broad nature of the Act, many transactions now carry some risk of being 'called in' for further scrutiny, and potentially having restrictions placed upon them in the name of national security. Importantly, there can also be an obligation to make a mandatory notification to the Government, with up to 30 working days for the Government to review and respond. Parties should expect the Government to take the full amount of time granted to them when reviewing notifications.

The new Act can therefore have material implications on a transaction timetable. The notification is made once the terms of the transaction are known, and only then will the timeline begin. If the transaction is called in, the Government is granted a further 30 working day assessment period, which is extendable by up to an additional 45 days. To warn those looking to secure transactions quickly and without recourse to Governmental scrutiny, in circumstances where a mandatory notification was required but not made, acquirers/investors and their directors may be subject to significant fines and/or custodial sentences, with potential for the transaction to be considered null and void. Our Corporate team have made successful notifications pursuant to the Act and have experience in structuring transactions to account for its requirements, whilst achieving a satisfactory outcome for the parties as quickly as possible.

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Real estate

A Guide to the Register of Overseas Entities

Any overseas entity that owns UK land must now identify its beneficial owners and register them on a publicly-available register overseen by Companies House. There are criminal sanctions for non-compliance, and (unless certain exemptions apply) an overseas entity will not be able to register a purchase of UK land at the Land Registry without complying.

Businesses should identify any overseas entities within their group that may own UK land (which includes both freehold estates and leases of more than 7 years) and register them where necessary. Any real estate transactions involving overseas entities may require a little more time than usual to ensure that registration requirements are met.

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Business Risk & Regulation

Alone but safe – how can employers protect their lone workers?

Lone workers form a significant part of the UK’s workforce, with up to approximately 8 million people working on their own or without any close supervision. The Covid-19 pandemic saw this number the number of lone workers increase and with hybrid and remote working set to continue in many sectors, organisations need to ensure appropriate measures to mitigate the risks associated with lone working. Work-related abuse, stress, mental health and isolated work locations are just some of the risks that lone workers are exposed to. Our article considers these risks in more detail, with guidance for employers on how to manage them.

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For more information on this bulletin, please contact Rory Suggett or Andrew Betteridge.

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