Earlier this week, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, announced a new three-tier lockdown system for England in a renewed attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus. The system aims to implement a set of rules and restrictions which can be used nationally as well as to impose lockdowns locally, with the aim of simplifying the current COVID-19 safety measures.
The Prime Minister announced a traffic light-style plan which will grade all areas in England based on the rate of infection and total number of cases within each region.
Whilst the system is designed to save lives, the question is will it save livelihoods?
What is the three-tier system?
Areas with relatively low infection rates will be placed at Level 1 (Green) and will be subject to existing restrictions such as the rule of six, social distancing and the use of face coverings in public places. Leisure and entertainment venues such as restaurants, pubs, and bars will continue to operate but will still be subject to curfew and must remain closed between the hours of 10pm-5am.
Level 2 (Amber) areas will face increased social restrictions, including a ban on socialising with different households in public places such as bars or restaurants, as well as in private areas such as homes or gardens. Only essential journeys will be permitted, resulting in a greater number of people who will not be able to travel to work.
Level 3 (Red) will be reserved for areas which are deemed to be at the highest risk level. Here lockdown restrictions will be severe, mirroring those imposed on the entire country back in March. Bars, pubs, casinos, betting shops and tourist attractions may face temporary closure. Amateur sports, social clubs, and community centres will also be suspended.
What does this mean?
The three-tier system has been announced just as business leaders seek to mount a legal challenge against the Government’s lockdown restrictions, claiming that national restrictions have “decimated the hospitality industry”.
Indeed, for those businesses which have already been forced to temporarily close during the summer months and which have only recently reopened, the prospect of another mandatory closure may have wide-reaching impact. Even those businesses which fall within Amber-rated areas will face lower footfall and reduced customer reach.
Many migrants, including Tier 1 Entrepreneurs, Sole Representatives of Overseas Businesses and Innovators, are required to continuously operate businesses in the UK and to create jobs in order to comply with their visa conditions. Failure to adhere to these requirements will result in a refusal of further leave to remain in the UK.
In a bid to mitigate the impact of lockdown restrictions on such migrants, a series of measures were implemented in April to alleviate pressure on struggling businesses, including the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, which allowed employers to furlough employees with financial support from the Government. The scheme comes to an end this month.
The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced an expansion of the Job Retention Scheme in order to protect employers and workers who may be affected by the three-tier lockdown policy in the next few months. Unlike the scheme which is currently in place, the Government will now seek to pay up to 67% of each employee’s salary, up to a maximum of £2,100 per month, and employers will still be liable to pay national insurance and pension contributions.
It is notable that the mandatory closure of certain businesses (such as restaurants) has not fully exempted Tier 1 Entrepreneurs and Innovators from having to meet the job creation requirements, although some concessions have been made to ensure that the requirements are somewhat less rigid. Entrepreneur and Innovator migrants are not able to rely on any employee who has been furloughed for the purposes of meeting the job creation requirement, however the policy presently allows for multiple job roles to be combined in order to reach the 12-month threshold. It is unclear how long this concession will run for.
The possibility of further stringent lockdown measures will have a profound impact on those migrants who are required to meet already onerous requirements, and who are only just getting back on their feet after a long and difficult summer.
Gherson has extensive experience in all Point-Based System applications, including Tier 1 Entrepreneur and Tier 2 applications. If you have any questions about the Coronavirus concessions, and how these may be applicable to you, please do contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.
Consultant in our Private Client department