A daily fly-on-the-wall blog about running a legal business during the Covid-19 crisis.
By Darren Isaacs - 14 May
I spent a large part of the morning wading through the Government's various new guidance documents on how different workplaces can try to re-open safely.
I am not normally one to heap praise on Government agencies, but to be fair, I think the guidance notes are actually quite helpful. The one on office workplaces in particular is quite useful for clients who are starting to plan their "new world" office environments. I am going to suggest that clients with offices who are thinking of re-opening soon, walk through the document to use it as a guide to what they should be considering.
In contrast is the guidance from the Department of Transport on cycle-to-work schemes, which I have also been looking at. A lovely client wants to help its team to be able to get into work without using public transport, so we have been looking at cycle-to-work schemes.
To cut a long story short, cycle-to-work schemes have previously been something an employer could offer to an employee in a tax beneficial way, but the value of the equipment being hired was capped at £1,000.
£1,000 does not get you much of a bike these days, so in 2019 the government removed the cap. What a great way to encourage more employees to cycle to work (all the more important in the coming months)!
However - to cut another long story short - the government did not change the rules dealing with FCA authorisation (you know, the Financial Conduct Authority - the same regulator for hedge funds and the like).
If anyone hires out bike equipment (including an employer) and the kit is worth more than £1,000, then FCA authorisation will be required.
Solution: outsource the hiring to a bike shop. So far, so good.
However, Department of Transport guidance *helpfully* warns that an employer may still be seen as a credit broker (err, a what?) and require separate FCA authorisation, or alternatively the regulated "authorised representative" of the bike hire company (also complicated). And, of course, this: "If in doubt about this or any other regulatory issues, you should consider seeking legal advice on your position."
Really? Really take regulatory legal advice just to get a simple cycle-to-work scheme going?
And this is before we even get to the limits on how a cycle-to-work scheme operates, from a tax angle. Another rant for another day.
Recommendation #1 - if you have an office workplace and want to re-open, do read the government's new guidance on this. It's good.
Recommendation #2 - do consider a cycle-to-work scheme, but keep in mind that it is a little tricky on the regulatory and tax sides, and you may need to speak to someone about it. Stupid red tape, but red tape nonetheless.
If you would like to read our Covid diaries starting from day 1 please click here.