COVID-19: A NEW LEGAL DIMENSION IN MAURITIUS

By Javed Niamut,Fazil Hossenkhan Tuesday, May 19, 2020
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Over the weeks that have followed the decree of the lockdown in Mauritius, the Government has come out with piecemeal regulations and measures to address, in a very reactive manner, the immediate needs for regulation of this unprecedented situation. These measures include:

  • State of Emergency Regulations - The Prevention and Mitigation of Infectious Disease (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 supplementing the Quarantine Regulations 1953 as a matter of emergency to deal with the threat of the COVID-19 virus. The regulations introduced the powers to hold certain persons in isolation or in quarantine and certain powers of the police to enable them to enforce compliance with the regulations
  • Curfew Orders – Since 23rd March currently in force until 1st June 2020, severely restricting movement of persons and business operations; 
  • Wage Assistance Schemes - To ensure that all employees in the private sector are duly paid their salaries during the curfew period and a Self-Employed Assistance Scheme to provide financial support to the informal sector during the curfew period;
  • The COVID-19 Solidarity Fund - A solidarity fund to contribute to the financing of projects, programmes and schemes related to the COVID-19 and other related public health issues and to provide financial support to the population and organisations being affected by the COVID-19 virus;
  • The COVID-19 Projects Development Fund – A fund set up to implement programme for financing of projects and scheme specified in the Public Sector Investment Programme, a 5-year rolling plan of the Government for capital investment, other projects, schemes or programmes as the Minister of Finance may approve and which will fund consultancy, preparatory or advisory services in relation to such projects. The fund will be made up of sums received from the Consolidated Fund, contributions from the Bank of Mauritius, public enterprises and statutory bodies, the private sector, donations, grants and other receipts from any national or international organisations or development partners or other friendly countries or persons;
  • Time Extensions - Various extensions of compliance timelines by public authorities like the Mauritius Revenue Authority, Registrar of Companies, the Financial Services Commission and the Stock Exchange of Mauritius; and
  • Sanitary Measures - The Prevention of Resurgence and Further Spread of Epidemic Disease (COVID-19) Regulations 2020 (the “Sanitary Regulations”) come into force on 17 May 2020 entrenching the sanitary measures such as the use of masks and protective equipment and rules of social distancing in Mauritius in the wake of the relaxation of confinement. Breaches of the regulation is visited by heavy penalties.

The COVID-19 Act and Quarantine Act

These measures have now paved the way for more comprehensive, and far-reaching reforms touching upon a variety of sectors of the economy. The COVID-19 (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 (“COVID-19 Act”) and (ii) the Quarantine Act 2020 (the “Quarantine Act”) were passed by the Mauritius National Assembly on 15 May 2020 and received the President’s assent on 16 May 2020. The COVID-19 Act has made far-reaching amendments to 56 legislations to cater for the impact of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) and providing for the relaxation of certain requirements during the “COVID-19 period”. The Quarantine Act repeals the Quarantine Act 1954 and provides for a reformed and modern legislative framework with a view to providing more appropriate measures for the prevention and spread of communicable diseases.

In many ways, the amendments make serious inroads in areas such as workers’ right, civil liberties and give cause for concern within various quarters of the population over the wide powers being ascribed to the executive. The term “COVID-19 period” itself has been introduced as a legal term in Interpretation and General Clauses Act  thus giving this pandemic the status of a distinct legal concept in Mauritius law to which will be attached separate statutory and constitutional principles and which undoubtedly will breed its own jurisprudence.

This insight sets out a high-level summary of the measures recently introduced.

SANITARY MEASURES

The sanitary measures introduced by the Sanitary Regulations include the following:

- A person is required to wear a protective mask over his nose and mouth and ensure that every child aged 5 and above, in his company, wears such mask, in any place, other than in his ordinary place of residence. This requirement shall not be applicable where a person travels alone in his vehicle or where all his passengers ordinarily live with him in the same place of residence, when a person is lawfully directed to remove the mask to ascertain his identity or when a person carries out in the course of his employment an activity that requires that no protective mask may be worn or for other equipment to be worn.

- Every person must observe social and physical distancing of at least 1 metre in any place other than in his ordinary place of residence, unless the person is in the company of a child under the age of 12.

- Employers must ensure that appropriate measures are in place to implement the social and physical distancing rules set out in the Regulations.

- A person must, whether in his ordinary place of residence, in public place, at his workplace and any other premises, ensure that he disinfects his hands regularly using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer where same is available.

- Employers are required to provide to his employees, hygiene products (which include soap, hand sanitisers and tissue) and rubbish bins for disposal of the products and to ensure that waste is regularly disposed of and that the place of work is regularly cleaned and disinfected.

- Where a person breaches the regulations in relation to wearing of masks or observing social and physical distancing, he shall commit an offence and may on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding MUR 50,000 and to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years.

POWERS DURING QUARANTINE

The Quarantine Act confers powers to, amongst others, the Prime Minister, the Minister of Health, the Police during a quarantine period. 

Powers of Prime Minister

During a quarantine period, the Prime Minister is empowered to:

(i) prohibit the entry of aircrafts and ships into Mauritius;
(ii) order that all persons shall remain indoors within such area and during such period and under such terms and conditions, as he may specify; and
(iii) order that specified commercial premises or offices shall remain closed for such period and under such terms and conditions as he may specify.

Powers of Commissioner of Police

The Commissioner of Police is empowered to issue a permit to a person to be outdoor for such purpose and on such terms and conditions as the Commissioner of Police may specify in the permit, notwithstanding any order made by the Prime Minister for all persons to remain indoor.

Police powers

A police officer may board a ship or an aircraft, enter premises without a warrant, or arrest without a warrant, a person whom he has reasonable cause to believe has committed an offence under the Quarantine Act or any regulations made thereunder.

Powers of Minister of Health

Where the Minister of Health considers that it is necessary and expedient to prevent the introduction and spread in Mauritius of a communicable disease, he is required to declare by way of a notice published in the Gazette that there is or is likely to be an epidemic of the disease and a quarantine period must be in force in Mauritius, or part thereof as from such date specified in the notice. A list of communicable diseases is specified in the schedule to the Quarantine Act. Where the Minister of Health considers that there is no longer a threat of an epidemic, he must declare the end of the epidemic by way of a notice.

Designation of quarantine facility and appointment of quarantine officer

The Quarantine Authority which is defined as the Director General Health Services of the Ministry of Health is permitted to designate such premises as he considers appropriate to be a quarantine facility for the protection of public health.

A quarantine facility will be under the control of a quarantine officer (a medical practitioner designated by the Quarantine Authority) who may be assisted by such other officer designated by the Quarantine Authority.

Confinement of persons in quarantine facilities

During a quarantine period, a person may be confined in a quarantine facility for such period as determined by the quarantine officer or be instructed by the quarantine officer to isolate himself at his residence, if that person has:

(i) travelled into Mauritius from abroad;
(ii) has been or may have been in contact with a person who has or may have a communicable disease; or
(iii) has otherwise been exposed to a communicable disease.

A quarantined person who is in need of medical treatment may make a request to follow medical treatment in a private health institution at its own costs and such request shall be entertained by the quarantine officer (under such supervision as he may direct) to the extent that the private health institution has adequate facilities for treating the disease and is designated as a quarantine facility.

Where the quarantine officer considers that a quarantined person does not suffer from a communicable disease and poses no risk of harm to public health, he must discharge the quarantined person on such conditions as the quarantine officer may impose.

CORPORATE MEASURES

Temporary measures during COVID-19 period

The Registrar of Companies is empowered to issue practice directions, guidelines or such other instructions during the COVID-19 period and for such further period as the Registrar may determine for the good administration of the Companies Act.

Annual meeting of shareholders

The timeline to call an annual meeting of shareholders has been extended from 6 months after the balance sheet date of the company to 9 months after the balance sheet date or such further period as the Registrar may determine, after the COVID-19 period lapses. The requirement to call annual meeting of shareholders not more than once in a year and not later than 15 months after the previous annual meeting has been disapplied during the COVID-19 period and for such further period as the Registrar may determine after the COVID-19 period lapses.

Duty of directors on insolvency

Directors’ are exempted from their duty to call a meeting to consider appointing a liquidator or an administrator where the company is unable to pay its debts during the COVID-19 period and such further period as the Registrar may determine.

Preparation and filing of financial statements

The timeline to prepare financial statements has been extended from 6 months after the balance sheet date to 9 months or such further period as the Registrar may determine, after the COVID-19 period lapses. The delay to file financial statements with the Registrar has also been extended from 28 days to 3 months or such further period as the Registrar may determine, after the COVID-19 period lapses.

Insolvency

1. Winding up of Companies

Any resolution passed to wind up a company (excluding a Global Business Company), by shareholders or creditors during the COVID-19 period or during a period not exceeding 3 months after the COVID-19 period lapses, shall be deemed not to have been passed and shall be void.

The requirement to call for a creditors’ meeting where no declaration of solvency is made in a voluntary winding up shall not apply during the COVID-19 period or during a period not exceeding 3 months after the COVID-19 period lapses.

2. Statutory demand

The threshold of a debt in respect of which an application for statutory demand may be made has been increased from Rs 100,000 to Rs 250,000.

The time period for the debtor company to pay the debt, enter into a compromise or compound with the creditor or give a charge over its property has also been increased from one month to two months.
The time period for an application to set aside a statutory demand and to be served on a creditor has been extended from 14 days to 28 days.

3. Receivers and Managers

Any appointment of a receiver by a charge through an instrument of charge or any appointment of a receiver or receiver and manager by a chargee under an instrument during the COVID-19 period shall be of no effect and shall be void.

4. Voluntary Administration

The time period for an administrator to call the first creditor’s meeting has been extended from 10 days to not later than 30 days after the COVID-19 period lapses where the delay to call the meeting falls wholly or partly during the COVID-19 period.

CHANGES TO THE EMPLOYMENT REGIME

With a sluggish economy, dim prospects of speedy recovery and financial woes of sectors heavily reliant on international travel, tourism and hospitality, clear measures were needed to alleviate the burden on employers in the wake of COVID-19 related redundancies.  The COVID-19 Act brings changes to the employment regime by giving employers greater flexibility to lay off, to lessen the financial burden of a dismissal and require more output from employees, but at the same time, removes a number of the procedural safeguards and recourses which had been hard earned achievements of the working classes.

Work from home

The “work from home” concept has been introduced in legislation whereby employers can require any worker to work from home provided a notice of at least 48 hours is given to the worker. The Minister of Labour, Human Resource Development and Training (the “Minister”) is also empowered to make regulations with respect to work from home.

Flexitime

Employers are now required to give at least 48 hours’ notice when requesting a worker to work on  flexitime.

Workers are now entitled to request to work on flexitime without any reasons (previously the entitlement was limited to workers caring for their child below the age of 4 or having an impairment).

Shift work

The amendments allow the Minister to remove the entitlement to night-shift allowance for workers working on a shift system for such period as to be set out in regulations to be made. It appears that this period could be extended beyond the Covid-19 period.  Workers working on shift during such period as may be prescribed shall not be entitled to shift allowance.

Overtime Pay

The amendments allow the Minister to reduce the rate of remuneration for work performed, by workers in specific sectors (blockmaking, construction, stone crushing  making and related industries and the manufacturing sector governed by the Factory Employees (Remuneration) Regulations 2019) on public holidays (which includes Sundays) during such period as to be set out in regulations to be made:

(i) after normal working hours - from 3 to 2 times the basic hourly rate for every hour of work;
(ii) during normal working - from 2 to 1.5 times the basic hourly rate for every hour of work. It appears that reduction in remuneration could be extended beyond the Covid-19 period.

Paid time-off

Paid time-off in lieu of remuneration for overtime compensation, can now be granted to a worker in any pay period by the employer or at the request of the worker. Where no paid time off has been granted wholly or partly, any outstanding paid time-off can be carried forward until the worker ceases to be employed with that employer, or until 31 December 2021.  Where a worker cannot avail himself of the total paid time off accumulated, he will be entitled to remuneration in lieu of any time off left.

Annual leave

Employers are entitled to withhold up to 15 days’ annual leave or such other number of annual leave as may be prescribed from the leave entitlement of full-time workers (excluding workers who have for the COVID-19 period, performed work during such days as required by the employers) for a period of 18 months following the expiry of the COVID-19 period.

Termination of employment

An employer is not entitled to terminate an employment agreement during any month in respect of which the employer has received allowance under the Wage Assistance Scheme or such other financial assistance paid to the employer by the Government.

Employment following a transfer of undertaking

The Minister is empowered to make  regulations to exempt employers providing services in specific sectors (air traffic control, air transport services, civil aviation and airport, customs, electricity, health, hotel services, hospital, port, radio and television, refuse disposal, telephone, transport of passengers and goods, and water supply) (the “Relevant Sectors”) from the provisions of the Workers’ Rights Act with respect to employment following a transfer of undertaking.

The Minister may also make provisions for the terms and conditions on which a worker may be offered employment by a new employer following a transfer of undertaking or taking over of the trade or business of his former previous employer.

Reduction of workforce

By far, the most drastic in-road to workers right is contained in the power given to the Minister by regulations to exempt employers in the Relevant Sectors from the requirement to consult with employee’s representatives or trade union to consider alternatives to termination prior to any reduction of workforce or closure of enterprise. Any such employer should give written notice to the Redundancy Board at least 15 days’ before the reduction of workforce or closing instead of the 30 days’ notice applicable in other cases. The Redundancy Board must complete its proceedings within 15 days of notification by the employer instead of the 30 days’ notice applicable in other cases. Where the Redundancy Board finds that the reasons for reduction of workforce or closure are justified, the worker shall be paid 30 days’ wages as indemnity in lieu of notice. Instead of the 30 days’ wages, the Redundancy Board may, at the request of the employer, and subject to the consent of the worker, order that the worker proceeds on leave without pay for such period as the employer may specify in his notification subject to the condition that the resumption of employment be on such new terms and conditions, including pension benefits, as the employer may, prior to resumption of work, offer to the worker.

Where the Redundancy Board finds the reasons for reduction of workforce or closure are unjustified, the worker shall be paid severance allowance at the rate of 3 months’ remuneration per year of service.

Labour dispute

The President of the Commission for Conciliation and Mediation is now required to refer, any labour dispute reported to him during the COVID-19 period or such further period as may be prescribed relating to employers providing services in specific sectors (air traffic control, air transport services, civil aviation and airport, health, hospital and port), to the Employment Relations Tribunal without promoting a settlement of the dispute. The Employment Relations Tribunal and the Tribunal must within 30 days of the referral enquire into the dispute and make an award.

TAXES, DUTIES AND CUSTOMS

Income Tax

1. Tax relief for contribution to the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund

Contributions made by individuals or companies to the COVID-19 Solidarity Fund can be deductible from their net income. Any unrelieved amount may be carried forward and deducted against their net income of the next 2 income years.

2. The COVID-19 Levy

A levy has been imposed on employers who have benefitted from an allowance under the Wage Assistance Scheme.

In respect of an employer who is an individual, the levy will be as follows:

(i) In respect of the year of assessment starting on 1July 2020, an amount equivalent to the lower of (aa) the total amount paid to him under the Wage Assistance Scheme or (bb) 15% of his gross income (excluding remuneration in respect of his employment, allowance for past employment, dividend, interest charges, annuity, or pension) after deduction of any tax deductible expenditure; and

(ii) In respect of the year of assessment starting on 1 July 2021, an amount equivalent to the lower of (aa) the total amount paid to him under the Wage Assistance Scheme as reduced by the amount of levy payable for the year of assessment starting on 1 July 2020 or (bb) 15% of his gross income (excluding remuneration in respect of his employment, allowance for past employment, dividend, interest charges, annuity, or pension) after deduction of any tax deductible expenditure.

In respect of an employer who is a company:

(i) If the accounting year of the company ends on any date during the period starting on 1 May 2020 and ending 31 December 2020 and starting on 1 May 2021 and ending on 31 December 2021, the levy will be payable in respect of the years of assessment commencing on 1 July 2020 and 1 July 2021 as follows:

- In respect of the year of assessment starting on 1 July 2020, the levy shall be an amount equivalent to the lower of (aa) the total amount paid to it under the Wage Assistance Scheme or (bb) 15% of its chargeable income for levy;

- In respect of the year of assessment starting on 1st July 2021, the levy shall be an amount equivalent to the lower of (aa) the total amount paid to it under the Wage Assistance Scheme as reduced by the amount of levy payable for the year of assessment starting on 1July 2020 or (bb) 15% of its chargeable income for levy.

(ii) If the accounting year of the company ends on any date during the period starting on 1 January 2021 and ending 30 April 2021 and starting on 1 January 2022 and ending 30 April 2022, the levy will be payable in respect of the years of assessment commencing on 1 July 2021 and 1 July 2022 as follows:

- In respect of the year of assessment starting on 1 July 2021, the levy shall be an amount equivalent to the lower of (aa) the total amount paid to it under the Wage Assistance Scheme or (bb) 15% of its chargeable income for levy;

- In respect of the year of assessment starting on 1st July 2022, the levy shall be an amount equivalent to the lower of (aa) the total amount paid to it under the Wage Assistance Scheme as reduced by the amount of levy payable for the year of assessment starting on 1July 2021 or (bb) 15% of its chargeable income for levy.

The levy is cause for some concern in as much as at the time of the Wage Assistance Scheme being introduced, it was never made clear that any “assistance” would be recouped subsequently by means of a levy. This measure retrospectively creates a cost for benefitting of the Wage Assistance Scheme.

Value Added Tax

Protective masks, other breathing appliances, gas masks and hand sanitizers have been added as zero-rated supplies.

Customs

The timeline for payment of duties, taxes, fees or charges leviable on goods cleared by a Small Medium Enterprise or VAT registered person in any month (other than the month of June) has been extended from 7 working days to 16 working days.

Goods entered during the period starting on 2 November 2020 and ending on 31 December 2020 are now allowed to be warehoused for a period of 36 months from their date of entry (instead of the existing 24 months period).

The Board of Investment, in consultation with the Director General of the MRA, now has the power to authorise private freeport developers to provide warehousing facilities in a freeport zone to any person during the COVID-19 period or longer if prescribed.

The goods in question should have been cleared by Customs under the Customs Act. The fees for the abovementioned authorisation shall be Rs. 3000 per enterprise until the due date, and Rs. 4500 after the due date.

Registration Duties

No surcharge/penalty will be applicable for non-registration of a deed within the specified timeline where the timeline expires or fall wholly or partly during the COVID-19 period or such further period that may be specified.

The time limit to object to a valuation of movable property by the Receiver and the time limit for the objection unit to deal with an objection, which expires or fall wholly or partly during the COVID-19 period has been extended.

Land (Duties and Taxes)

The time limit by which assessments by the Registrar General on the valuation of a transfer of property can be made, objected and dealt with, where the time limit expires or fall wholly or partly during the COVID-19 period has been extended.

FUNDING MEASURES AND ASSISTANCE SCHEME 

Funding measures

The limit on the amount of advances authorized to be issued from the Consolidated Fund or from a deposit prescribed under the Finance and Audit Act, has been increased from MUR 3,500 million to MUR 15,000 million (after deduction of repayment), to or on account of a Special Fund and to or on behalf of any other person where the advance is required in the public interest.

The Bank of Mauritius (“BOM”) is permitted to grant any amount approved by its Board to the Government to assist with the fiscal measures taken by the government to stabilise the economy of Mauritius as a result of the negative economic impact of COVID-19.  The Board of the BOM may approve such grant from the Special Reserve Fund.  

The BOM may with the approval of the Minister of Finance, provide capital to or invest in any corporation or company set up for the purpose of facilitating economic development. Any such investment can be funded from any amount of the official foreign reserves approved by the Board of the BOM.

These are far-reaching changes which allow the Government to have access to national reserves for very non-specific purposes.

The Wage Assistance Scheme

A wage assistance scheme has been introduced to provide for the payment of an allowance by the Mauritius Revenue Authority (“MRA”) to employers in respect of eligible employees.

An eligible employee is defined as an employee whose basic salary is not more than MUR 50, 000 and who is employed on a part-time or full-time basis by (i) an employer deriving gross income from business or (ii) a charitable institution approved by the MRA or registered under the Registration of Associations Act, a charitable trust or a charitable foundation. An employee employed by a Ministry, a Government department, a local authority or a statutory body is not qualified as an eligible employee.

The quantum of the allowance is as follows:

(i) For the month of March 2020 – equivalent to 50% of the basic salary of the employee, capped at MUR 12,500 ;
(ii) For the month of April 2020 – equivalent to 100% of the salary of the employee, capped at MUR 25,000; and
(iii) For the month of May 2020 – equivalent to 100% of the salary of the employee, capped at MUR 25,000.

In respect of a Mauritian citizen employed in an export manufacturing enterprise on a full-time basis and earning not more than MUR 9,000, the allowance payable will be calculated on the basis of the National Minimum Wage of MUR 9,000.

The amendment also provides for (i) the inclusion and exclusion of  such category of employee as may be prescribed in the definition of eligible employee and (ii) the payment of such other allowance, for such other month and for such categories of employers or employees as may be prescribed.

An employee who has benefitted from an allowance and terminates the employment of an eligible employee is not entitled to any allowance in any subsequent month. An employer who has benefitted from an allowance for a particular period and has failed to pay or has reduced the basic wage of an eligible employee must refund the allowance that has not been paid to the eligible employee and will not be entitled to any allowance in any subsequent month.

An application for wage assistance scheme must be made by an employer to the MRA within a period of 3 months from the end of the month to which it is related or within a period of 2 months from the date the COVID-19 period lapses.

The Self-Employed Assistance Scheme

A self-employed assistance scheme has been introduced to provide for the payment of an allowance by the Mauritius Revenue Authority to every self-employed.

A self-employed is defined as a citizen and resident of Mauritius above the age of 18 who is not employed as at 1 March 2020 by any employer and who has been in business on his own account or is a trade person carrying out activities such as mason, cabinet maker, plumber, hairdresser, artist or other similar activities for a period of at least 3 months prior to the start of the COVID-19 period. An individual is not qualified as a self-employed if he derives exclusively passive income, was not carrying out any income earning activity prior to the start of the COVID-19 period or falls under a category as may be prescribed.

The quantum of the allowance is as follows:

(i) MUR 5,100 for the period 16 March 2020 to 15 April 2020;

(ii) MUR 2,550 for the period 16 April 2020 to 30 April 2020; and

(iii) MUR 5,100 for the month of May.

The amendment also provides for the payment of such other amount, for such other period and to such categories of self-employed as may be prescribed.

A self-employed is not entitled to an allowance if he (i) is eligible to receive social benefits, including basic retirement pension or widows pension under the National Pensions Act; (ii) is pursuing higher studies on a full-time basis; (iii) is a dependent spouse; (iv) has a monthly income, when aggregated to that of his spouse, exceeding 50,000 rupees; (v) is a registered fisherman; or (vi) meets such other criteria as may be prescribed.

MEASURES RELATING TO THE TOURISM SECTOR

Pleasure crafts

The Tourism Authority may now issue guidelines to holders of pleasure craft licences for the purposes of restricting the number of passengers authorised on board pleasure crafts at any one time, and other conditions as may be necessary, on the ground of public health and for such period as it considers appropriate. Failure to comply with such guidelines or conditions will be an offence.

Fixed penalties 

Extension of the time limit for the payment of fixed penalties by 3 months where the prescribed time limit expires or falls wholly or partly during the COVID-19 period or during a period of 30 days after the COVID-19 period lapses.  Failure to pay the fixed penalty within such time shall allow the Tourism Authority to institute criminal proceedings against the person for the offence, and the person will, on conviction, be liable to a fine of at least twice the amount of the fixed penalty.

Transitional provisions

Extension of the time limit for the payment of renewal fees with respect to tourist accommodation certificate, tourist enterprise licence, pleasure craft licence or canvasser permit which expires, or falls wholly or partly, during the COVID-19 period or during the period of 1 month after the after the COVID-19 period lapses. The certificate, permits and licences will remain valid for a period of 12 months thereafter. 

The amendments also allow for payment of the renewal fees in equal monthly instalments and provide that failure to pay 3 consecutive monthly instalments will cause the certificates, permits or licences to lapse.

Waiver of environment protection fee

Hotels, guest houses or tourist residences having more than 4 bedrooms are now exempt from paying the monthly environment protection fee for the period starting 1st March 2020 and ending 31st December 2020, or for such further period as may be prescribed.

ADMINISTRATION AND GOVERNANCE

Courts administration

The Chief Justice is empowered to determine such judicial services as he deems essential to be provided by any court during the COVID-19 period and such further services that need to be provided after the COVID-19 period lapses.

Subject to practice directions provided in the Courts Act, the Chief justice has powers to regulate procedure in the court during the COVID-19 period. Any court may, in addition to such rules, limit the number of people in the court room, or call or hear any matter remotely by means of electronic or telephonic communication if the Chief Justice approves the same in writing.

The practice directions under the act now apply to all courts and not just the supreme court.

Assessment Review Committee

Any statutory delay relating to proceedings before the Assessment Review Committee expiring or falling wholly or partly during the COVID-19 period or during a period of 21 days after the COVID-19 period lapses, has been suspended and will start from the day following the last day of the COVID-19 period, or the day following the last day of the 21 days’ period, as the case may be.

Foundations, Limited Partnerships and Limited Liability Partnerships

The Registrar has been empowered to issue practice directions, guidelines or such other instructions as may be necessary during the COVID-19 period and such further period as the Registrar may determine.

Financial Services

Meeting of the board of the Financial Services Commission (“FSC”) may be held either by a number of the members who constitute a quorum, being assembled together at the place, date and time appointed for the meeting or by means of audio, or audio and visual, communication by which all the members participating and constituting a quorum can simultaneously hear each other throughout the meeting.

Decisions of the board of the FSC can also be taken by way of a unanimous resolution in writing in lieu of meeting. Any such resolution may consist of several documents, including facsimile, electronic mail or other similar means of communication, each signed or assented to by one or more members.

Statutory Corporation

During the COVID-19 period a meeting of a statutory corporation (which is a body incorporated under an act) or its controlling body, committee or sub-committee may be held either by a number of the members constituting a quorum assembling at an appointed place, date, and time, or by means of audio or audio-visual communication by which all members constituting a quorum can simultaneously hear each other throughout the meeting.

Decisions of the statutory corporation can also be taken by way of a unanimous resolution in writing in lieu of meeting. Any such resolution may consist of several documents, including facsimile, electronic mail or other similar means of communication, each signed or assented to by one or more members.

Financial Reporting

Auditors are now allowed to produce books, documents or records in electronic form for the purposes of their inspection in connection with the Financial Reporting Council’s review of the practice of auditors

Data Protection

The circumstances where derogations from the Data Protection Act are allowed have been extended to allow derogation from the provisions of the Data Protection Act where it constitutes a necessary and proportionate measure in a democratic society for the objective of issuing any licence, permit or authorisation during the COVID -19 period.

EXTENSION OF COMPLIANCE TIMELINES

General extension

ny prescribed timeline to undertake any of the matters listed below under any enactment that expires or falls wholly or partly during the COVID-19 period or a period of 30 days after the COVID-19 period lapses, has been extended to such period as may be prescribed by regulations under the relevant enactment:

  1. instituting or lodging judicial proceedings;
  2. making a payment;
  3. making an application for a licence (including an application for renewal);
  4. making a decision or giving a determination;
  5. submitting a report;
  6. registration of a document;
  7. serving of a notice or any other document;
  8. doing or refraining from doing any other act or thing.

A licence under an enactment that expires during the COVID-19 period or a period of 30 days after the COVID-19 period lapses, is deemed not to have expired and will remain valid for such period as may be prescribed by regulations under the relevant enactment.

There will be no charge, interest, penalty, surcharge or any additional fee for not doing an act or thing under an enactment within a timeline that expires or falls wholly or partly within the COVID-19 period or a period of 30 days after the COVID-19 period, provided that such act is done not later than such time as may be prescribed by regulations under that enactment.

A person will not commit an offence for not doing or refraining from doing an act or thing under an enactment within a timeline that expires or falls wholly or partly within the COVID-19 period or a period of 30 days after the COVID-19 period, provided that such act is done not later than such time as may be prescribed by regulations under that enactment.

Any person required under an enactment to follow continuous professional development (“CPD“) courses or training for a certain number of hours or points, shall be exempted from such requirement during the current CPD year.

Residence permits and Visas

The validity of residence permits and visas which expire during the COVID-19 period, or during a period of 21 days after the COVID-19 period lapses, has been extended for a period of 30 days after the COVID-19 period or 30 days after the period of 21 days lapses, as the case may be, or for such further period as may be prescribed.

Environment Impact Licence

Any Environment Impact License or an imposition of time for the purpose of doing or refraining to do something under the act due to expire within the COVID-19 period or 21 days after the expiry of the COVID-19 period shall be deemed to have not expired and shall remain valid until the expiry of 30 days  from the COVID19- period or 30 days from the expiry of the 21 day period as the case may be.