Furlough fraud, trade deals, legal sector revenues and more: your commercial news round-up

updated on 18 June 2020

With training contract application deadlines looming over the next two months, it’s crucial that you stay up to date with the latest developments affecting the business and legal worlds.

  • A third of UK bosses are committing furlough fraud, according to new research of 2,000 furloughed full-time employees from various companies. The survey by Crossland Employment Solicitors reveals that employers are attempting to “cash in” as 34% of furloughed employees have been asked by their boss to work – a fraudulent act under the current rules of the government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme. A 30-day window has been provided by the government to encourage employers to confess to furlough fraud.

Managing director of Crossland Employment Solicitors Beverley Sunderland said: “Like any fraud, this is a serious offence and an exploitation of employees. As it is fraud on the Treasury then an employer could be imposed with a hefty fine, asked to pay past payments back, have any future payments withheld or even potentially face prison.”

  • HSBC has reinstated its plans to cut 35,000 jobs. The UK’s largest bank has resumed redundancy plans after putting them on hold in April to avoid leaving employees unable to find work elsewhere during the coronavirus pandemic. The plans are part of a restructuring programme which aims to achieve cost savings of £3.6 billion by 2022, according to the BBC. The bank hoped to source internal jobs for those affected but revealed that redundancies were likely.
  • A trade deal between the UK and Australia could be agreed soon, according to Australia’s High Commissioner George Brandis, with negotiations between the UK and New Zealand also beginning earlier in the week. Speaking to Sky News, Brandis revealed that a free trade agreement with London is a “top priority” for Canberra with a deal likely to be settled soon. Brandis said: "We live in an increasingly difficult, contested world and like-minded nations – people who see the world through similar eyes with similar values like commitment to democracy, liberal societies and freedom – increasingly need to cooperate against potential adversaries.”

Meanwhile, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said in 2019 UK businesses traded £29 billion in goods and services with Australia and New Zealand.

  • Online fashion retailer Boohoo is set to buy the online businesses of Oasis and Warehouse for £5.25 million, according to the BBC. The announcement came after Boohoo revealed a 45% increase in online sales in the three months to May as demand for athleisure items rose during lockdown. In April Oasis and Warehouse went into administration and 1,800 jobs were cut. Boohoo also owns online retailers PrettyLittleThing and Nasty Gal, as well as MissPap, Karen Millen and Coast – struggling brands which Boohoo bought earlier this year.
  • Aldi will extend its grocery home delivery trial – in partnership with Deliveroo – to include a Camden store in London, following the trial’s launch in April. Plans to increase the service to additional stores by the end of the year depend on the trial’s success.
  • The proposed legislation to remove fault from the divorce process could receive royal assent in the coming days. First introduced to the House of Commons on 14 June 2019, the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has been stalled twice. While the bill has been widely welcomed by family lawyers who have been campaigning for some time for no-fault divorce, the Law Society has urged that the legislation is amended to avoid ex-spouses being left financially vulnerable due to pension orders.
  • Gay and transgender workers are protected by the 1964 Civil Rights Act, following a six-three ruling in the US Supreme Court on Monday. The Supreme Court ruled that under Title VII of the act, the ban on “sex” discrimination covered gay and transgender people. Among other chief executives welcoming the landmark anti-discrimination decision, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella urged his social media followers to “use this decision as a catalyst to drive progress in our society”.
  • Legal sector revenues fell just 5.5% from April 2019’s figures, while the UK economy as a whole experienced falls of more than 20% during the UK’s lockdown, according to data from the Office for National Statistics. Despite these statistics, observers of the legal industry have expressed their concern and Law Society President Simon Davis said: “These figures reflect deals and cases in progress which started significantly before lockdown. What happens next is quite uncertain, depending on what the future pipeline of work will look like.”

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