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Business briefs

Covid relief key expiry dates for businesses in 2021

In 2020, the government introduced a raft of legislation to provide temporary relief for businesses struggling to navigate the effects of the Covid pandemic. Some relief measures, such as the safe harbour for company directors, have already expired, while others will expire this year unless they are renewed. The key expiry dates for 2021 that you should be aware of are:

  • 26 March: Landlords and tenants of commercial premises who could not agree on rental arrangements during the 2020 lockdown period have until this date to access the government’s subsidised arbitration or mediation service to resolve the dispute.
  • 31 March: Measures allowing companies, incorporated societies and other entities to hold meetings online and make temporary exceptions to their rules.
  • 15 May: Provisions allowing for electronic signatures when signing security agreements that contain powers of attorney.
  • 22 September: The requirement for landlords to give 30 working days’ notice instead of 10 working days’ notice to end a commercial lease where the tenant fails to pay rent.
  • 31 October: The cut-off date for businesses to enter into the government’s business debt hibernation scheme has been extended until 31 October 2021.

The scheme allows businesses to have a month of protection from most creditors enforcing their debts, and a further six months’ protection if their creditors agree.

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Covid relief roundup

How many schemes are you eligible under?

Since the pandemic arrived on our shores, the government has made available multiple types of financial relief; more than one may be available to your business. Although applications under the popular Wage Subsidy Scheme ended on 1 September 2020, other options are still available for support if you need it.

Apprentice Support Programme

If your business has an apprentice who is actually training, you may be eligible to receive $1,000/month for first year apprentices and $500/month for second year apprentices. This payment is for a maximum of 20 months from August 2020 to March 2022. Visit here at Work and Income Te Hiranga Tangata to apply.

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Business Briefs

Remote working: the new normal

As a result of the Covid lockdown, many employees were required to work remotely, and some are continuing this arrangement.

Working remotely comes with some important considerations, particularly in terms of health and safety. If you are an employer, you should be:

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New Privacy Act comes into force in December

The Privacy Bill is on its third reading in Parliament and will now become law on
1 December 2020. It will repeal and replace the current Privacy Act 1993, and
will update the law to reflect the continually-evolving needs of the digital age.

Why new legislation?

Your personal information is stored in many places by organisations such as businesses,
government agencies, healthcare providers, financial institutions, social network platforms and telecommunications companies (called ‘agencies’ in the new legislation).

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As I write this editorial, the Covid-19 pandemic has had, and continues to have, a long-lasting effect on New Zealand and the rest of the world. Everyone has been affected in some way – to a greater or lesser degree.

During lockdown, our physical environment changed with significantly less pollution and fewer emissions. It was quieter with only a handful of vehicles on the road, and we could more easily see and hear our native birds. Our focus altered to our home and families, go-ing for long walks and enjoying each other’s company.

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Emission control

What the Zero Carbon Act means for business

One of the most significant pieces of new legislation introduced last year was the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act 2019, more commonly referred to as the ‘Zero Carbon Act’.

The legislation outlines the government’s targets over the next 30 years (by the year 2050) of net greenhouse gas emissions of zero and to reduce methane emissions by up to 47%.

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Clause 27.5 and inability to access premises

In the past three months, most landlords and tenants would have become more familiar with the details of their lease. In particular, most will be looking at how clause 27.5 of the Auckland District Law Society (ADLS) lease applies to the government-imposed lockdown that we have all experienced as a result of Covid-19.

A bit of background

Following the Christchurch earthquakes, landlords and tenants were not permitted access to leased properties that were inside the ‘red zone’ while investigations into the structural integrity of buildings were being undertaken. In these instances, where the property had not been totally or partially destroyed, the parties were still required to meet their full obligations under their lease even though they were unable to operate from their leased premises.

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Business briefs

Covid-19 can be ‘frustrating’

Covid-19, and the restrictions imposed by the government in an attempt to control it, have deeply affected our lives. However, it’s not just our social lives that have become frustrated. Some businesses and individuals have found themselves party to a contract they can no longer perform due to Covid-19 and the government restrictions. Whether it is an event scheduled during a lockdown that can no longer be held, a customer who you can no longer supply or transport goods to due to travel or border restrictions, or a service you can no longer provide, the ‘doctrine of frustration’ may be able to help.

The courts first recognised the doctrine of frustration in the 1800’s case of Taylor v Caldwell[1] where two parties had a contract to lease a music hall that burnt down before any concerts could be held. The court held that the contract was frustrated and the parties were discharged from their obligations under the contract.

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The government’s Budget, presented by the Minister of Finance the Hon Grant Robertson on 14 May has addressed, in the words of the Minister, “a 1-in-100 year health and economic challenge” as it moves to rebuild the economy post-Covid-19.

“With the outbreak of Covid-19, New Zealand now faces a 1-in-100 year health and economic challenge. The pandemic continues to evolve, and it has already caused enormous social and economic disruption. It has required agility on the part of New Zealanders, the Government included,” said the Minister.

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