REUTERS | Chris Helgren

What’s on the agenda for in-house lawyers in May 2020?

COVID-19 continues to be the only topic of conversation this month, with businesses anxious to learn when and how the government will start to lift the lockdown restrictions.


On 16 April 2020, the government confirmed that the lockdown measures introduced on 23 March 2020 will be extended by at least three weeks, taking the lockdown to 7 May 2020. Businesses will be keen to learn more about the government’s lockdown strategy so that they can begin to prepare for a gradual lifting of restrictions.

The government also extended its Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to the end of June 2020. Under the scheme, any employer can obtain a grant to cover 80% of the wages of employees who are “furloughed and kept on payroll” rather than being made redundant, up to a total of £2,500 a month for each retained employee.

On 20 April 2020, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, announced a new £1.5 billion coronavirus financial package to help support businesses driving innovation in the UK. The package comprises a £500 million loan scheme called the Future Fund, which will launch in May 2020, and £750 million of grants and loans for SMEs focused on research and development. The first payments for SMEs will be made by mid-May.

New guidance on issues connected with COVID-19 continue to be published by regulatory and other bodies, including:

  • BEIS guidance on social distancing in the workplace, which sets out advice for different industry sectors on how social distancing and other measures might be implemented by employers in England to help protect their workforces and customers from coronavirus while continuing to trade.
  • ICO advice that employers, business owners and managers can share with staff on issues to watch out for with increased use of video conferencing during the pandemic.
  • Chartered Governance Institute guidance for companies on using virtual board and committee meetings during the current ban on public meetings.

All COVID-19 related developments are tracked in our Global Coronavirus Toolkit, which also highlights key content, including:


At a meeting on 15 April 2020 between the UK and EU chief negotiators on the future UK-EU relationship, the two sides agreed on the dates for the next three negotiating rounds. The first negotiating round took place during the week commencing 20 April 2020, with the second scheduled to start on 11 May 2020 and the third beginning on 1 June 2020. The chief negotiators agreed that these negotiating rounds will each last a full week and, given the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, will take place via videoconference.

Vicarious liability

A recent Supreme Court decision provides welcome confirmation for employers that they will not always be liable for data breaches committed by rogue employees. The court held that Wm Morrison Supermarkets plc was not vicariously liable for the actions of an employee who, without authorisation and in a deliberate attempt to harm his employer, uploaded payroll data to the internet using personal equipment at home.

Overturning the judgments of the High Court and Court of Appeal, the Supreme Court found that the circumstances in which the employee had committed the wrongful disclosure of payroll data were not so closely connected with acts which he was authorised to do that they could fairly and properly be regarded as having been done by him while acting in the course of his employment.


The European Commission is due to conduct a review and report on all elements of the General Data Protection Regulation ((EU) 2016/679) (GDPR) by 25 May 2020.

Practical Law has published a set of slides for use by in-house counsel to train non-experts in an organisation on some key messages of the GDPR.

Narrative reporting

The European Commission’s consultation on the Non-Financial Reporting Directive (NFRD) was scheduled to close on 14 May 2020 but, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the deadline has been extended to 11 June 2020. The consultation is part of a broader consultation strategy reviewing the NFRD, which will also include surveys addressed to SMEs and to companies currently under the NFRD.

Deferred Prosecution Agreements

The Serious Fraud Office has confirmed that Tesco Stores Ltd has fulfilled the terms of its Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA), including the payment of a £129 million fine, £3 million investigation costs and implementation of an ongoing compliance programme. This is the third DPA to have concluded with its terms fulfilled.

Dates for your diary

1 May 2020

UK Supreme Court and Judicial Committee of the Privy Council scheme on electronic bundles for permission to appeal applications starts today.

9 May 2020

The Secretary of State must carry out a review of the NIS Regulations 2018 and publish a report by this date.

19 May 2020

Deadline for public consultation on the European Commission’s White Paper on artificial intelligence (AI).

20 May 2020

HMRC consultation on policy design for a tax on the production and import of plastic packaging closes.

27 May 2020

European Climate Pact consultation closes.

29 May 2020

Associated guidance for organisations on the final AI auditing framework  is expected to be published by the ICO.

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