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UK airlines call for the tax break to help boost demand

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Every industry sector has taken a massive hit from the ugly Covid-19 pandemic of 2020. The coronavirus has affected everything for as far as you can see, and even beyond that. Of course, some industries have taken a more severe hit than others- the airline industry being one of them.

One of the essential preventive measures that we have learned to take during this Covid-19 pandemic is social distancing and home isolation. Since the coronavirus is a global pandemic, affecting every country, there is hardly any safe place left for us to retreat to. Being in closed spaces for some time with others is also forbidden, which makes travel and tourism, primarily via air travel, completely closed off as an option.

In the UK, it has been noted that the airlines, ground handling, and even airports have received some amount of relief from the government. This has come in the form of loans as well as government employment support schemes. However, there has still not been any specific package from the government for the industry. Taking this into account, several UK airlines have requested a tax break, which can help the industry boost their demand and, thus, stand up on their feet once again.

 A group which represented some UK airlines such as British Airways, Ryanair and EasyJethave called on the government to allow a suspension of tax on their flights. The airlines feel that this will help them to boost their demand, after having faced a severe fall due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

What exactly do the UK airlines have in mind?

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the airline industry in a whole and harsh way. Although the airlines and airports have received great help, the industry itself is still suffering. Keeping this in mind, the UK airlines have asked the government to waive Air Passenger Duty for at least one year. This will help to save up to 8,000 jobs and also save routes in this industry, which has faced immense loss due to the coronavirus. By now, there have already been up to 30,000 job cuts, and there could still be many more to come.

 A sharp contrast is noticed in other European countries, where the government has stepped up to help quite instantly. Countries like France have granted their airline industry Air France around 7 billion Euros in the way of state-backed loans and other air. This aid has been immensely advantageous to the industry, helping them survive in these dire times.

Are tougher times coming up?

Several UK airlines have voiced their concerns over the upcoming winter season. They have stated that this season is particularly hard on the airline industry, as fewer people prefer to travel. With the winter creeping up steadily, the UK airline industry needs some form of aid at the earliest possible from their government to stay on their feet.

Tim Alderslade, the Airlines UK CEO, expressed concern that without adequate Government support for the airline sector, the UK airports run a genuine risk of losing some valuable routes, and of course, suffering enormous financial losses. An emergency APD waiver can help the airline industry get through the harsh wintertime and also go along the road of recovery.

This APD waiver could necessarily help in boosting the passenger demand in their industry by at least 12% in the coming 12 months.

What is APD tax?

APD tax, or Air Passenger Duty tax, is a tax that is added by the government on passenger flights in the UK. The tax adds about 13 more pounds to their airfares for passengers, for just an economy flight between the United Kingdom and Europe. However, when this APD tax is added to other kinds of flights, such as long haul flights in business class, then the additional price may amount to 170 pounds more.

How can reducing or removing APD tax be beneficial?

Heathrow has held a long-standing position that APD tax is unnecessary and a burden on competitiveness, investment, and tourism. The policy change would necessarily not impact transfer passengers flying on domestic routes.

The total cost savings that could be made by UK passengers could cause a potential increase in demands. Along with that, it could also stimulate up to an 8% increase in point-to-point demand on domestic routes (Heathrow) under a 100% reduction scenario. This could, potentially, equate to around 75,000 more round trips per annum. In the case of a 50% reduction scenario, the increase in demand could be seen up to 4%, which is equivalent to around 37,000 round trips.

By reducing the APD tax, not only do the domestic passengers get immense benefits, but passengers flying on local routes in the UK could also enjoy several benefits.

The reduction of APD tax can also reduce the cost of air travel expenses to and fro from other UK regions. Under the 100% reduction scenario, this could reduce the price up to 225 million euros per year. Under the 50% reduction scenario, it could see a reduction of 112 million Euro per annum.

What other benefits could be seen by reducing or wavering APD?

If the government were to waiver the APD taxes for at least a year, it could also enable several IT businesses as well as financial service sectors in Northern Ireland and Scotland’s main cities to retain their strong links with London, and even beyond. It could foster the trading of knowledge with the cost-efficient flights.

Not just that, this APD tax break could also improve the viability of newer domestic connections, as the cost of air travel for passengers would significantly reduce.

The proposal has been set in front of the UK Government, who will review it and inform the airline industry of their decision. Of course, it can be seen how this tax break can help in boosting passenger demand for domestic flights, and help out the airlines industry to overcome this unforeseen disaster. Although the Government aid provided to airports and airlines is being applauded, this move could be a lifesaver for the UK airline industry.

If your business is facing hardship or you are worried about debt or taxes, then we urge you to act as soon as possible.

Claims and disputes involving taxes are highly technical. Contact one of our proactive and professional commercial law solicitors now for expert legal advice.

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Corporate Boards are Critical Starting Points for Implementing Stakeholder Capitalism

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COVID-19 has led to global and systemic economic, social and environmental disruption, and an increasing number of companies are recognizing the need for pragmatic approaches to implement the principles of stakeholder capitalism.

A new white paper, The Future of the Corporation: Moving from Balance Sheet to Value Sheet, provides analysis about the important role boardrooms and corporate governance play in addressing the environmental, social and governance (ESG) challenges their companies face. Focusing on practical tools for corporate leaders, the white paper, produced in collaboration with Baker McKenzie, provides a set of actions and stakeholder governance considerations boardrooms can take to reshape their company’s purpose and practices.

This includes leadership-level actions, such as aligning company purpose and incentives with transparent goals and KPIs, increasing board diversity and adopting the common stakeholder capitalism metrics to measure and manage global risks and opportunities related to business, society and the planet.

“Business leaders are increasingly implementing business models that create value based on stakeholder needs,” said Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum. “While there’s increasing momentum towards stakeholder capitalism, many businesses are also looking for practical solutions to help them fully understand and address the concerns of all their stakeholders. The Forum is committed to providing measurement and governance tools that will help these leaders succeed, thereby advancing stakeholder capitalism globally.”

Effectively aligning a company’s practices with its purpose is another key role boardrooms must play when integrating stakeholder interests into their business models. Setting clear metrics for management, which align with company purpose is an important step for boards.

Ørsted, a company who successfully transformed its business from fossil fuels to renewable energy, is a clear example of how effective governance is critical to company-wide transformation For example, in its transition to being a sustainable business, Ørsted made it a board-level priority to ensure its transformation was transparent, the journey was measured with concrete metrics and it was communicated to all relevant stakeholders.

“The pandemic, climate and inequality challenges of the last year were and continue to be unprecedented. Against this backdrop, how can companies drive long-term value creation and sustainable growth? A good stakeholder governance framework will help companies mitigate risk, build resilience and enjoy sustainable value creation and long-term success; at the heart of good stakeholder governance is clearly understanding who key stakeholders are, engaging with them and bringing their voice into decision-making,” said Beatriz Araujo, Head of Corporate Governance, Baker McKenzie. She added: “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach; each company must embark on its own stakeholder governance journey and we have suggested some of the steps companies should consider taking on such a journey.”

In addition to the examples above, the white paper provides a stakeholder governance framework centred around four key areas of four key areas of leadership focus. These are:

1) Purpose

Purpose is returning centre stage as an enabler for long-term sustainable value creation for corporate success.

Boards should ensure their companies have a clear and well understood purpose, informed by their key stakeholders’ expectations, and regularly use this purpose as a guide in their strategic decision-making.

2) Strategy

Corporate leaders should ensure their company’s strategy is robust and designed to deliver the company’s purpose.

This strategy needs to be flexible to take account of changing stakeholder considerations. Periodic ESG risk and opportunity assessments are a tool that leaders can use to ensure they are pursuing an appropriate strategy in light of changing externalities and stakeholder feedback.

3) Culture/Values

A company’s culture and values are important in ensuring decisions and daily business practices appropriately reflect their stated purpose.

4) Governance

Effective governance, which regularly addresses stakeholder input, is critical for running a sustainable, resilient business.

Board composition, diversity and inclusion are important factors in ensuring boardrooms are equipped with the skills needed adequately understand and consider the needs of their stakeholders.

Along with input from the Forum’s Community of Chairpersons, the whitepaper is based on interviews with senior leaders at bp, the Cambridge University Institute for Sustainability Leadership, Fidelity International and Ørsted.

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Digitalization crucial to SIDs’ COVID-19 recovery, long-term development

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The upscaling of digital technologies presents a host of opportunities for small island developing states (SIDS) to diversify their economies, boost manufacturing, gain greater access to global value chains, and improve disaster preparedness. However, significant obstacles remain, including inadequate digital infrastructure, insufficient training opportunities for women and young people, a growing digital divide, and a lack of data and policy knowledge. That’s according to an expert panel convened for the Global Manufacturing and Industrialisation Summit’s Digital Series on the topic: “How Information and Communication Technologies can foster inclusive and sustainable industrial development in Small Island Developing States”.

Ralf Bredel, Chief of the Asia-Pacific Regional Programme at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), said that SIDS share common challenges such as limited resource bases, long distances to primary markets, and vulnerability to climate change.

“ICT has the potential to help SIDS in overcoming some of the challenges derived from the isolation and remoteness. It can support trade in economic diversification. This is even more true under the current circumstances, with COVID-19 and the restrictions on people’s movements and the heavy blow to SIDS’ economies in relation to their continued reliance on tourism,” said Bredel.

Vanessa Gray, Head of the Division for Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and Emergency Telecommunications at the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), added, “We know that small islands are naturally prone to disasters caused by earthquakes and severe weather events and are being affected by climate change, resulting in increased tropical cyclones, hurricanes, flood and landslides, to name a few. Connectivity can help address these events by providing remote communities with access to early warning systems, real-time weather information, remote sensing and geographic information systems.”

Gary Jackson, Executive Director of the Caribbean Centre for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (CCREEE), said that countries in the region are “pushing the envelope” towards energy efficiency.

“We have to recognize that islands don’t have what we call a supergrid, don’t have a lot of interconnections that would give us reliability and availability and that’s what people really want,” said Jackson. “So one of the things we have to consider is how we move towards decentralization, decarbonization and some of the things that we need to do to ensure that reliability, availability and affordability are consistent with what people require.”

Michelle Marius, Publisher of the ICT Pulse blog highlighted a continuing gender gap concerning digital employment. “We do have so many girls and women in the workforce. Many of them, sometimes even in management positions in reputable organisations, but somehow we still have not been able to crack that barrier between women in tech and digital entrepreneurship by women” she noted.

Amjad Umar, Director and Professor of ISEM (Information Systems Engineering and Management) programme at Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, said, “We know that, in many cases, SIDS do not have 3G technologies – they are still at 2G range. So, we specifically designed this plan (for the ICT4SIDS Partnership) that produces solutions that would work with very, very low technologies…”

“Digitalization consists of people, processes and technologies,” underlined Umar.

Concluding, moderator Martin Lugmayr, Sustainable Energy Expert at UNIDO, stressed that there is a long way to go towards realizing inclusive and sustainable industrial development in SIDS, particularly in light of current circumstances. “COVID-19 recovery must have a long-term perspective. Iit has to be green, it has to be blue in the case of Small Island Developing States, and it has to be digital,” he said.

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Fewer protections, lower wages, and higher health risks: Homeworking in the COVID era

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Image: European Wilderness Society

The UN’s labour agency (ILO) called on Wednesday for greater recognition and protection for the hundreds of millions of people who work from home, accounting for almost eight per cent of the global workforce even before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since movement restrictions linked to the global spread of the virus were implement in many countries, the number of people working from home has increased sharply, and that trend is expected to continue in coming years, despite the rollout of vaccines that began in late 2020.

Drop in wages in rich and poor countries

According to a new ILO report, many of these “invisible” workers experience poor working conditions, face greater health and safety risks, and lack access to training, which can affect their career prospects. They are also likely to earn less than their counterparts who work outside the home, even in higher-skilled professions.

“Homeworkers earn on average 13 per cent less in the United Kingdom; 22 per cent less in the United States; 25 per cent less in South Africa; and about 50 per cent in Argentina, India and Mexico”, ILO said in a news release on Wednesday.

The report, “Working from home. From invisibility to decent work”, also showed that homeworkers do not have the same level of social protection as other workers, and are less likely to be part of a trades union or to be covered by a collective bargaining agreement.

Homeworkers include teleworkers who work remotely on a continual basis, and a vast number of workers who are involved in the production of goods that cannot be automated, such as embroidery, handicrafts, and electronic assembly. A third category, digital platform workers, provide services, such as processing insurance claims, copy-editing, or cutting edge specializations such as data annotation for the training of artificial intelligence systems.

Growth likely to continue

According to ILO estimates, prior to COVID-19, there were approximately 260 million home-based workers globally, representing 7.9 per cent of global employment.

However, in the first few months of the pandemic, an estimated one-in-five workers found themselves working from home. Data for the whole of 2020, once available, is expected to show a “substantial increase” over the previous year, said the agency.

The ILO predicts that the growth of homeworking is likely to continue and take on greater importance in the coming years, bringing renewed urgency to the need to address the issues facing homeworkers and their employers.

Poorly regulated

At the same time, homeworking is often poorly regulated, with little compliance with existing laws, and homeworkers usually classified as independent contractors, which means that they are excluded from the scope of labour legislation. In response, ILO outlined clear recommendations to make working from home “more visible and thus better protected”.

Industrial homeworkers should be made part of the formal economy, given legal and social protection, and made aware of their rights, ILO urged. Similarly, teleworkers should have a “right to disconnect”, to ensure the boundaries between working life and private life are respected.

The report also urges governments to work closely with workers’ and employers’ organizations, to ensure that all homeworkers move from invisibility to decent work, “whether they are weaving rattan in Indonesia, making shea butter in Ghana, tagging photos in Egypt, sewing masks in Uruguay, or teleworking in France”.

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