Working from home during COVID-19? What you and your organisation need to consider

With cases of COVID-19 arising in almost every country, several companies are taking action in an effort to limit its spread. ‘Working from home’, is the main point of such efforts made from organisations.  Although remote work arrangements can be successful in slowing the spread of COVID-19 from one person to another, they pose data protection obstacles that can be different from on-site work.  Below is a list of considerations and suggestions to better assist companies in addressing such obstacles.

1. Policy:

Review your information security and other related procedures to decide whether there are any established security standards for remote work and remote access to the company’s information systems.  Many organisations may already have procedures related to remote work, whilst others can provide for contingencies in disaster response strategies, BYOD (bring your own device) policies, and other related strategies and policies. In case there are no appropriate procedures or policies in effect, it is now the best time to set out at least some clear rules for addressing remote access to company’s information systems and the usage of personal devices by employees for company work.  

2. Communication:

Security managers should be familiar with the appropriate security guidelines, plans, and procedures, and make sure that important information is transmitted to their departments as well as throughout the whole company.  Many employees may have never worked remotely before, therefore, providing guidance and advice to all employees is essential.

3. Preparation:

Organisations should evaluate data breach and incident response policies to ensure that they are well prepared for responding to a data breach or security incident. The increased security risk of remote work highlights the need to have a policy in place in case something develops in an undesirable way.

Remote work data protection tips to keep your information secure:

  • Employees should be made aware of the types of information they need to safeguard.  This includes information such as sensitive company documents, trade secrets, protected intellectual property, client and employee personal information etc.
  • Sensitive information such as employee data, client data, health records, financial records retained on or transmitted to or from remote devices should be encrypted.
  • Employees should also be trained on how to identify and handle phishing attacks. An increasing number of Coronavirus-based phishing emails are going around lately preying on the public’s health concerns.
  • Sharing of work computers and other devices should not be allowed. When employees carry work devices at home, those devices should not be shared with or be used by someone else. This eliminates the risk of unwanted or accidental exposure of clients’ confidential information.
  • A two-factor or multi-factor authentication (MFA) is recommended to be implemented and enforced.
  • Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) ensure that internet traffic is encrypted. If your company has one in place, it should be ensured that employees exclusively use the VPN when working and when accessing remotely company’s information systems.
  • Company information should never be downloaded or saved to employees’ personal devices or cloud services, including employee personal computers, thumb drives, or cloud services such as their personal Google Drive or Dropbox accounts.  
  • Employee access to protected information should be limited to the minimum scope and duration needed to perform their specific tasks and duties. 

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.

For any additional information, please contact us at [email protected] or at +357 22 42 11 90.

Could COVID-19 be qualified as a Force Majeure event?

The ‘force majeure’ term is commonly used in commercial contracts to define incidents that may occur and are totally beyond the control of the parties.  The basis of this provision is to protect the parties from any liability in case they are unable to comply with the provisions of the contract for reasons outside of their control.

The degree of protection that these provisions may offer can vary from country to country even within Europe, owing to the various definitions of ‘force majeure’ across the legal systems of different Member States. Therefore, it will depend on the relevant laws of the country that the parties have designated in the contract and the parties are thus encouraged to seek legal advice on the subject.

In common law jurisdictions such as Cyprus, there is no concept of force majeure, and therefore every case is decided on its own basis. It is worth noting that a ‘force majeure’ provision would not necessarily enable the parties to avoid potential liability for any violation of the terms of the contract. Parties shall be able to rely on this provision only if it is expressly included in the contract and in order to benefit from it, it is important that such clause be as detailed and specific as possible in terms and context.

Having said the above, whether a particular clause relieves a party of contractual liability will, under Cyprus law, depend on the precise wording used in the clause, the allocation of risk between the parties provided for by the contract as a whole, the circumstances in which the parties entered into the contract, and the situation that has arisen.

The inclusion of the words “virus” or “pandemic” or “epidemic” in force majeure clauses is likely to be adequate, particularly in view of the fact that the World Health Organization (WHO) has recently classified COVID-19 as such.  However, this is not without saying that a review of the wording of the relevant clause would not be necessary.

It is also worth noting that in the absence of a force majeure clause, the so-called doctrine of frustration can provide the party with an alternative path to terminate the contract. The contract becomes frustrated when performance becomes impossible due to some unexpected incident beyond the control of the parties. In Cyprus, the issue is dealt with under section 56(2) of the Contract Law (Cap. 149), as amended, which releases a party from liability under such circumstances.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.

For any additional information, please contact us at [email protected] or at +357 22 42 11 90.

Announcement

Financial Measures of the Cypriot Government to support businesses and labour, due to COVID-19 effects

On Sunday 15th March 2020, Labour Minister, Zeta Emilianidou, unveiled measures to safeguard education, employees and vulnerable classes of the population as a result of the impact of coronavirus on the economy, which is projected to cost an estimated of 159 million euro.

The measures proposed include the granting of leave to private-sector employees who have to stay at home to take care of their children, unemployment benefits for employees working in companies that plan to temporarily suspend their operations or companies that experience a 25% reduction in their turnover, as well as sickness benefits and remuneration to those who teach in the afternoon schools of the Ministry of Education.

The Minister states that the processes shall be made clear and that the proposed benefits shall be received as quickly as possible.

Parents of children up to 15 years of age, working in the private sector, would be given extra parental leave lasting up to four weeks, excluding public holidays.

It was further stated that a parent with an income of up to EUR 2,500, for the first EUR 1,000 would be given a 60% ‘special leave’ allowance, and a 40% allowance will be given for the next EUR 1,000.

In the case of single-parent households, the percentage ranges between 70% to 50%.

It was explained that leave for parenting responsibilities would be provided only in cases where the nature of the work of the parent does not qualify for work from home or flexible working hours and that no assistance is received by grandparents.

In relation to the public sector, staff who wish to take care of their children should need to get approval from their head of department.

The cost of the grant is estimated at 20 million euro.

With respect to companies that have decided to temporarily suspend their activities and those who will continue to work but experience loss in their turnover greater than 25%, relevant business suspension measures should be set up so that layoffs are prevented and employees continue to earn a living.

At the same time, employees affected due to company’s suspension of activities would be given unemployment compensation for as long as the activities of their employer are suspended. The cost of this initiative is estimated at 110 million euro.

As regard to companies employing up to 5 individuals, a 70% subsidy shall be given for their staff, provided however that they have a turnover reduction of more than 25% and that there is no dismissal of any member of staff.

Employees suffering from serious health conditions and need to stay at home so that their health and safety is preserved will obtain a monthly allowance of 800,00 euro. A list of health conditions regarded as serious will be published by the Minister of Health in due course.

Self-employed individuals would also be compensated in the same way as employers, from the fourth day instead of the ninth day as it was until recently.

It has also been decided that the deadline for submission of objections to Social Insurance authorities for self-employed individuals shall be extended by one month, the deadline of which shall be on the 30th April 2020.

The development of mobile units to supply food and medicine was also confirmed to support elderly and disabled citizens who are alone and require state assistance.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.

For any additional information, please contact us at [email protected] or at +357 22 42 11 90.

Immigration

UK Citizens of Cypriot origins: Apply for Cyprus citizenship

As a result of the referendum decision in favour of Brexit, UK citizens come across the possibility to have their rights within the European Union, controlled. UK citizens of Cypriot origin may be able to retain their rights as European citizens, by applying for naturalization based on their Cypriot origins, as long as the conditions determined by the relevant laws in Cyprus are met.

It should be noted that dual citizenship is allowed under Cyprus Citizenship law, therefore, the applicants may apply for a Cyprus citizenship and maintain their UK citizenship as well.

  • Minors (Under the age of 18)

A. Application for Consular Birth Certificate

Applications can be submitted for registration of minors or adults (above the age of 18) born abroad after the 16th of August 1960 and whose father at the time of birth was a Cypriot citizen, and individuals born abroad after the 11th of June 1999 whose mother was a Cypriot citizen at the time of their birth.

B. Application for the Registration of Minors 

Minors, who were born before the 11th of June 1999 in Cyprus or abroad and whose mother is a Cypriot citizen and father a foreigner or for minors whose father acquired the Cypriot citizenship after their birth.

The required documents depend on the citizenship status of at least one of their parents at the time of the child’s birth.

  • Adults (Above the age of 18)

A. Adults born before the 16th August 1960:

Individuals born before the 16th of August 1960, who are citizens of the United Kingdom and its former colonies originating from Cyprus, form the male side and reside permanently abroad, are eligible to apply for Cyprus Citizenship.

Furthermore, individuals born before the 16th of August 1960, who are not citizens of the United Kingdom and its former colonies and who originate from Cyprus form the male side, are also eligible to apply.

B. Adults born on the 16th of August 1960 or after:

It can be submitted by adults who were born on the 16th of August 1960 or after and none of their parents at the date of their birth was a Cypriot citizen.

It can also be submitted by adults who were born after the 16th of August 1960 and originate from a person, who became a British citizen based on the Annexation of Cyprus Orders in Council 1914 to 1943 or adults born in Cyprus after the 5th of November 1914 and prior to the 16th of August 1960, during which time their parents were residing in Cyprus.

Furthermore, Individuals of Cypriot origin born before the 16th August 1960 and are British citizens or citizens of any Commonwealth state and have completed one year of legal residence in the Republic of Cyprus are eligible to apply for Cypriot citizenship.

Acquisition of the Cypriot citizenship as a spouse of a Cypriot citizen:
An individual who is married to a Cypriot citizen is eligible to apply for a Cyprus citizenship after completing three years of marriage and two years of residency in the Republic of Cyprus before the date of application.

It worth noting that spouses of overseas Cypriots are also eligible to apply for Cypriot citizenship provided that they have completed at least three years of marriage. Additionally, a letter from the couple explaining the reasons for requesting the grant of the Cypriot citizenship to the foreign spouse needs to be submitted. However, in case the couple has completed at least five years of marriage and has at least one child, then it is not necessary to submit the aforementioned letter.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.

For any additional information, please contact us at [email protected] or at +357 22 42 11 90.

Intellectual Property

Procedure and fees with respect to the purchase of property in Cyprus

Cyprus is a great choice whether you are considering to purchase a property for relocation, investment, retirement or as a holiday home.

But what are the general steps of choosing and buying real property  and how to avoid mistakes? Which steps need to be taken to make a successful purchase? The answers to these questions are provided in our below article.

  1. Due diligence: A due diligence check shall be performed in order to confirm the property’s status. It is thus essential that a search at the relevant district land office is conducted to find out whether there are any mortgages, encumbrance or liens on the property that the Purchaser intends to buy. It is also essential to obtain a copy of the certificate of registration of the property and site plans, and check, where applicable, the property’s building and planning permit and any final certificates.
  2. Negotiations and execution of the contract of sale or the assignment agreement: The terms of the contract shall be negotiated and the payment terms and method shall be agreed. The contract or the agreement needs to be then drafted and signed.
  3. Stamping of the contract of sale or the assignment agreement: The contracts must be stamped at the relevant Stamp Duty Commissioner within 30 days of the date of execution otherwise, a fine will be imposed.  The Contract of Sale needs to be deposited to the Land Registry, within six (6) months from the date of signing and the Assignment Agreement within two (2) months from the date of signing.  The law provides that the stamp duty is paid in accordance with the purchase price and on the basis of the following rules:
      • No stamp duty is payable on transactions with consideration of Euro 5,000 or less.
      • If the consideration exceeds the amount of Euro 5,000 but does not exceed the amount of Euro 170,000 the stamp duty of Euro 1,50 for every Euro 1,000 or part thereof is payable.
      • If the consideration exceeds the amount of Euro 170.000 the stamp duty of Euro 2,00 for every Euro 1,000 or part thereof is payable.
  4. Submitting the contract of sale or the assignment agreement with the Land Registry: The contract of sale or the assignment agreement needs to be submitted at the relevant Land Registry and this will effectively safeguard the purchaser(s).According to the Sale of Immovable property (Specific Performance) Law, the purchaser of immovable property may secure the remedy of specific performance and therefore transfer the acquired property into his name by submitting a duly signed and stamped copy of the sale of contract at the land registry within six months from the date of its execution.Once this is done, the purchaser’s rights are protected and it provides additional safeguards by blocking the property and consequently not allowing the seller to resell it. No charges, encumbrances or burdens can affect the right of specific performance after the contract has been deposited at the land registry. In the event that the vendor refuses to transfer the property into the purchaser’s name, the purchaser has the right to apply to the court for specific performance of the terms and conditions of the contract and thus order the transfer of the property into his name.
  5. Application to the Council of Ministers for Non-European Citizens:| In case where the purchaser is a non-European citizen then a specific permission from the Council of Ministers is required to be obtained, before the transfer of the title deeds into the purchaser’s name. This permission is obtained by application to the appropriate district authority and as a general rule, permission is granted to a bona fide applicant, provided that he has no criminal record in his country or in Cyprus and he has the financial means to support himself.
  6. Transfer of title deeds and payment of transfer fees: The final step upon settling the balance of the purchase price is to transfer the title deed into the purchaser’s name. Both parties need to visit the land registry for the transfer of the property and for the registration and issuance of the new title deeds into the purchaser’s name (provided that individual title deeds have been issued and are available).Real estate transfer tax fees shall be settled by the purchaser in order to transfer freehold ownership into his name. It is noted that the purchaser is liable for the tax payment and the amount is payable to the government at the time of the transfer of the property and the issuing of the title deed into the purchaser’s name.Transfer fees are payable by the purchaser on the basis of the market value of the property at the time of purchase as estimated by the land registry on the actual date of the transfer. The purchase price is indicative of the market value at the time of purchase, but it is not conclusive.  Upon transfer of the property and registration in the purchaser’s name, the District Land Registry Office will charge Transfer Fees, which are calculated as follows:
    • 3% on any purchase price up to Euro 85,000,
    • 5% on any purchase price above Euro 85,000 and
    • 8% on any purchase price exceeding Euro 170,000.

    If the contract of sale is under joint names, then the purchase value is divided into two parts and is calculated as above for each part separately and then the total sum is multiplied by two. As a result, when there is more than one purchaser on the contract the total amount of transfer fees payable is reduced as if there was only one purchaser on the contract.

    It is also worth noting that in case where an off-plan property is purchased, the purchaser may have to wait up to 5 years for the title deeds to be issued (sometimes it might take longer). However, the purchaser can still sell the property, even without the title deeds.  The only thing that he cannot do is alter the property in any structural way. However, in order to be able to do that, this right must be included in the original contract of sale.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.

For any additional information, please contact us at [email protected] or at +357 22 42 11 90.

General Data Protection Regulation

What is being considered as “personal data” under the General Data Protection Regulation?

According to Article 4(1) of the ‘GDPR’ (General Data Protection Regulation) ‘personal data’ means any information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person (‘data subject’). 

  1. In order to define when the information will be considered as personal data, the three elements of nature, content and format noted below, would need to be examined.‘Nature’ includes any type of statement about a person, which can be both objective and subjective.  The information does not need to be true in order to be considered as personal data.
  2. ‘Content’ includes any type of information about an individual’s private life and any activity undertaken by them; both professional and public.  It is important to be noted that a person’s contact information at their place of work will be personal data in the same way as their personal telephone number or home address.  Furthermore, information that constitutes an ‘online identifier’, such as an IP address, or the cookie may be used to form a person’s profile and identify them, and therefore be considered as personal data.
  3. ‘Format’ includes information that such available in any form. The GDPR expressly applies to information processed by automated means as well as by manual means if “for part of a filing system”.

The term ‘relating to’ means that for information to be personal data, it must be about an individual.  Information about objects, processes or events may still be personal data provided that certain conditions are met.

For personal data to be about an individual, one of the below features of ‘content’, ‘purpose’ and ‘result’ must apply: 

  1. ‘Content’ refers to information that is about an individual in the most common sense of the word;
  2. ‘Purpose’ refers to information that is being processed to evaluate, consider, and analyse the individual in a specific way;
  3. ‘Result’ refers to when the processing of certain information has an impact on the individual’s rights and interests.

The term ‘identified or identifiable’ refers to when it is possible to be identified.  A person can be identified directly by name or indirectly, namely by an identification number or IP address.  Also, a person can be identified because the information is put together with other pieces of information, to allow the individual to be distinguished from others.

To determine whether means are reasonably likely to be used to identify the individual, account needs put to all objective factors.  These can be for example the cost of and the amount of time required to identify the individual, taking also into account the technology available at the time of processing and any technological developments.  It is worth noting that a hypothetical possibility would be not sufficient to make the individual identifiable.

SENSITIVE DATA

Special categories of personal data or sensitive data refers to information disclosing “racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, or trade union membership, and the processing of genetic data and biometric data for the purpose of uniquely identifying a natural person, data concerning health or a natural person’s sex life or sexual orientation”.

It is worth to be noted that photographs will only be covered by the definition of biometric data when they processed through specific technical means that allow the unique identification or authentication of an individual as a natural person. Videos can constitute biometric data if specific technical processing relating to the physical, physiological, or behavioural characteristics of a person allowing or confirming the unique identification of that person.

GENETIC DATA

Genetic data refers to personal data relating to – the inherited or acquired genetic characteristics of a natural person which give unique information about his physiology or the health and which result in particular, from an analysis of his biological sample.

DATA RELATING TO HEALTH

It refers to personal data that relate to the past, current or future physical or mental health status of a natural person, including:

  1. Information collected in the course of the registration form, or the provision of, health care services;
  2. Information derived from the testing or examination of a body part or bodily substance, including from genetic data and biological samples;
  3. Any information, for example, a disease, disease risk, disability, medical history, clinical treatment, or the physiological or biomedical state of the data subject (independent of its source) from a physician or other health professional, a hospital, or an in vitro diagnostic test;
  4. A number, symbol or particular assigned to a natural person to uniquely identify them for health purposes.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.

For any additional information, please contact us at [email protected] or at +357 22 42 11 90.

Debt Collection in Cyprus and Internationally

The global economic crisis has also been extended to Cyprus and to the financial transactions taking place in Cyprus. Nowadays, liquidity is a major problem for all types of business, which their main concern is how to collect the debt owed to them.

Do you have clients that are not paying their invoices in a timely manner or refuse to pay at all?

Don’t waste your own time and resources trying to recover the debt owed to you.

Our Debt Collection Department offers debt collection services to clients in Cyprus and around the world. We combine professionalism and extensive experience within the legal process with a commercial and practical approach to debt collection. Our aim and priority is to offer honest and realistic advice to collect any debt owed to you or to your company, in the fastest and most amicable way.

We seek to avoid unnecessary litigation proceedings, thus we firstly contact debtors by formal letters of demand, which debtors take very seriously. In every case, we strive to achieve the most optimum results in the swiftest means possible.

Our lawyers’ help you navigate throughout the debt collection regulations in Cyprus and may accordingly perform negotiations on your behalf, locate debtor’s assets and initiate and/or enforce any legal action.

If you require assistance for a debt collection in Cyprus or abroad, we invite you to contact our Law firm.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.

For any additional information, please contact us at [email protected] or at +357 22 42 11 90.

Cyprus Redomiciliation – A Global Solution

Cyprus Law permits the so-called “re-domiciliation” process allowing a company to transfer its “seat” of incorporation into, or out of Cyprus, in accordance with Companies (Amendment) Law of 2006, Law No. 124(I)/2006) (the “Law”).

This law provides a major advantage for a foreign company that can transfer its seat to Cyprus and perhaps later to any European country.

What is the Re –Domiciliation process?

 A re-domiciliation of a company is also known as a “transfer of seat”, which it refers to a procedure of a company transferring its seat of incorporation, to and from a jurisdiction.   The company continues to exist under the laws of a new jurisdiction, into which it transfers its seat, and ceases to exist under the jurisdiction of its incorporation.

It’s remarkable that this process provides a solution to the company to continue existence and not to be liquidated and incorporated from scratch to a different country. This allows an existing company to transfer its registered office and address to another jurisdiction by acquiring all the benefits there.

On a European level, the re-domiciliation of companies within the EU is not prohibited and each member state has its own strict regulations for the re-domiciliation process. However, Cyprus is included in the list of very few countries which allow the re-domiciliation of third-country companies (Non-EU) into and out of the Republic of Cyprus.

Why re-domicile to Cyprus?

Undoubtedly, Cyprus attracts a lot of foreign investors and international merchants as they gain a lot of benefits by either incorporating a Cyprus company or by re-domiciling their existing company to Cyprus. 

Some of the main advantages are below:

  • The foreign company continues to maintain its legal identity;
  • Cyprus is a member of the European Union;
  • Cyprus can be used as a key to transfer the foreign company in any other European country;
  • Cyprus has one of the lowest corporate tax rates in Europe;
  • Tax-exempt dividend income – (less stringent regulation and scrutiny);
  • There are no withholding taxes on payment of dividends, interest and royalties;
  • There is no taxation on profits from the sale of Securities;
  • There are widespread double tax treaties in force;
  • There is full adoption of the EC Directives.

What is the procedure to re-domicile into Cyprus?

The process to re-domicile a foreign company to Cyprus is simple from a practical perspective, as long as there is the appropriate guidance.

A lawyer is an essential part of this process as there is a need to prepare and submit documents both to the Courts of Cyprus and to the Department of Registrar of Companies and Official (the “Registrar”). 

The procedure to re-domicile a foreign company to Cyprus is divided to the bellow different parts:

  1. Company’s name approval;
  2. Application for re-domiciliation of the foreign company to Cyprus and submission of all the supporting documents;
  3. Issuance of Temporary Certification of the foreign company;
  4. Issuance of Permanent Certificate of Continuation.

Are there any restrictions?

It is crucial for a foreign company that intends to re-domicile in Cyprus or abroad, not to start any proceedings for its dissolution or have any pending court orders against it. If any of these exists, then the procedure of re-domiciliation may not be allowed by the Registrar.

Why should consider this process?

Cyprus is an attractive solution for investment and specifically for British enterprises and businesses. Our legal system is based on British Common Law and there are lots of similarities with UK companies’ law system, which arguably, investors can benefit from it.

Thus, as per the uncertainty caused by Brexit, Cyprus can be the key for many companies that wish to be based within the European Union, under a tax favorable system.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.

For any additional information, please contact us at [email protected] or at +357 22 42 11 90.

Abolition of Bank Guarantees

According to the recent amendment of the Aliens and Immigration Law, which took place on  6.12.2019, the requirement for employers to submit to the Civil Registry and Migration Department in Cyprus a bank guarantee for the purpose of granting temporary residence and work permits to a third-country national, has been abolished.  

Further to the aforesaid amendment, the employer will instead have to submit a confirmation letter by which they will confirm that they are bound to incur any costs for the employee’s removal if such removal is necessary.

In cases where a bank guarantee has already been provided, or the amount has been made available to the Civil Registry and Migration Department, then this will be refunded upon submission of the required confirmation to cover any potential removal costs by the employer.

The aforesaid applies to third-country nationals who:

  1. possess a valid residence and work permit;
  2. have submitted an application for employment to a new employer;
  3. remain illegally in the Republic;
  4. remain with the regime of the asylum applicant.

If the employer refuses or fails to bear the removal costs of the third-country national, then the Director of the Civil Registry and Migration Department shall take legal action against them for the purpose of receiving the owed amount and, whilst the employer fails to incur the removal costs no new applications shall be examined for the employer in question.

For the release of a Bank Guarantee which has already been submitted or for the return of the amount of Guarantee which is available to the Civil Registry and Migration Department, the employer shall submit their confirmation letter before the Civil Registry and Migration Department or before the relevant local authorities.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and does not constitute legal advice.

For any additional information, please contact us at [email protected] or at +357 22 42 11 90.