Rishi Sunak has announced limited relaxations to the UK statutory residence test (SRT), in relation to Covid-19. Any days spent in the UK between 1 March and 1 June 2020 by “highly skilled individuals” coming to the UK to work on Covid-19 related activities will not be counted towards the residence tests.
The Chancellor has stated that the relaxation of the rules will be "tightly targeted", "time limited" and will "only support those people whose skillsets are currently required". Examples given include anaesthetists and engineers working on ventilators. The time period of the new rules will be kept under review and it is possible that it may be extended in due course.
The Chancellor's announcements explains that this change to the SRT will be legislated for in the forthcoming Finance Bill. It is interesting that Parliamentary time has been found to legislate for this change, but not to legislate for other aspects of the SRT affected by Covid-19.
HMRC has already published guidance in relation to the SRT "exceptional circumstances" rule and how this may be interpreted by HMRC in those cases where individuals are required to spend more days in the UK than planned due to Covid-19 illness or travel restrictions. The Treasury and HMRC may take the view that additional guidance is all that is required in relation to the exceptional circumstances position, but the lack of legislation on this point (compared to the announced legislative changes for highly skilled workers) may mean that a stricter position is taken in interpreting exceptional circumstances than had originally been anticipated.