Coronavirus (COVID-19) Legal Support
Coronavirus (COVID-19) is having a significant impact on every aspect of our lives. Businesses are facing a wide range of practical, commercial and legal challenges associated with the spread of the virus.
Understandably our solicitors are receiving a large volume of calls from clients who are seeking legal advice about how to deal with circumstances brought on by the recent COVID-19 outbreak.
Our solicitors have prepared responses to common questions asked by our clients and have provided some guidance below. This page will be updated regularly to reflect the latest guidance.
Our teams have developed a range of fixed fee services designed to support businesses through the disruption caused by COVID-19.
Coronavirus Legal Services
Frequently Asked Questions
If your contracts give you the right to do so, you can rely on this to implement short-time working, or lay staff off for a temporary period.
If you do not have the contractual right to lay off or put staff on short-time working, you should consider having an open conversation with your staff and seek their agreement to working reduced hours/reduced pay. You could also ask for volunteers to take unpaid leave.
Note. Any member of staff who is already unable to work, for example, due to sickness or (arguably) medically-advised self-isolation, cannot be laid off.
If it is possible for the employee to work from home, then in those circumstances, the issue may be resolved by agreement and the employee can do their usual job from home, and continue to be paid as usual.
If not, you would need to consider the current government advice, the specific reason that the employee is self-isolating (for example, is a family member displaying symptoms, or do they have an underlying medical condition which places them in an ‘at risk’ category), and whether it would be discriminatory to refuse home working, take disciplinary action, or withhold pay in light of the employee’s refusal. Depending on the circumstances, the employee may be entitled to receive SSP from the first day of absence. Alternatively, they may choose to take holiday (which is payable as usual), or it could be dependant’s leave, which subject to your own contractual terms, would be unpaid leave.
Considering all of the above circumstances, if the employee’s leave is deemed to be unauthorised, they would likely not be entitled to pay. as they are not willing to attend work.
Now we know about the self-isolation measures, we can draft provisions to incorporate into a contract before it is exchanged in the hope that it prevents a notice to complete being served and to extend the completion date until such time as vacant possession can be given.
In this situation the Seller and Buyer need to avoid having a Notice to Complete being served on them which then makes time of the essence to complete. Additionally, if you are self-isolating, it is unlikely that you will be able to give vacant possession of the property on the day of completion and so effectively this will lead to a breach of the contract conditions and maybe a litigation claim. Protection provisions such as those we can draft go some way in providing protection to cover these risks.
As a Landlord we can give you advice on the provisions of the lease and guide you to agreeing a way forward with the Tenant. It is better to agree a rent concession or payment holiday with the tenant as he will be more likely to stay in the Property and you will not be left with an empty property when the pandemic is over.
Please note: We are offering to review existing leases, draft the rent concession letter and provide the appropriate advice for clients for £350 plus VAT.
As a tenant: We can provide the necessary legal advice by reviewing the Lease and advising on the forfeiture provisions. We can liaise with the landlord and agree a rental concession if need be.
Where possible your should take all reasonable steps to ensure you can pay your creditors. This could include consideration of steps to improve business’ cash flow, including reducing non-essential overhead and reducing payment terms for your customers and improving credit control processes to collect debt. These may improve your prospects of being able to pay creditors.
Where it becomes clear that this is not possible we advise that you take legal advice early. You should review contractual terms and where appropriate make contact with creditors to attempt to negotiate extended payment terms.
Consideration should also be given to any specific requirements to be complied with to vary the contractual terms and ensure these are met.
Consider the broader implications of a failure to comply with payment terms, for example, a right to terminate, contractual interest or accelerated payment clauses which could cause the amount due to increase significantly beyond what is already overdue. Consider too any personal guarantees which have been given.
Directors must also consider the rights of creditors as well as shareholders. Where the directors know (or should know) that the company is or is likely to become insolvent (including circumstances where the company is unable to pay its debts as they fall due). There may also be personal liability to directors of a company that has continued to trade whilst insolvent and even the possibility of director disqualification proceedings.
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