There are numerous practical and legal issues facing businesses that continue to operate within the context of Covid-19 now that England is currently in lockdown. Keep your business operational even if you have limited ability to go outside.
1. Home Working
Many businesses moved to home working following Government advice that this should be implemented. However, some businesses are not set up to do so. In the wake of lockdown very few businesses can now operate unless they are being carried out at home
There is a lot of free technology available to help get your staff back online from cloud-based systems to video conferring portals; phones can adapt for online, face to face as well as office call diversions; good home policies will govern practice and productivity – communication among customers and staff is key.
Read our section for employers as there is a lot to do and consider. Data security and protection are key considerations. It also discusses your options as an employer if your staff can’t work at home.
2. Executing Contracts Remotely
For some time it has been well recognised that contracts can be concluded virtually. There are stricter requirements if it is intended to be executed as a deed (those strictly needing a formal witness signature). However, most Electronic signatures on the whole are completely acceptable as are exchanges via PDF by email or applications such as docsign.
3. Legal Proceedings / Claims?
I want to start legal proceedings against someone can I? I have received a claim how can I make sure my defence is properly served?
Legal documents can be served by email and other means if the postal service is suspended or limited. Not all but most Courts are able to accept electronic service and already some are moving to email services like the employment tribunals. This is not yet fully in place but if you do want to commence proceedings or have been served with a claim it is important that you take advice more than ever in these uncertain times and allow lawyers to address this.
The courts are looking at hosting online court hearings and telephone hearings, so things are still moving during this time
- Will you be covered for business interruption losses – check your policy? Many claims are being denied but review carefully and take advice as you may qualify if you notify following their strict terms
- Is your commercial property covered if its left unoccupied beyond 30 days – check your policy. It has been varied for pubs , but what about your business? What can you do to protect yourself or vary , if applicable, these terms.
- Do you have Keyman insurance if your directors or top fee earners/sales staff get sick and are unable to work?
5. Breach of Contract
Can your suppliers or customers refuse or cease performing their part of the contract ? Or can you?
Is it a breach of contract if you can’t perform due to the restrictions in place ? Read our article on this for more information because legal interpretation maybe clear but commercially there may be a different outlook.
Force their hand on technicalities and lose the relationship or be flexible, talk and compromise to preserve the longer-term relationship.
The base point is ‘if you are unable’ to perform the contract because of the virus , be it government has stopped you or you have no supply chain as the government has stopped them, its beyond the parties control so it’s unlikely you could pursue them for a breach. If they voluntarily close this is a grey area given government rules and daily changes , but we would find it hard for the courts to hold someone to account for taking preventive steps to close.