A City Law Firm https://acitylawfirm.com Our people set us apart Fri, 03 Apr 2020 11:39:27 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.13 Covid-19 Self-Employed Resilience Advice https://acitylawfirm.com/covid-19-self-employed-resilience-advice/ Wed, 01 Apr 2020 14:40:48 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11744

Financial assistance for the Self-employed

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has finally announced a package for the self-employed which will include people and businesses that’s can paid their earnings in addition to employed people. This is a relief and welcomed offering to everyone who is self-employed in the UK, and this means that being self employed is not a barrier to getting financial support.

It has been said that around five million people are thought to be self-employed in the UK and it has taken the government considerably longer to consider a package for them. This has taken longer because being self-employed can be more complicated as there are so many for variables with this type of work. Self employed people can have variations in their payments and they can also off set expenses when needed to do so, unlike salaried staff. The Government are unlikely to be able to deal with the expenses issues, but they will be able to pay monies in terms of earnings up to a cap of £2500.00. This is the same cap which has been agreed for employees who have been made Furloughed workers (meaning, workers who have agreed to take a leave of absence from work by their employer to save them being laid off or made redundant).

In terms of profits to the economy of the UK, it is said that the self-employed sector generates £300 billion each year in terms of revenue, so a very big sector of the economy that needs to be supported. Small trader businesses are also a vital resource and supply jobs to people as well as goods and services which we wholly all rely upon not to mention hairdressers, dance schools, fitness coaches and personal trainers, trades peoples such as electricians and plumbers need to be supported through these turbulence and troubled times, as we will need these resources when the Covid 19 pandemic comes to an end.

In terms of protecting the self-employed the government has agreed from June 2020 to provide:

80% of earnings for self-employed workers based on their average monthly profits which will be based on the previous 2 or 3 year period. This does mean that people who have a recent role as self-employed or recent business will not be eligible for this financial assistance, you also need to make it to June 2020.

How will it work: There is a cap of £2,500 a month on the 80% that will be paid. This is a measure for the self employed which have profits under a threshold of £50,000, so anyone with over the 50k mark, will not be assisted. Another requirement of these protective measures and financial assistance is that this will only be for people where the majority of their income is made up of a self-employed source, this means that if you are self employed but have a employed income elsewhere which is more than your self employed income, you would not be eligible.

Universal Credit

If your income does dry up when self-employed, you are now able to claim employment and support allowance (ESA) and/or Universal Credit. The weekly payment for ESA is typically £73.10 or £57.90 for people under the age of 25.

The payments for Universal Credit have been temporarily raised so that the self-employed receive the same amount as someone on statutory sick pay (£94.25 a week).

Contracts

You should assess your current contracts to ensure you are adequately protected with your current providers for work, suppliers and any sub-contractors so you understand fully what you are able to deliver / perform and where you may need to negotiate / discuss with third parties. If you believe you are unable to maintain performance of your services you can seek the government assistance package , but now would be the time to talk to your customers and employers to preserve that relationship for after the lockdown period, as keeping in touch and keeping options open would be good for you all.

We are very happy to assist anyone that is unsure about their contractual obligations, their insurance policies or whether they qualify for assistance. Likewise if you need to renegotiate terms or seek to restructure projects to survive this difficult period our team are on hand.

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UPDATE – Covid-19 and the Courts https://acitylawfirm.com/update-covid-19-and-the-courts/ Mon, 30 Mar 2020 12:06:11 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11739

With the country grinding to a standstill it is paramount that the justice system remains functionable to help maintain public order, albeit it may be functioning in a different and more remote way to ensure that people remain safe in the Covid 19 Pandemic. A City Law Firm are keeping up to date with all relevant changes.

The increasing risk and inability  to have groups of people together is conflicting with the court processes, but it is a measure which the government has introduced as Marital law which means that we all need to abide by these new measures or be subjected to criminal sanctions. In the interests of justice, it is still important to have trials running as smoothly as they can and the courts have implemented the following key changes to ensure that justice can prevail:

  • No new jury trials will be started until further notice. However, current jury trials will continue.
  • The Magistrates court, who will likely be dealing with breaches to the restrictions put in place to combat Covid-19 will only cover urgent matters. This includes people in overnight custody and brought in from prison. They are also working on setting up other departments that can aid in dealing with matters, the extent of this is yet unknown but we would predict this may include video hearings.
  • Crown court and all higher Courts will only cover the most urgent work.
  • The Government are working with the judiciary to implement online courts.

The legal system is working incredibly hard to adhere to the needs of the public in this difficult time. As a result, they are implementing the following measures to make life easier for all.

  • They will suspend all ongoing housing possession cases which means that Landlord’s who wish to evict under the section 8 (for breaches of a tenancy agreement or rent arrears of over 2 months payments due) or section 21 (which is a no fault and absolute rights to possession) of the Housing Act, procedures will not go forward now for 3 months. This will provide tenants with a grace period where they will not be able to be evicted.
  • They are implementing strict social distancing measure in the courts and tribunals, which would mean each person maintaining the 2 meter distances needed to keep safe.
  • All but essential meetings are moving online, this is likely to include more court hearings, plea hearings and directions or case management hearings.

With this in mind our lawyers remain vigilant to the updates to make sure they fully comply and progress client matters, as well as seeking wherever possible to negotiate and settle.

Your statutory time limits for issuing claims will still apply so do seek early advice and make sure you not delay matters. If you need to talk to our litigation lawyers do not hesitate to contact us.

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Covid-19 Mitigating Business Disruption https://acitylawfirm.com/covid-19-mitigating-business-disruption/ Sun, 29 Mar 2020 13:33:44 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11734

Business Interruption and Mitigation

Around the world businesses are being affected by Covid-19. Many may be unable to perform an obligation under a contract or find themselves with a supplier or service provider unable to service them.  In these circumstances what can you do to protect your business.

Business interruption

This may be because an area is in lock-down, travel restrictions, import restrictions or due to staff illnesses.  Whilst Covid-19 is unique in the action that Governments are taking to try and shut down the spread of the illness what this demonstrates is the need for businesses small and large to have a business contingency plan. These typically cover

  • Flood
  • Fire
  • Theft
  • IT failure
  • Communications failure (eg telephone system)
  • Limited or no access to offices
  • Adverse weather
  • Loss of key personnel
  • Terrorism

Whilst these may not always be possible, and no one can legislate for the truly unexpected, what these plans do is highlight that there may be certain unexpected events which require a departure from ‘business as usual’, however, hard you try and maintain the same.

What if you cannot meet your contractual obligations or deadlines

At this juncture it is important that you check your contracts. You need to read the small print, usually in the boiler plate clauses and assess whether you have a force majeure clause. In England to be able to rely upon force majeure it needs to be within your contract.

Force majeure means something outside of your control – anything but that expected and it has prohibited the contract to be performed

If you have a Force Majeure clause then it is important that you exercise this correctly to ensure that you do not breach the contract nor wrongly invoke termination.  Depending on the drafting of the clause it may not cover all effects of Covid-19, and it all depends on why you cannot perform the contract and it may change whether this is because of Government guidance, or action.  If the government have forced closure and it is clear you cannot perform your role because it was outside of your hands, then it may be possible to argue this, but if you volunteer to cease work and it could easily be performed remotely then it will be far harder to argue. It is likely, given the global disruption that will be affecting many different businesses that these clauses will be carefully scrutinised.

What if you do not have a force majeure clause?

You may still be able to rely on the doctrine of frustration. This is where you can demonstrate that a contract is no longer capable of being performed due to an unexpected event.   However, you need to be aware that should a contract be frustrated then it is immediately terminated at the point it became frustrated.

The doctrine of frustration is very complex and it is important that you take specific advice on whether in your circumstances this applies and whether it should be invoked in your circumstances.   It may not automatically apply in respect of Covid-19 generally and therefore it is important that this is closely reviewed to protect you against future litigation.

What if your contract is with a consumer?

If you have a force majeure clause in a contract with a consumer, it is important  that it is fair. This is governed by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. If it is not fair, then it will be unenforceable. , If this is the case, retaining their funds will not be upheld by the court and you will be ordered to issue a full refund, inform the consumer that you, cannot deliver their item or hold their event, whichever is applicable.

Are there any other options?

A contract can always be varied with consent. This means that you might decide that it is a good idea to approach the other party to see if something can be agreed to change the terms.  This means that if you both agree to the variation then it will take effect. We always encourage early communication to preserve relationships as compromising or discussing how to address the issue early may allow you to secure future business rather than burning your bridges.

You should still check the contract to see whether you have stipulated that a contract can only be varied in writing.  It is important that the terms of the contract with regards to variation are followed as carefully as possible to protect yourself from being liable for breach of contract.

FoodChain suppliers and customers

Engaging early with your stakeholders will improve the odds.

Informing your customers/clients of any changes to your services now will keep everyone informed and engaged. Customers in financial predicaments may need extended payment terms with you and some suppliers might require new arrangements. Flexibility could give you some cash flow rather than zero and ultimately a longer term relationship.

No refund just postponed?

Companies presently worried about cashflow may not be offering a full refund, but instead suggesting the delivery or event is held over to a later date. If you don’t want this, you need to look at the contract or small print as to what terms cover this and how. If this is silent on the matter you can argue your stance as you need to be put back in the position but for the contract, but extenuating times now may require more flexibility.

Insurance

Check your policy see what you are covered for and when. We hear many insurers are denying claims but if you notify them in good time and carefully scrutinise your terms you may be covered. You may have a legitimate claim for this kind of disruption. Similarly, though there is a risk of a successful claim made against your business for the cancellation of services or goods so check this too.

Cash Flow

If there are changes and delays to your service, or reduced customer demand or you are forced to close, cashflows will invariably become strained. Talk early to your suppliers about reducing their provisions and extending payment terms; speak to your bank and accountant ; seek out grants and tax deferral options

 

What else can you be doing?

  • Have you put a plan into action for if and when staff get sick or have to isolate ?
  • Can you cross train people or have a rota or have updated handover notes available ready?
  • Government distancing plan in place for those that have to work
  • Prepare emergency communications plan
  • Plan for increased take-up of employee services / sick leave / HR resources
  • Prepare policies on sick leave and compassionate leave due to COVID-19
  • Plan for the needs of staff overseas
  • Make arrangements to assure supplies are available during the COVID-19 event
  • Consider changes to the way you deliver or sell your products or services due to COVID-19.
  • Can you adapt and still service your customer base if so do you need to amend your T & C’s

If you’re now looking how to react, adapt and survive through this evolving crisis we are here for you.  How your business will be impacted by the coronavirus discuss your concerns with us and read our business resilience articles for practical and legal advice.

 

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Covid-19 Legal & Practical Considerations https://acitylawfirm.com/covid-19-legal-considerations/ Sun, 29 Mar 2020 13:22:46 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11733

Practical legal issues set out for your business in a lockdown

There are numerous practical and legal issues facing businesses which 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 lock down 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 service 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

 

4. Insurances

  • 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.

 

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Business Resilience for Employers during Covid-19 https://acitylawfirm.com/business-resilience-package/ Sun, 29 Mar 2020 13:11:03 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11732

Employer advice during Covid 19 : For Home Working; Self-employed; and various Options

At this time there are many struggles facing employers in the UK amidst the Covid-19 outbreak, but the government has implemented  many ways in which they can help.  As an employer what should you be aware of and what measures should you be putting in place to protect your business and staff?

Home-working what should Employer’s keep in mind?

If you do not have a home-working policy now is the time to implement one.  This needs to work practically and implement key processes. It may be something that is added to over time but at this stage a clear set of guidelines and expectations for staff is very important.   These policies offer health and safety provisions; data protection security; ways to measure staff well-being and productivity ; communications and business continuity plans.

Data Protection

You also need to ensure that you vice versa cover home-working in your data protection policies as well as notifying your insurers.   Considering how they access, share and store your confidential data is a must. You remain responsible for your staff ‘at work’ even if this is at home. Ordinarily you would want to undertake a risk assessment and put in place proper measures but given these unprecedented times this has largely been taken out of your hands. Instead it would serve you well to ensure all staff are aware of your expectations during this time including with regards to their safety so you ensure they buy into your objectives.

It is advisable to have mechanisms to regularly check in on staff who are home-working especially those who may be self-isolating to motivate, ensure productivity and enhance well-being. Your staff’s well-being at this time is important as well as profitability. These are challenging times; staff may be working without childcare arrangements in place and balancing different roles all in a worrying climate so a degree of flexibility maybe needed. Keeping this at the forefront of your mind will serve you well and retain your talent and their commitment to you.

Tech-enabled means an inevitable shift away from office life and will mean that new accounts need to be set up, sometimes in the hundreds. The importance of strong and unique passwords cannot be stressed enough and the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) recommend a 2-factor authentication process.  Online conference calls may need to be adopted which are available at low costs and you don’t have to be tech-savvy. It is paramount that you use a trusted provider to ensure that only the intended participants have access to the calls.

Equipment– When working from home, if using a business owned device or the employee’s device then anti-virus software should be installed on such machines to ensure that data is safe and protected. We strongly recommend adapting any bring your own device policies to now accommodate this or put these swiftly in place.

Removable media like USB sticks can be easily misplaced and may contain the risk of malware. Best practice would be to use a ‘cloud’ based system to remove the chance of files becoming lost or corrupt.  Cyber criminals appear to be cashing in on the rising fear and there has been an increase in phishing emails to the public. These emails may appear to contain links to charities and relief efforts or tax rebates but will instead download malware or steal passwords. It is important that businesses train staff to spot and report this kind of email and that a correct email use policy is put in place to minimise this potentially harmful risk.

Businesses and individuals alike must ensure that they have regular and in-depth backups taken from their system. This will help to reduce the impact of any lost or corrupt files and could save businesses a lot of time, money and stress. Businesses can also look to the Cloud to save back-ups which will be safer for all companies.

With times changing and Cyber security being at the forefront of our minds, it is good to investigate and embrace new and emerging technologies which will help your business thrive at this time.

The main thing is that everyone works together, and we all adjust our lives and business with government support. The Government has said that this will be reviewed monthly so we cannot know how long this will last.

 

Do I still need to be worried about IR35?

In light of economic pressure, the Government has announced the postponement of recent reforms to the IR35 tax rules regarding contractors and private businesses. The reforms were due to come into action in April 2020 but have been postponed to April 2021.

The Government, through the Treasury wanted to implement changes to the IR35 tax rules. It was planned that medium and large businesses in the private sector would become responsible for ensuring the correct tax status was set for any contractor that they used.

Unfortunately, however, it is likely to be contractors who are first to be let go in the wake of Covid-19.  The changes to IR35 came under huge scrutiny. However, many businesses had already spent a large amount of time and money trying to ensure that they were compliant for the changes.

Whatever your views on IR35 the year long delay will mean that contractors are likely to benefit in the turbulent time caused by Covid-19. Business will also be affording an extra year to ensure the changes they are implementing are completely ready to take hold in April of next year.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that there is now a package for the self employed and the government has now confirmed that self-employed people and businesses will be paid their earnings in addition to employed people. This is a relief and a welcomed offering to everyone who is self employed in the UK.

The Government are unlikely to be able to deal with expenses issues, but they will be able to pay monies in terms of earnings up to a cap of £2500.00. This is the same cap which has been agreed for employees who have been made Furloughed workers (meaning, workers who have agreed to take a leave of absence from work by their employer to save them being laid off or made redundant). For more details we have published information specifically on self-employed reliefs online.

Can’t pay your staff what should you do?

No employer truly likes letting their staff go, especially those hard-working and essential members of the team.   However,  given the emerging crisis Boris Johnson has effectively shut down industries in response to Covid-19.

Today for the first time in our history the government will step in and pay wages and have said they will set up a new Covid 19 job retention scheme.

Employers can contact HMRC to enrol on the scheme and obtain most of the wages for people who are not working but classed as furloughed workers. These are employees that cannot work for you until after the crisis is over. The Government has promised to meet the cost of 80% of staff wages up to a cap of £2500 per month, that is 30k per year those that you need to retain during this period, but are inactive.

At this stage it is not clear whether the government have gone far enough, or how it will affect zero hour contract or  temp workers but it seems clear that the Government has made a commitment that it will support businesses and preserve capitalism whilst trying to control the spread of this virus.

 

Redundancy

Can you make your staff redundant?  Yes, if their role has gone. However, you need to follow the rules on consultation and selection; pay notice and redundancy. If this can be avoided,  take advantage of the government assistance where possible, it may even be cheaper than redundancy.

The key thing  to understand is what aid is out there; what your options are; and whilst protecting cash flow is key in the short-term a long term objective will also help you retain staff, sustain your business and come out the other-end. Recruitment and redundancy is costly so make sure you have thought threw all the available options we are available to do this with you.

 

 

A City Law Firm Employment

If you need advice we can arrange 1-2-1 consultations with our employment lawyers ; we can draft or revise any staff policies you needed and guide you through your available options.

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Coronavirus Business Support https://acitylawfirm.com/coronavirus-business-support/ Sun, 29 Mar 2020 12:00:49 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11730

Government aid for businesses

A raft of measures have been introduced to assist businesses suffering as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our team have set out details of the measures , which are in place,  to help your business continue in these unprecedented times. We are here to assist you , but these government aids are available now if you need them.

What is in place

  • The Coronavirus job retention scheme where 80% of their wages can be still paid
  • Deferral of VAT and income tax payments to ease cash flow
  • Statutory sick pay relief for SMEs
  • 12 month business rate break for retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses
  • Small business grant funding
  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
  • Corona virus business interruption loan
  • Lending facility for larger businesses
  • HMRC time to pay scheme

There is a real detailed breakdown here for more information

How to access these

 

  • Deferral of VAT and income tax payments
    • Applies to all businesses and is automatic. No business will be required to pay VAT until June 2020 and thereafter to repay in instalments. You will not have to do anything to get this.
    • Income tax payment deferrals apply to all. This is automatic and for sums due 31 July 2020 this will be deferred until 31 January 2021. You will not have to do anything to get this.

 

  • Statutory sick pay relief for SMEs
    • This is a refund of SSP for eligible employees off work for Covid-19 but at the time of writing the scheme is still being developed but will be available in due course to deal with refunds

 

  • 12 month business rate break for retail, hospitality, leisure and nursery businesses
    • This will be automatically applied by local authorities

 

  • Small business grant funding up to £10,000 to eligible businesses
    • local authorities will write to eligible businesses

 

  • Grant funding of £25,000 for retail, hospitality and leisure businesses
    • local authorities will write to eligible businesses

 

  • Corona virus business interruption loan
    • If you are eligible you can apply via one of the 40 accredited lenders

 

  • Lending facility for larger businesses
    • Information is available from the Bank of England

 

  • HMRC time to pay scheme
    • Via HMRC’s dedicated helpline: 0800 0159 559

 

  • Insurances
    • Check , or allow us to check, if your insurance covers the pandemic or government ordered closures.

 

This is a series of Articles for Coronavirus business survival and part of our ongoing Business Resilience pack.

If you need help contact us enquiries@acitylawfirm.com we are working business as usual.

 

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Business Resilience and Leading a Dispersed Team https://acitylawfirm.com/founder-of-aclf-karen-holden-on-business-resilience-and-leading-a-dispersed-team/ Fri, 27 Mar 2020 10:09:18 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11726

In an unprecedented and uncertain time, business resilience and tools to ensure business continuity are imperative. With the advancement of technology and now COVID-19, working remotely is now the only way many of us can work. Leaders are understandably under pressure to continue business as usual whilst ensuring the productivity of their team members.'

 

A City Law Firm is no stranger to uncertain times. I founded the firm during the financial crisis in 2009 and thought it timely to discuss tools to ensure business resilience and how I manage a dispersed team.

A City Law Firm goes beyond that of a traditional law firm in that it was established to respond to clients’ needs from a trusted advisor standpoint. My main objective was to offer clients the opportunity to engage a law firm and to become an extension of their business. We assist and move with our clients’ strategies handling the shifting legal landscape and provide clients with specialist, first rate lawyers, competitively working always with a Client First focus.

   

'We survived the recession and came out much stronger.  

We weathered the storms and will do so again'.

 

Growing organically but adapting to the market quickly and embracing new ways of working as well as ensuring excellent client service delivery has always been a catalyst for A City Law Firm’s success. Our business resilience packages for example offer guidance on law and contractual changes but also opportunities and commercial ideas to support clients during this difficult time.

As an agile, tech-enabled law firm, we have always supported our team by ensuring that they have access to the firm’s resources, partners and know-how, so they get the support they need whilst working remotely.  This gives our clients comfort that they have the best legal minds, fully motivated, supporting their business.

A City Law Firm has always embraced flexible working, but over the past few weeks, we have adopted a new norm for the entire team to work remotely at the same time. We tried and tested what works for the team to stay connected, be productive and support one another whilst continuing to deliver a stellar service to our clients and colleagues. Wellbeing, efficiency and team connectivity has been maintained by regular calls and it shows just how essential communication and interaction between us helps us to thrive.

Some of the lessons learned when leading a dispersed team through a period of change are as follows:

  • Ensure your team feels purpose in what you are trying to achieve. Your company values are of utmost importance and your team need to buy into what you're saying, doing and striving to achieve.
  • Find ways to connect – webinars and video calls have been our lifeline. We hold daily team video meetings and they helped us to stay connected. We even hold social events and have a virtual pub quiz this Friday! We share our lives and we stay connected and engaged throughout the day. This motivates, ensures wellbeing and drives them to keep business generating.
  • Lead from the front and practice what you preach. If you want a self-motivated team then you need to be demonstrating that you are also living this change and staying focused and results driven. It also means delegation, trust and empowering them 
  • Focus on setting achievable daily goals, yet still having a focus on long term objectives. We remain clear on what we are trying to achieve and are still focused on getting it done, despite location and market challenges. We ensure we have a longer-term business development strategy and plan for the future.
  • Provide praise and honest, open feedback to your team yet also recognise the challenges they may be facing. A 'thank you' and a 'well done' goes a long way.
  • Communicate openly and be human, not everyone is going to manage this change as well as you do, and it is important to acknowledge how your individual team members are feeling and support them to adapt.

A City Law Firm continues to navigate this new way of working and I am proud of my team and how they have adapted so quickly.  After all, work is a thing you do, not a place you go.

If you would like to discuss business resilience and would like to learn more about the Firm’s Business Resilience Package, please get in touch with a member of the team. A City Law Firm is offering a free initial audit/consultation to assess businesses currently and to offer our expert help.

Call: 020 7426 0382 Email: enquiry@acitylawfirm.com

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How to survive isolation/quarantine if you had been contemplating divorce https://acitylawfirm.com/how-to-survive-isolation-quarantine-if-you-had-been-contemplating-divorce/ Tue, 24 Mar 2020 12:43:19 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11711

Whether you have already started divorce proceedings or were thinking about it and are now forced into lockdown together, what can you do to avoid conflict?

It can be extremely difficult to live in the same house as your spouse when you want to separate or divorce or are in the process of divorcing, and this will only be further exacerbated now that the Prime Minister has ordered a full scale lockdown in an attempt to slow the spread of coronavirus.

The implications of this for families across the country is that they will be forced to live on top of one other in shared accommodation for weeks or potentially months to come. The situation will no doubt be worse for you if you are not happy in your relationship or marriage.

You may be in the middle of divorce and wondering whether the coronavirus situation will mean the process will take longer, or you may have been poised to start the divorce process but are now pushing the pause button and deciding to “put up” with the situation and carrying on as normal, as best you can, until you feel safe enough to re-start the process.

 

One client told us

‘I do not feel I can proceed with my divorce now. We're going to be living together, potentially for many weeks and I am scared of his reaction. I won't be able to find somewhere else to live and what if he fights me for the children? I feel I have no choice but to hold off on filing the petition and just wait it out

 

If you are concerned about how you are going to cope living with a partner from whom you want to separate, it is important that you remain calm and positive. Based on our experience as family solicitors and advising cohabiting partners and spouses before and during the separation or divorce process we recommend that you do the following to ensure you are able to manage this experience with minimal disruption to both parties and any children:

Sleep in separate bedrooms

This may appear obvious, but if it is possible, it is a very important step in gaining independence.

Respect common areas

It is important to respect each other’s use of shared spaces such as the kitchen, bathroom and any other room you share. The next few weeks/months are going to be tough, even for people not wanting to divorce or separate, so try and make your situation a little less distressing by being respectful of each other’s use of the home. You should also ensure that common areas are kept tidy and leave any other room you share as you would wish to find them to try and avoid any petty arguments brought on by “cabin-fever”.

Set a schedule

If it is difficult to use the same rooms at the same time, think about agreeing a schedule in which you can enjoy the shared spaces alone. This will also help with social distancing.

Respect each other’s privacy 

We are all entitled to privacy and respecting it is key to living together harmoniously, even in these unprecedented times. This includes staying out of each other’s bedroom and not touching each another’s personal possessions without permission.

Try and co-parent with minimal animosity.  

With the children now being home from school they will need entertaining and this will likely test any parent, especially when trying to work from home. If you are in the process of separating from the other parent our best advice is to try and put all animosity aside and try and get along and co-parent without falling out. The situation will be scary enough for the children without them also having to listen to fighting parents, especially fighting over who is to care for them. Now really is the time to put your differences aside and try and make the best of a bad situation.

If this is simply not possible, try and agree a routine where you take it in turns to work and care for the children and stick to it. That way the children will know what they are doing and will soon get used to this new routine post school closure.

Domestic Violence. 

This, of course, is serious, regardless of the coronavirus situation. With self-isolation and with the increasing pressures of living in close quarters for what may be a long period of time, you may be very worried about what will happen if your partner abuses you. Our clear advice is to call the police. There will still be help available even during a lockdown.

The family courts are also still sitting, although remotely, and if you fear living with an abusive partner, please contact us so that we can advise whether to make an occupation order application.

Help Lines

If you want to access support over the phone, you can call:

  • National Domestic Violence Helpline – 0808 2000 247
  • The Men’s Advice Line, for male domestic abuse survivors – 0808 801 0327
  • The Mix, free information and support for under 25s in the UK – 0808 808 4994
  • National LGBT+ Domestic Abuse Helpline – 0800 999 5428
  • Samaritans (24/7 service) – 116 123
  • Rights of Women advice lines, there are a range of services available: click here
  • Also consider  Women's Aid 

We will shortly be posting a follow up article on how you can amicably share contact with your children during this difficult time. 

Confused about divorce? We are here to help 

Whether it is providing you with practical advice during this difficult time, or advising you for the duration of your divorce, at A City Law Firm, our Family Team are all here to help. We have an experienced team of family lawyers that would be happy to arrange an initial consultation to advise you. Please get in touch by contacting lucy@acitylawfirm.com to find out more.

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International Surrogacy – COVID -19 Travel Ban https://acitylawfirm.com/coronavirus-and-international-surrogacy-your-baby-is-due-to-be-born-and-you-are-affected-by-the-travel-ban-what-can-you-do/ Tue, 24 Mar 2020 10:52:36 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11700

Coronavirus and international surrogacy: Your baby is due to be born overseas and you are affected by the travel ban. What can you do?

The Covid-19 pandemic is affecting every facet of our lives and, unfortunately, shows no sign of abating any time soon. If you are a British Intended Parent (IP) resident in the UK and currently on an international surrogacy journey, we know that you will be extra worried about being able to be with your surrogate and to be there when your baby is born.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has now advised against all non-essential travel for the next 30 days. This time period may be extended as the situation unfolds. Furthermore, the countries where you may wish to fly into may also have banned entry to its borders.

So, what do you need to know? We have several trusted partners in the most popular international surrogacy destinations and have the following advice:

USA

President Trump banned entry into the US from the UK and Ireland as of midnight 17 March 2020. It is unknown how long this will last. However, if you are a parent, guardian or sibling traveling for family, entry into the United States may still be permitted, and a quarantine period may apply.

If you have managed to get into the US before the travel ban came into force, then you may need to self-quarantine for 14 days before seeing your surrogate/baby. We have clients with a baby due to a surrogate in Utah in April and before the travel ban was imposed, they changed their plans and travelled to the US a month early’. Obviously, this required a coordinated plan to change annual leave, organise flights and arrange accommodation earlier than expected.

If you were not lucky enough to have made it into the US before the travel ban was imposed, what can you do? If your particular State is a “pre-birth order” State then this will ensure that when your baby is born, the surrogate will not be the legal parent and will have no rights to take custody of the baby. If your surrogate is in a “post-birth order” State, then IPs will need to obtain the parental Order as soon as possible after the baby is born to transfer legal parenthood to the IPs. I

f you are unsure which applies to you contact us or your provider for clarity.

With proper planning, you may be able to enter the United States through the exception that you are traveling for a family member who is under the age of 18 years old. However, be aware that it is also possible that the usual ESTA issued under the Visa Waiver Program VWP may be not apply due to travel bans. Your attorneys in both the US and the UK should draft a travel letter for you explaining your situation in the hope that this will assist you with entry into the country. However, it cannot be guaranteed as nobody will know whether there will be any flights let alone if an exit from the UK is possible or entry into the USA permitted. The self-quarantine for 14 days may still be in effect, so please check with your airline.

If neither IP can enter the USA before the birth or has to self-quarantine for 14 days before seeing the baby, who looks after the baby? All IPs should have a plan in place granting powers of attorney and/or designating someone as a temporary guardian of the minor child (or children). This is someone they nominate to take responsibility for the baby until they can take over responsibility themselves. Some US law firms will help IPs put this in place. The IPs would need to nominate a person based in the US to do this and then their lawyer in the US will create legal documents to give custody and decision-making authority to their chosen person in the US.  This person should not be the surrogate unless there is absolutely no other option.

I made it to be with my baby, now what?

Once the IPs are with their baby, IPs will then need to consider their ability to leave the US and travel back into the UK. You can try and travel back to the UK or you can wait it out in the US. If you wish to try and travel back, you will have to first obtain the birth certificate and the passport for your child. This is likely going to take much longer because many governmental offices in the US are closed and the US State Department announced 19 March 2020 that it would, for the time being, not be processing any requests for expedited passports and that the turnaround time is likely to be closer to 6-8 weeks. Please liaise with your US attorney to know the best route to obtain these documents. Check with UK officials and with your airline on any additional papers you may need, any quarantine period, etc. You may also want to liaise with your UK attorneys and/or the UK consulate about the possibility of obtaining a British passport for the child/children as an alternative to waiting 6 – 8 weeks.

Waiting it out in the USA

If you wish to, or are forced to, stay in the US and wait this out, ensure that you have arranged suitable accommodation to hunker down until the travel ban is lifted and to ensure sufficient medical care (and medical cover) is in place for any health needs for yourselves and the baby whilst in the US. Also, if you stay in the US to wait this out, be aware of the possibility of over-staying your travel Visa or ESTA issued under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If an emergency prevents a foreign national admitted under the VWP from departing the United States within the period of authorized stay, a period of Satisfactory Departure may be granted not to exceed 30 days – provided that the request is made during the period of admission and the foreign national is still in status at the time of the request. If departure is made within the period of approved Satisfactory Departure, the foreign national is regarded as having made a timely departure without overstaying the allowed time. In emergent circumstances, requests for Satisfactory Departure may be granted if the foreign national is out of status but can prove the intent was to depart timely.

By acting early you can help coordinate who is chosen to act as a guardian, make sure there is a legally binding contract and suitable arrangements, reasonable expenses can be afforded, and you can have a clear plan of action to support all parties involved.

If you took out insurances please do review these now also to see how, if possible, this can assist you.

Our US partners:  Fertility Law Attorney, Molly O’Brien of International Fertility Law Group Inc and Richard Westoby and the San Diego Fertility Centre remain on hand to provide up to the minute advice. They will also be online with us next week when we run our webinar to guide UK IP’s.

Canada 

Canada is in a similar position to the US. As of 16 March 2020, there is a travel ban in place to prevent entry to anyone who is not a Canadian citizen or permanent resident.

An exception to the Canadian travel ban is that immediate family members of Canadian citizens may still enter the country. Some IPs may already have relatives in Canada and can use this exception. However, it is important for IPs to note that under Canadian immigration law, “relative” does not include “parent”. The fact that a surrogate child born in Canada will be entitled to Canadian citizenship, will not mean their intended parents from overseas will be able to use this exception.   We understand that there is a team of Canadian lawyers who are working directly with Transport Canada to provide a list of intended parents of babies who are due between now and July in order to place those intended parents on a list of individuals who will be allowed to travel.

The most important thing any IP can do if they have a surrogate who is already pregnant in Canada is to contact their agency and lawyer in Canada. The changes brought in to combat Covid-19 and to protect public health are unlikely to have contemplated international surrogacy. Lawyers and surrogacy agencies in Canada are best placed to be able to find IPs exceptions to these rules in emergency situations. Our partners have made it clear that they remain open and are well prepared to advise and assist all clients.

The advice from the Canadian government is for all people entering the country to self-quarantine for 14 days. For those who cannot enter Canada in time for the birth or are restricted by self-quarantine, provisions are encouraged to appoint a Guardian which must be made as soon as possible. Again, both Canadian lawyers and agencies have made it clear they are there to assist with this and between the UK and Canada everything can be done remotely.

As in the US, those IPs who are able to get to Canada and to the surrogate’s local area may now face issues returning to the UK or Europe. Again, IPs will need to make provisions for a longer than anticipated stay. This will include insurance, accommodation and ensuring that you instruct your UK solicitor to apply for the UK parental order on your behalf within the set time frames. It may be you also need to consider taking legal advice on your employment rights if you are unable to return to work.

Our Canadian partner, Surrogacy and Fertility lawyer Ellen Embury from Carbert Waite LLP is on hand for anyone who facing any issues or who has a child due in Canada in the coming months. Ellen will also be online with us next week for our webinar guide for UK IPs.

Ukraine

We also have many clients who choose the Ukraine as their surrogacy destination. The situation there is very different to the USA and Canada.

In the Ukraine, the surrogate is not considered the legal parent at birth and the baby will not be an automatic Ukrainian citizen.

We are advised by our Ukrainian partners that the hospitals where the surrogates give birth do not discharge the baby until the IPs arrive and a birth certificate is issued. This is a real potential problem as, if the public registration offices close down (which we are told is likely) birth certificates will not be issued. What then? Unfortunately, we just do not know as things are changing at a very fast pace and provisions are not clear at this point.

We are told that in light of the current situation, concessions will have to be made but this is an ever-evolving situation and we do not yet know what they might be. As soon as we have updates, we will upload them here. As such we strongly advise you to ensure that your UK solicitor and your Ukrainian solicitor have a regular dialogue to protect your position

You should have a candid conversation with the surrogate right now to agree an action plan as quickly as possible, such as appointing a guardian for your new-born baby. It would seem, that in a worst-case scenario, IPs should be making arrangements now for Guardians to care for their baby if they cannot enter the country and to ensure that they have adequate accommodation and insurance once they arrive as their stay in the Ukraine may be longer than originally anticipated.

UK Parental Orders

If you are in the middle of your surrogacy journey, we are able to make the UK parental application, on your behalf, regardless of whether you are abroad or here and regardless of whether your baby is overseas or in the UK. We are here to protect your position and acquire legal responsibility on your behalf. However, we should be having a regular dialogue with your clinic and lawyer overseas to likewise protect your position and help with arrangements upon the birth of your child. Be prepared and get organised as quickly as possible and hopefully we can support you address everything calmly and swiftly

If you are only juts now starting your journey and would like to hear from our partners we are going to be hosting a series of webinars over the coming weeks and offering 1-2-1 clinics with a UK fertility lawyer and our partners for you to receive comprehensive advice. These will be advertised on our events page this week  [ACLF Events]

What should you do next?

Book your complimentary 1-2-1 video clinic through enquiries@acitylawfirm.com

We would like to thank our partners for their support and contributions to this article:

They can also be contacted for direct advice

 

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I cannot thank A City Law Firm enough for all their help with the business so far. https://acitylawfirm.com/i-cannot-thank-a-city-law-firm-enough-for-all-their-help-with-the-business-so-far/ Fri, 13 Mar 2020 13:21:30 +0000 https://acitylawfirm.com/?p=11693

I cannot thank A City Law Firm enough for all their help with the business so far.

They are always there to provide professional support and advice with a personal touch, and nothing is ever too much trouble.

There is no “one size fits all” approach, instead, they have acted in complete interest of the business providing a bespoke approach and documentation to match.  Particular thanks to Jackie who has assisted me every step of the way; not only providing advice for the matter at hand, but also guidance on how to safeguard the business for the future.

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