Skip to content

Can I argue that my contract has been frustrated?

It could be possible depending on your contract. If there is no force majeure clause in a contract, it may be possible that the contract may have been “frustrated” by emergency legislation. In legal terms, a contract can be frustrated where an event occurs after it is entered into which was not contemplated by any party at the outset, is not due to the fault of any party, and which makes the performance of the contract impossible.

If this is the case, the contract could be “discharged”, meaning that the parties’ obligations under the contract are no longer binding.

It is possible that a contract could be frustrated within this particular legal doctrine by a change in the law that makes performance of a contract illegal. However, if it simply becomes more difficult, or more expensive, then the legal tests for frustration might not be satisfied. There are also limits to the application of the rule if the frustrating event was already known about at the time the contracted was entered into.

Again, careful legal advice will be required at an early stage. The rules about force majeure or frustration might help businesses that find themselves unable to perform a contract because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Any new contracts that are concluded should expressly deal with the possibility that performance might become more difficult, more costly, or impossible to perform.

Related FAQs

Can an employee in a public facing role refuse to interact with a customer who is not wearing a face mask?

In some circumstances, visitors and customers are required to wear face coverings, such as those travelling on public transport, shoppers and museum visitors. The government guidance states that:

  • businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where mandated; and
  • premises where face coverings are required should take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law.

As part of their duty of care to employees and to uphold a relationship of mutual trust and confidence, employers should consider how employees can ensure that visitors and customers comply with the rules and provide their staff with guidance. They must also seek ways to protect their employees both from the risks of those customers not wearing face masks and potential abuse from customers or visitors who decline to wear a face covering. This may include having signs in place requiring customers and visitors to wear a mask and allowing staff to refuse to serve customers if they do not follow the rules.

However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the police, security and public transport officials to remove customers from premises where they are not complying with the rules on face coverings.

The police and Transport for London have been given greater powers by the government to take measures if the public do not comply with the law relating to face coverings without a valid exemption, such as refusing to wear a face covering. This includes issuing fines which have now been increased to £200 for the first offence (and £100 if paid within 14 days). Transport operators can also deny access to their public transport services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering, or direct them to wear one or leave a service.

Freedom to Speak up – a reminder

Has there ever been a more important time for all staff to feel that they are able to raise concerns about their working environment?

It is a pertinent time to remind all staff that they should be able to raise concerns without the fear of repercussions. It is a good time to be reviewing and re-issuing your Freedom to Speak up/Whistleblowing policy to all. Likewise it is a good time to remind all staff that they should not treat others unfairly or detrimentally for raising health and safety concerns.

Both subjecting someone to a detriment because they have blown the whistle or raised health and safety concerns (and dismissing someone for the same) is unlawful.

How do EWS1 form requirements apply to leasehold flats sold to secure tenants exercising their Right to Buy under the Housing Act 1985 whether in low, medium or high rise blocks?

Where a lender requires a EWS1 as part of the mortgage requirements for a flat this will apply regardless of its tenure and will therefore apply to applicable RTB properties. It may also be required in order to obtain a valuation for the disposal notices and issues in obtaining it could cause problems in serving this within relevant deadlines required by legislation.

The National Lockdown Guidance states that anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable should not attend work. What options do I have if an employee is in the clinical extremely vulnerable category but cannot do their job at home?

The now defunct Guidance for the Tier system suggested that the clinically extremely vulnerable would be treated in the same way as those who were shielding in Lockdown 1. This means that anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable and cannot work remotely, will be entitled to SSP. These employees should receive a letter confirming that they are deemed to be clinically extremely vulnerable/shielding and you should ask for a copy of it as evidence to support a claim for SSP. It is likely that the Lockdown 3 Guidance will be the same.

You could also furlough an employee in the clinically extremely vulnerable category. Again we do not anticipate this changing.

How do I avoid disputes and approach extensions of time and claims for additional payment with my Employer or Supplier?

The Construction Leadership Council (with backing from the Government) has issued practical guidance and draft pro-forma documents to enable all parties involved in the construction supply chain to enter into collaborative and open dialogue about applications for extensions of time and additional payment and to minimise potential disputes. The guidance can we downloaded here

The draft letters and notices included in the guidance have been prepared on the basis of the standard JCT Design and Build 2016 and NEC 3/4 Engineering and Construction Contract (Option A) and parties will need to make sure that they are completed/adjusted to comply with their own specific contracts.

The Cabinet Office has also issued a general statement calling on parties to contracts adversely affected by C-19 to act responsibly and fairly and to support national efforts to protect jobs and the economy.