Can I continue to operate from my commercial premises during the crisis?
The Government guidance does not require any business to close except some non-essential shops and public venues, so in theory, all businesses can continue to occupy and operate from their existing premises. However, government guidance strongly encourages businesses to arrange for everybody able to work from home to do so. The majority of office sector business will fall into this category.
In the industrial sector, the majority of businesses will not be able to operate via home working and will, therefore, need to retain employees on site though in some cases this may be able to be scaled back.
Any tenants continuing to operate from their premises should consider whether or not they need to make any alterations to the premises to facilitate social distancing of employees and whether or not such works would require a consent from the Landlord under the terms of the lease.
No, where employees cannot work from home, and it is safe for them to return to work, they should do so.
You will need to check the terms of the contract you have with the debtor to make sure you are still entitled to be paid (including checking any force majeure clause).
It is also important to remember that the current exceptional circumstances might also affect your contractual rights in other ways too – please see our commercial & contracts site for more information.
Depending on the type of debt you are owed, there might be some additional restrictions in place that you will need to consider. For example there are certain restrictions on landlords being able to forfeit leases, evict tenants or send High Court Enforcement Officers to collect outstanding rent.
Assuming there are no sector-specific restrictions in place then you should be able to start county or high court proceedings to recover the debt.
As an alternative to starting court proceedings, if the debt is undisputed a creditor can usually opt to issue winding up proceedings against a debtor instead. However, the recently introduced Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act introduces a temporary suspension on the ability of creditors to present winding up petitions to recover money unless the reason why the debtor cannot pay is not related to covid-19. For more information click here.
Often taking firm action is the right thing to do, particularly given that it is a sad reality that it is the creditor who shouts the loudest that will often get paid first. However, one important consideration is the commercial reality that many businesses (and indeed individuals) now find themselves in.
Whether taking legal action is likely to result in payment is always a question any creditor should ask themselves. Some creditors might also want to try to support their customers during these difficult times and/or have concerns about their long term reputation if they pursue the debt too aggressively. However, even if that is the case it is still possible to engage constructively and positively with those who owe you money to try to reach the best possible outcome. This could include:
- Having clear and consistent credit control processes in place
- Obtaining statements of means to help understand what a debtor can afford to pay
- Agreeing realistic payment plans
- Negotiating formal payment holidays
- Putting in place voluntary security to secure the debt
- Identifying those debtors who can’t pay as opposed to won’t pay and targeting resources accordingly
- Looking at what other options might be available, including recovering under parent company guarantees
All policies will impose a stringent obligation, often with time limits, for you to notify insurers of circumstances that may give rise to a potential claim under the policy and non-compliance may well negate your cover. If therefore you have potential cover under your policy you must make a precautionary notification to Insurers as soon as possible.
If such testing is regarded as a “reasonably practicable step” which has been identified as an appropriate control following a risk assessment then it is something you can do.
Although you can’t physically force someone to have something intrusive done, this is very likely to be a reasonable management instruction and therefore if someone refuses to have this done as a condition of entry into the work place then disciplinary action may follow.
Where this is something that is required of employees, employers should be letting their staff know that this is one of a number of measures that are being introduced into the workplace for their own safety. If the employer can explain, in advance of the return, why temperature checks need to be taken, what the consequences of the results will be- i.e. will they be sent home if over a certain temperature, whether this data will be stored (and if the sole purpose is to determine whether or not they are fit to attend work on a particular day then why are they being stored), and the fact that temperature checks are a requirement of entry to company premises for everyone, then there shouldn’t be significant resistance to this measure.
Large scale temperature checks have in some businesses become part of the “new normal” working environment.
- Be alert to the fact that guidance on treating Covid-19 may change with emerging knowledge/scientific data and this may require subsequent modifications to treatment.
- Critical care staff should support healthcare professionals who do not routinely work in critical care but need to do so.