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Court proceedings haven’t yet been issued – what should I do?

Parties still need to comply with the various Protocols that apply and will be expected to exchange information in the usual way. Court proceedings can be issued electronically.

Related FAQs

Do I need to treat everyone the same and bring them all back at the same time?

No. You should always treat employees consistently and fairly, but this doesn’t mean treating them all the same, or applying the same requirements. For those employees who have been homeworking and doing so without any problems, then they should be allowed to continue to do so.

We would anticipate that the vast majority, if not all, businesses will be approaching the return on a phased basis, which inevitably means some employees returning to work sooner than others. In reality then, you aren’t treating everyone the same, but try to be fair and consistent; you need to do what works best from a business perspective, but can you rotate people, require them to come in at different times etc. Where people perceive that the planned return is being worked out fairly they are far more likely to buy into this, which will help avoid resentments building up between colleagues.

Who do you have to inform and consult?

The duty is to inform and consult appropriate representatives of the “affected employees”.

Note that the term “affected employees” means those who may be “affected by the proposed dismissals or who may be affected by measures taken in connection with those dismissals”. The term extends beyond those immediately at risk of dismissal to include those affected by measures associated with the redundancies.

“Appropriate representatives” can be:

  • The Trade Union (if recognised)
  • (For any roles not covered by collective recognition) any existing standing body of elected or appointed employee representatives (if already in place)
  • Employee representatives, who are elected specifically for redundancy consultation
What if the contractor is supplied by an agency?

As mentioned earlier, if an agency is involved you must send them a copy of the status determination statement for each contractor, and they will also have the right to dispute the outcome.

If the agency pays the contractor, they will be responsible for the operation of PAYE and NIC’s deductions and any apprenticeship levy. The agency may try to recover these costs from the end user client.

If workers are supplied by an agency or umbrella company and are already treated as employees by the agency, they will remain unaffected by IR35.

How may proceedings change after Covid-19?

During the COVID-19 global pandemic, trials and hearings have been mostly conducted over Skype for Business and various other online platforms. Looking forward to the future, what we have experienced during the lock-down may continue and we believe will make litigation a more streamlined, user friendly experience for litigants.

One example of a regime which has been introduced is hybrid trials for lower value claims. Hybrid trials allow for parties and their witnesses to be linked into the court room by video link, whilst the judge and advocates are present in court. This makes it easier and frees up more time for witnesses, which would otherwise be spent in travel and waiting time, especially for those with other commitments.

With hybrid trials, clients still get a full legal experience and the judge will still apply normal legal principles during the trial. The procedure for the case is the same, both leading up to the trial or hearing and during the case itself; except without the need to physically attend court. It may also mean that there will be less of a backlog arising from the current crisis with cases continuing to be heard, allowing for matters to be listed earlier and a quicker outcome for the parties involved.

The shift to the use of online platforms may prove more practical for all those involved in legal matters. Interim hearings can be heard remotely resulting in a time and cost saving for litigants. Even for the final hearing only the legal representatives need to attend court – again resulting in time and cost savings for all concerned.

Given the recent decline in financial performance, the business is now in breach of its covenants with the bank. Should we be concerned?

That will depend on the terms of your facility and the stance taken by your bank.

Banking facilities often place obligations on businesses to stick to certain financial criteria. For example, an obligation to keep turnover or profit above certain levels or a commitment to keep the bank’s exposure within an agreed percentage of the value of the company’s assets (known as loan to value ratio).

The consequences of breaching those covenants will depend on the terms of your facility, but normally this amounts to an event of default. Events of default can result in the loan (or whatever form the facility takes) becoming repayable and could give the bank certain powers to take action to recover the money that they are owed.

Whether the bank will take action during these unprecedented times is another matter, particularly given the extent of support being offered to businesses via mainstream lenders and the political desire to keep viable businesses up and running. Lenders themselves will no doubt wish to remain supportive where possible. The underlying performance of the business (and whether but for the effects of Covid-19 it would have been in a healthy financial position), the relationship you have with the bank and your history with them will no doubt be relevant to the approach taken by the bank. However, early engagement with your bank (as well as other key stakeholders in the business) will be important.