How do I go about registering a death at this time?
The Government has introduced legislation to expand the list of those who can register deaths to include Funeral Directors who are dealing with the funeral arrangements and who has been authorised by a relative of the deceased to register the death. Also, the medical cause of death certificate can be emailed to the Registrar’s office and arrangements made to have a telephone appointment to provide the Registrar with information to register the death. The requirement to attend the Registrar in person to sign the Register has been relaxed so that this is not necessary. It will however still be necessary to register the death within 5 days.
Conduct risk assessments! Your RA must cover every foreseeable risk arising from a return to the workplace, including the impact of reduced staff levels and any operational/administrative changes necessary to ensure social distancing.
Appropriate steps should be taken to manage and mitigate identified risks. Where this is not possible, businesses need to decide whether certain activities are necessary for the business to operate or if they can be temporarily put on hold.
Keep a close eye on the comprehensive Government guidance: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/working-safely-during-coronavirus-covid-19
In particular focus on social distancing and workplace health measures. This guidance will evolve over time and you will need to be sure that your organisation is sticking to it AND reviewing and updating its risk assessment.
In part in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, legislation was passed by the government earlier this year which sought to assist companies to trade through the current economic climate. Included within the measures is a degree of protection from compulsory winding up.
The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (The Act), was laid before parliament on 20 May, and became law on 26 June. It is important creditors are aware of what changes have been implemented and the potential and impact which it may have upon debt recovery action you may be considering or have already commenced.
The main part of the Act affecting creditors is the temporary restriction on presentation of winding up petitions and the factors that the Court has to take into account when deciding whether to wind up a company.
On Thursday 24 September 2020 the government passed a further statutory instrument which extended the operation of these restrictions. As a result, the measures which were due to expire on Wednesday 30 September 2020 have now been extended until 31 December 2020.
A key point to note is that the Act has retrospective effect so any pending petitions presented after 27 April will be affected, along with any winding up orders made after that date.
The Act has introduced the following restrictions:
- A petition cannot be presented by a creditor during the period of 27 April 2020 and 31 December 2020 unless the creditor has reasonable grounds to believe that (a) coronavirus has not had a financial effect on the debtor, or (b) the debtor would have been unable to pay its debts even if coronavirus had not had a financial effect on the debtor;
- A petition cannot be presented after 27 April 2020 if it is based on a unsatisfied statutory demand served between 1 March 2020 until 31 December 2020;
- When deciding whether to make a winding up order the Court will need to be satisfied that the grounds giving rise to the petition would have arisen even if Covid-19 did not have a financial effect on the debtor;
- All winding up orders made between the 27 April and 31 December will automatically be void (that is, of no legal effect) unless the Court would have made the winding up order if the new law was in force at the time the order was made.
During the Covid 19 crisis lawyers and the courts have had to adapt with hearings being heard remotely and with more electronic communication. It is clear that going forward, some of these changes will become more permanent.
The Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC MP, has spoken last week regarding changes to the justice system following the COVID-19 pandemic and we know that there is a significant backlog of work that needs to be processed.
Firstly, 10 sites have been identified for ‘Nightingale courts’ which will allow for better social distancing. The authorities have suggested that it is a possibility that courts will need to stay open for a longer time or at weekends, to increase the number of cases that can be heard safely on any given day. This will enable more cases to be heard in a day and therefore a swifter outcome for your case. The standard of video technology will also continue to improve, with plans for new technology being rolled out across all courts form July onwards. The enhanced use of technology may result in matters being heard more efficiently, decreasing the time spent during each hearing.
HMCTS is working to expand access to audio and video technology to support more and new types of hearings. There has been an increase in the use of new and varying equipment over the lock-down period. With the appropriate systems in place, many more hearings could take place on platforms such as the Cloud Video Platform (CVP). Throughout July, the CVP will be more readily available to Country courts. There will be further hardware rolled out to improve the quality of video hearings, and there will be more efficient methods used to organise video lists.
The increased use and training of CVP means that witnesses and advocates may not need to attend court and could attend the hearing remotely. This will give you increased flexibility, enabling you to attend from your office or home. The CVP is efficient and simple to use, with no complex functions; making it user-friendly. This should make litigation more time and cost effective (albeit that there will be the cultural challenge of having less contact with your legal team or the court experience).
Parties are encouraged to review upcoming matters to assess the viability for there to be any agreement which can be reached in relation to the issues in dispute or to consider whether the case needs to proceed to a remote hearing. If directions or issues can be agreed between the parties, reducing the need for remote hearings, then that is the preferred option.
As the pandemic progresses, more and more people will be forced to self-isolate and, inevitably, both tenants and staff will be affected. Put plans in place to mitigate the impact that this may have, particularly regarding staff shortages. The most important focus here should be communication.
The Covid-19 outbreak will affect the pace of everyday life and delays will be expected. Rather than allowing the pandemic to take over completely, it is important to maintain open communication with tenants as much as possible and inform them of any front-facing challenges that you may face.
The Protocol does envisage that delays may occur and allows for some degree of flexibility. Whilst all efforts should be made to conduct inspections where practical and possible, it should be expected by all parties that timescales will be extended during this crisis. It is fundamental, however, that all changes made to standard practice are communicated and explained to tenants to manage expectations.
Similar flexibility should be afforded to tenants. As households are required to isolate it will not always be possible to gain access to properties as would usually be expected and required. Likewise, vulnerable people will wish to protect themselves and their families and may refuse access on this basis. During this period, a degree of understanding must be exercised and concessions made.
Inspections may be delayed if anyone in the household has symptoms. A questionnaire should be prepared for those visiting properties to assess so far as possible the risk; Personal Protective Equipment should be issued to those visiting, and government guidelines followed.