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How do I remain compliant and cover any risk?

Data on properties, and people, has never been more important.

Given that compliance is at risk here, such a decision must be made by the Board to ensure good governance. Board approval should be sought and recorded for the approach the organisation is taking.

It is essential that you continue to record your data on compliance and report to your board at all times, and that there is a clear audit trail for issues with access, and if appropriate to the Regulator. Access issues as a result of self-isolation should be readily identifiable.

Operatives need to be provided with the tools to operate in as safe a way as possible:

  • Checklist of questions to ascertain occupant’s current health
  • Protective equipment (masks, gloves, over clothing)

The Gas Safe website is a useful resource for updates: https://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/help-and-advice/covid-19-advice-and-guidance/

Related FAQs

VIDEO: Can trade credit insurance help to keep the supply chain moving?

On Tuesday 23rd June, partner Emma Digby was in conversation with Steve Hamstead and Mark Smith from AON along with Ward Hadaway commercial lawyer Nathan Bilton in a webinar titled Can trade credit insurance help to keep the supply chain moving?

The insurance market is under untold pressure as a result of the pandemic, and in such times there is a risk that insurers will cancel or reduce credit lines, particularly in certain high risk sectors such as retail. However the Government has stepped in to effectively underwrite the existing trade credit insurance agreements, and to keep trade supplies moving. Will this be enough?

In this webinar, we discussed:

  • the Government backed scheme and how it will operate
  • the prospects of obtaining insurance going forward, and whether it will become too cost prohibitive
  • could the new legislation put your business at risk and jeopardise your insurance cover if you cannot cancel a contract when you are not getting paid for your goods or services
  • the Brexit effect, and how this will affect the insurance market
  • protecting your business with proper risk assessment processes and paperwork
What is the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS)?

On 4 May 2020, the Government launched the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), which is intended to cut red tape to enable smaller businesses to access finance quickly during the coronavirus outbreak.

The scheme helps small and medium-sized businesses to borrow between £2,000 and up to 25% of their turnover. The maximum loan available is £50,000.

The government guarantees 100% of the loan and there are no any fees or interest to pay for the first 12 months. After 12 months the interest rate will be 2.5% a year.

The length of the loan is 6 years, but it can be repaid early without penalty. No repayments will be due during the first 12 months.

Under the scheme, lenders are not permitted to take any form of personal guarantee or take recovery action over a borrower’s personal assets (such as their main home or personal vehicle).

Businesses can apply for a BBLS loan if it:

  • is based in the UK
  • was established before 1 March 2020, and
  • has been adversely impacted by the coronavirus.

Any business regarded as being a business in difficulty on 31 December 2019 will need to confirm that it is complying with additional state aid restrictions.

Businesses from any sector can apply, except the following:

  • banks, insurers and reinsurers (but not insurance brokers)
  • public-sector bodies, and
  • state-funded primary and secondary schools.

Businesses already claiming under the following schemes cannot apply although it is possible to convert an existing loan under such schemes into BBLS:

  • Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)
  • Coronavirus Large Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CLBILS)
  • COVID-19 Corporate Financing Facility.

There are 11 lenders participating in the scheme including many of the main retail banks, which are listed on the British Business Bank’s website (www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-schemes/bounce-back-loans/for-businesses-and-advisors/). Applicants are directed to approach a suitable lender via the lender’s website. If an applicant is declined by a lender, they can apply to other lenders in the scheme.

The lender will ask applicants to fill in a short online application form and self-declare that they are eligible. All lending decisions remain fully delegated to the accredited lenders.

Can you place employees who TUPE transfer to you on Flexible Furlough?

A new employer may claim under the scheme in respect of the employees of a previous business transferred after 10 June 2020 as long as:

  • the TUPE or PAYE business succession rules apply to the change in ownership
  • the employees being claimed have previously had a claim submitted for them by their prior employer in relation to a furlough period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June

In these circumstances, the maximum number of employees that the new employer can claim for will be the total of both:

  • the maximum number of employees the new employer claimed for in any one claim ending on or before 30 June
  • the number of employees that are being transferred to the new employer which have had a claim submitted for them in relation to a furlough period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June. This is subject the maximum cap the previous employer was subject to.

A new employer is also eligible to claim under scheme in respect of the employees associated with a transfer of a business after 10 June 2020 from the liquidator of a company in compulsory liquidation where:

  • TUPE would have applied were it not for the company being in compulsory liquidation
  • the employees being claimed for have been furloughed and a had a claim submitted for them by their prior employer in relation to a period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June

In these circumstances, the maximum number of employees that the new employer can claim for will be the total of both:

  • the maximum number of employees the new employer claimed for in any one claim ending on or before 30 June and
  • the number of employees that are being transferred to the new employer which have had a claim submitted for them by their prior employer in relation to a furlough period of at least 3 consecutive weeks taking place any time between 1 March 2020 and 30 June. This is subject to the maximum cap the previous employer was subject to.
What should businesses do now?

Many will have worked collaboratively with their suppliers and customers to deal with the immediate public health crisis. This will have meant offering flexibility as to contractual arrangements, whether in delivery dates, volumes of goods or services supplied, or even in the specification of what has been delivered.

If this is the case, it is important that businesses now do their legal housekeeping and make sure they have a proper record of what has been agreed. Unfortunately, our experience shows that many legal disputes arise out of amendments to contracts, typically where the parties to the contract each have a different view about what exactly they agreed to change.

We would therefore advise businesses to review any amendments that they might have agreed either verbally, by email, or otherwise, and consider whether they need to be captured in a more formal way which will make clear exactly what has been agreed to be varied, and (where appropriate) how long that variation will remain in force.

It’s also important to remember that some contracts contain provisions that set out specific requirements about how amendments are to be made. For example, they might require that amendments are made in writing (rather than verbally). These “No Oral Modification” clauses are commonly found in commercial contracts, and the courts have recently shown that they are willing to enforce them.

Failing to deal with amendments in accordance with contractual requirements could therefore have a serious impact on businesses as they recover from the disruption caused by the lockdown. If they end up in dispute with a customer or supplier, a business could find that the contract has not actually been amended in the way that they think – potentially leading to legal costs and liabilities at the worst possible time.

Do you have to reach agreement during collective consultation?

Although an employer is obliged to conduct consultation “with a view to reaching an agreement”, it is not required to actually agree to any counter proposals made by the employee representatives. Merely to consider them in good faith.