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How should contracting authorities work with PFI providers?

  • Working with PFI providers to get contingency plans up to date
  • If a PFI provider is struggling to achieve service delivery requirements due to Covid-19, then local arrangements should be put in place to:
    • maintain unitary charge payments
    • revise contract requirements/standards

moderating payment and performance regimes where appropriate.

  • In any event, you may wish to review and adjust your requirements to reflect the current situation. It is possible that some requirements can be relaxed, whereas others need to be tightened. For example, there may be an increased need for cleaning and maintenance in certain areas of your PFI premises or the layout of the premises and/or room uses may have temporarily changed. With staff illness and shortage likely to be an issue, you may also wish to consider if the resource can be moved from one area to another to help maintain essential services.
  • When putting local bespoke arrangements into place it is vital that:
    •  Contract requirements or performance standards are not relaxed to the point where health and safety are put at risk.
    • It is made clear that the arrangements are temporary and that matters will return to normal as soon as the Covid-19 emergency is over. Indeed the guidance note makes clear that if assets temporarily close they should be kept in such condition that they can be immediately up and running when this emergency is over. In such instances, likely a basic level of maintenance and security will therefore be required as a minimum.

Related FAQs

Are the Courts still open and operating?

Yes, but the Courts have been temporarily restructured into three categories:

  1. Open courts (open for business including vital in person hearings)
  2. Staffed courts (for video and telephone hearings)
  3. Suspended courts (no hearings of any kind)

These changes have been effective from Monday 30 March 2020.

Can directors, partners or those working under umbrella companies be furloughed?

Yes. The updated government guidance has confirmed that office holders (including company directors), salaried members of Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) individuals working under umbrella companies (including agency workers) and individuals who are classified as ‘workers’ rather than employees can be furloughed but only to the extent that they are paid via PAYE. Therefore director’s fees can be claimed (subject to the cap) but dividends are excluded, as are bonuses and commission payments.

Those who are paid annual are now eligible to make a claim, subject to meeting the remaining requirements. This includes being notified to HMRC on an RTI submission on or before 19 March 2020 which relates to a payment of earnings in the 19/20 tax year.

The decision to furlough a director or office holder should be adopted as a formal decision of the company or LLP which should be minuted and notified in writing.

Company directors can only undertake work to fulfil a duty or other obligation arising from an Act of Parliament relating to the filing of company accounts or provision of other information relating to the administration of the director’s company while furloughed and they cannot carry out work that would generate revenue or perform services to or on behalf of their company. This also applies to salaried individuals who are directors of their own personal service company (PSC).

Can contractors with public sector engagements and who are in scope (deemed employment) for IR35 purposes be furloughed?

Contractors working for public sector organisations who are deemed employees for IR35 purposes may be eligible to be furloughed provided they are paid via PAYE. In this scenario the agreement to furlough would be made between the contractor’s personal service company (PSC) and the fee payer (usually the agency). The parties would agree that the contractor will carry out no work for the public sector organisation while furloughed and the fee payer would apply for the grant.

At the moment the guidance states that in order to be eligible a claim for furlough must have to have been submitted by 31 July 2020 for a period of 3 weeks between 1 March and 30 June 2020.

How is the Court of Protection dealing with matters during the Coronavirus pandemic?

The current situation with the coronavirus pandemic has presented obvious challenges to the effective and fair operation of the Court of Protection (COP). Remote access to the COP has therefore become a necessity to ensure that hearings continue to provide proper access to justice. All parties involved in such cases have a responsibility in achieving this primary aim.

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.