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OPPORTUNITY: Funding towards legal advice for North East SMEs

We have teamed up with Scaleup North East to help companies impacted by the coronavirus outbreak plan how to get back to business.

Our specialist lawyers will provide a free “diagnostic” call with eligible businesses across the NE, exploring challenges they are facing in the aftermath of the lockdown, and identify specific steps to survive, and then thrive, in these challenging times and beyond.

Through the collaboration with Scaleup North East, eligible North East-based SMEs are then able to apply for up to 40% funding towards up to £4,000 of legal advice.

These might include:

  • Employment issues, such as dealing with a phased return to work
  • Measures to support cash-flow, such as amendment to terms of trading and debt collection procedures
  • Renegotiations and amendments to contracts, and other advice about contracts with suppliers and customers to deal with consequences of Covid-19
  • Managing property costs – review of leases, advice on break clauses and formalisation of any revised arrangements recently put in place with landlords/tenants
  • Health and safety implications of return to work and social distancing

Find out more on our website or contact partner Damien Charlton.  If you are not eligible because of location but are interested in the free “diagnostic”, please contact us.

Related FAQs

Will holiday entitlement continue to accrue for a period of furlough?

The guidance has confirmed that all remaining employment rights and terms continue while an employee is furloughed. Holiday will continue to accrue during furlough however you may reach agreement with employees on reducing entitlement provided that it does not fall below the statutory minimum of 5.6 weeks per year.

Can an employee still do training when on Flexible Furlough?

Employees on Flexible Furlough can engage in training during hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, as long as in undertaking the training the employee does not provide services to, or generate revenue for, or on behalf of their organisation or a linked or associated organisation.

Where training is undertaken by furloughed employees during hours which you record your employee as being on furlough, at the request of their employer, they are entitled to be paid at least their appropriate national minimum wage for this time.

How does this protect businesses entering into an insolvency process?

The Act is intended to facilitate the rescue of businesses that are in financial difficulty by preventing suppliers from invoking certain termination clauses under a supply contract, and therefore maintaining supply of goods and services to the business whilst plans to save the business can be considered.

Supply contracts often contain a clause enabling them to terminate the contract, or take other steps such as requiring payment in advance,  in the event that the customer enters an insolvency procedure.

This new Act removes any such contractual right by dis-applying any clause that allows the supplier to terminate the contract, or take any other step, due to the customer entering an insolvency process.

Suppliers are also prevented from demanding payment for pre-insolvency debts owed by the customer as a condition of continued supply.

Additionally, where the supplier had a contractual right to terminate the contract due to an event occurring before the customer went into the insolvency process (whether or not linked to payment issues), the supplier loses this right for the duration of the insolvency process.

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.

How do I bring an employee with a visa off furlough?

Employees with visas should be treated consistently with the wider workforce. When their furlough leave ends, they should return to work and their pay should be reinstated. If you agree a pay cut or reduction in working hours, you need to ensure that sponsored workers are still earning above the minimum salary for their role and working in excess of the minimum number of hours (see above).

The flexible furlough scheme is now in place and can be used for employees who have previously been furloughed for a consecutive period of at least three weeks. The flexible furlough scheme remains in place until 31 October 2020.