Should my apprentice continue their training during the coronavirus outbreak, even if they’re furloughed?
The Government maintains that apprenticeships will be an important part in the economic recovery post-lockdown and therefore ESFA is encouraging training under apprenticeships to continue, even where an apprentice is furloughed, provided that the training does not provide services to or generate income for their employer. E-learning is being encouraged as a method of delivery.
The coronavirus outbreak has seen State support being given to businesses on an unprecedented scale.
This issue is likely to be increasingly relevant as Governments seek to protect and stimulate their economies as they emerge from lockdown.
How have the rules been relaxed in the context of the crisis and what facets of the existing law can be used for the State to provide support to undertakings?
No. The greater the gap between the completion of a Prenuptial Agreement and the Wedding the more likely it will be upheld by the Court. If such an Agreement is made shortly before the wedding takes place one of the parties to it could claim that they felt under pressure to sign and the Court may decline to follow it.
A licence to occupy premises is not an interest land and operates as a commercial contract between the parties that enter into it. Licences tend to be put in place to cover short periods and consequently they are generally a lot more flexible than commercial leasing arrangements. To that extent occupants under licences should review the contract to establish whether or not there are any provision allowing them to terminate on notice to the Licensor.
Occupants under licences that are granted for longer periods without the option to terminate may try to argue that the contract has frustrated because they are effectively unable to occupy.
The Cabinet Office has published a useful Procurement Policy Note (“PPN”) on relief available to suppliers due to Covid-19 (available here). In brief, you should not be penalised by a public sector body, if, in the current circumstances, you are unable to comply (fully or partly) with your contractual obligations. Public sector bodies are expected to work with suppliers and, if appropriate, provide relief against current contractual terms. This is in order to maintain business and service continuity and avoid claims being accepted for other forms of contractual relief, such as the occurrence of a force majeure event.
The types of relief that may be available to suppliers to the public sector will depend on the existing contracts in place. Some contracts may have a payments by result mechanism, whereas others may be based on certain key performance indicators (KPIs) being met. Other contracts may not include any such mechanisms and therefore it will be a matter for discussion between suppliers and the public sector body.
The PPN provides that, rather than a supplier seeking to invoke a clause that would permit the supplier to suspend performance of its obligations (such as a force majeure clause), public sector bodies should first work with the supplier to amend or vary the contract. Any changes should be limited to the particular circumstances and considered on a case-by-case basis. Changes could include:
- Amending the contract requirements
- Varying timings of deliveries
- Relaxing KPIs or service levels
- Extending time for performance (e.g. revising a contract delivery plan), and/or
- Preventing the public sector from exercising any rights or remedies against the supplier for non-performance (e.g. liquidated damages or termination rights).
These should only be temporary variations and the contract should return to the original terms once the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak on the contract has ended. Discussions with the public sector body about any changes that are agreed should be documented, in a variation signed by both parties.
A public sector may also need to take account of regulation 72 of the Public Contract Regulations 2015, to ensure that any changes to a contract (even of a temporary nature) do not trigger a requirement to conduct a new tender process. Whilst this may be unlikely to be the case with temporary variations, suppliers should still bear this in mind when discussing any changes to a contract with a public sector body.
If you are a supplier to a public sector body and you are currently struggling to meet your contractual obligations, we recommend that you take legal advice as to whether it might be possible to take advantage of the flexible approach that the PPN requires public sector bodies to adopt – it could be that you can avoid service credits or other financial deductions, or the need to serve formal notices such as “force majeure” or other relief notices.
Details of your MHFAs should be posted somewhere that everyone can access easily – a specific area on an intranet or whatever alternative exists. Regular comms involving the MHFAs, webinar sessions, Q&A sessions and mental wellbeing drop in sessions are all ideas that may work well.