What about employees who say they cannot return to work due to childcare issues?
Employers will need to be flexible with employees who are unable to return to work at present due to childcare difficulties. While schools have reopened, a period of isolation may result in employees having to keep children off school/nursery and therefore have childcare issues. Some employees will be able to manage this with their partner and extended family, whereas others will not. Where an employee simply cannot make any other arrangements to care for their children in the short term then they will be unable to return to work until that situation changes. Any dismissals on the basis that someone is unable to return to work as a result of lack of childcare are likely to be unfair, at least in the short term where such employees may well be able to demonstrate that they had no options available to them.
If suppliers still wish to terminate the contract, they must contact the directors or the officeholder dealing with the insolvency process and obtain their approval to terminate the contract – which, of course, might not be given.
If the continued obligation under the contract to supply goods/services to the customer would place the supplier in financial hardship the supplier can apply to court for permission to terminate the contract. This will involve time and legal expense.
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.
The Flexible Furlough Scheme was introduced from 1 July 2020 and is due to come to an end on 30 September 2021.
If a tenant continues to refuse to take heed of the government’s social-distancing guidelines, for example by inviting large groups of people who do not reside there to their property, it can constitute a nuisance. One housing association successfully applied for an injunction. The injunction ordered by the Court stipulated that no persons, other than the children of the tenant, are to attend the property until the current social-distancing restrictions are lifted by the government.
A representative of the housing association highlighted the need for the current guidelines to be followed and the need for housing providers to ensure that all residents living in their communities are kept safe during this time of ‘unprecedented risk’.
This case demonstrates that flouting of the current restrictions is likely to be considered anti-social in the eyes of the courts – a point which all housing providers should bear in mind during this period. Further, it highlights the availability of an alternative remedy to the issuing of possession proceedings (in light of the government’s moratorium on evictions) to deal with anti-social behaviour during the next three months, Covid-19 related or not.
If you are separated from your child’s other parent, government guidance about self-isolation and social distancing may have an impact on the contact arrangements that are in place and give rise to disagreements about spending time with the other parent, travelling arrangements and whether the child should continue to go to school, where one of the parents is a key worker and a school place is available.
The government has issued guidance which makes it clear that where parents do not live in the same household, children under the age of 18 can be moved between their parents’ homes.
Cafcass has also issued guidance which states that, “unless there are justified medical/self-isolation issues – or some future nationally issued guidance or expectation associated with leaving the house in your area – children should maintain their usual routine of spending time with each of their parents. If there is a Child Arrangements Order in place this should be complied with unless to do so would put your child, or others, at risk”. The guidance from Cafcass be accessed here. https://mcusercontent.com/2750134472ba930f1bc0fddcd/files/987e77d6-0827-470c-9447-acc61404f465/CAFCASS_Covid19_advice_for_familes_20.pdf