What are my potential liabilities if a customer, supplier or other visitor contracts Covid-19 on my premises?
As an occupier of premises, you owe a duty of care to your visitors to take reasonable care to see that the visitor will be reasonably safe in using your premises.
It is therefore essential that you are taking reasonable steps and strictly adhering to up-to-date Government advice in all aspects of your business to avoid any potential liability.
Failure to follow Government advice could leave you vulnerable to claims for compensation for pain and suffering should a visitor on your premises contract Covid-19.
However, each case will be fact-specific and it would be very difficult for a visitor to establish that they contracted Covid-19 specifically from those premises (as opposed to being exposed to the virus anywhere else).
If someone suggests that they are going to make a claim make sure that you report matters to your insurer or insurance broker immediately.
Every company has to file accounts at Companies House every year. If they are filed late, a fine is automatically levied. If there is a long delay in filing them, the directors are at risk of prosecution and the Registrar of Companies might start a process which could ultimately lead to the company being struck from the register.
However, Companies House has recognised that businesses might currently face exceptional problems in preparing and filing their accounts on time and so have posted a notice on their website which says that if immediately before the filing deadline, it becomes apparent that accounts will not be filed on time due to coronavirus, you can make an application to extend the period allowed for filing.
The law says that if after assessing a risk and considering all the control measures available to you, you cannot undertake a task safely – then you should not undertake the task.
If that means taking BAME workers out of higher risk frontline work, that is what will have to be done.
Beware of workers saying “we’ll accept the risk” – it does not protect you against regulatory/enforcement action or civil claims.
This will depend on the particular facts and the employee’s circumstances but an employee should co-operate with the employer so far as is necessary to enable compliance with any statutory duty or requirement relating to health and safety.
In addition, conduct outside of work can result in an employee’s dismissal if the conduct pertains to the employment relationship. If an employee breaches their lockdown rules and it affects their ability to work, such as it being no longer safe for them to attend work, or the reputation of the employer, these may be grounds for disciplinary action and subsequent dismissal.
If you sponsor migrants under Tier 2 or Tier 5, you will not be required to report a sponsored employee’s absence if it is linked to coronavirus and you have authorised this absence e.g. they are self-isolating and you have received an online isolation note.
The Home Office has confirmed that sponsors do not need to withdraw sponsorship for affected employees who have been absent from work for more than 4 weeks if they consider these are exceptional circumstances, which would include absences related to coronavirus. It does however remain extremely important to know where your sponsored workers are and to have up to date contact details.
The parties to litigation should still take the steps they have been ordered to take and comply with any Orders made by the court. If for any reason it looks as if a direction cannot be complied with because of the Covid-19 virus then an extension of time can be agreed with the other party (up to 28 days) or through the court. We are aware that Orders have been made extending the time for certain steps to be taken by 56 days.