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What are the early warning signs that a contractor may be in financial difficulty?

As the project progresses, it is important to continually monitor the contractor’s performance.  Any one or more of the items below can be early warning signs that the contractor is in financial difficulty, and that further actions may be necessary:

  • Decrease in labour or contractor’s personnel on site, and/or rapid turnover of contractor’s personnel
  • Slowdown in progress on site
  • Plant, equipment or materials suddenly disappearing from site for no apparent reason – unpaid subcontractors may unilaterally decide to remove items from site regardless of their contractual rights to do so
  • An increasing number of defects and reduction in the quality of the contractor’s work
  • The contractor seeking changes in the payment arrangements, and in particular early payments
  • The contractor making spurious claims or contra charges
  • The contractor seeking assignment of its benefit of the building contract
  • Late filing of accounts by the contractor at Companies House
  • Unsatisfied court judgements against the contractor
  • Subcontractors and suppliers not being paid or being paid late
  • Rumours in the press, in the industry, on site or elsewhere regarding the solvency of the contractor
  • Unusual visits to site, for example from the contractor’s senior management or other personnel who had not previously been present or are not expected to be present
  • Increasingly aggressive behaviour by the contractor
  • The contractor’s parent company or another company within the contractor’s group displaying any of the above signs

Related FAQs

I am dealing with an estate where the bank has sent me an indemnity to obtain the funds. Will the bank accept my signature without it being witnessed by my solicitor?

If you have obtained a Grant of Probate or Grant of Letters of Administration there should be no need to complete an indemnity, merely an account closure form. If however you have not yet obtained a Grant but the bank is willing to release funds then they will generally require an indemnity to be executed. Several banks and building societies including Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC and Santander have signed up to the British Banking Association’s voluntary Bereavement Principles, one of which is to support the bereaved according to their personal needs and work with you to resolve everything as quickly as possible.

If the indemnity requires a solicitor to act as a witness, you should contact the bank to see what they are willing to do to get around the problem, given the current situation.

Can employees on Flexible Furlough work as union or non-union representatives or as pension trustees?

Employees who are union or non-union representatives may undertake duties and activities for the purpose of individual or collective representation of employees or other workers. However in doing this, they must not provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of your organisation or a linked or associated organisation.

Employees who are pension scheme trustees or trustee directors of a corporate trustee may also undertake trustee duties in relation to the pension scheme. However, a professional, independent pension scheme trustee who has been furloughed by the independent trustee company cannot undertake trustee work that would provide services to or generate revenue for, or on behalf of, the independent trustee company or any organisation linked or associated with that independent trustee company during hours when they are recorded as being on furlough.

Can I demand that my employees have the vaccine?

In most circumstances the answer will be no. It would be an infringement of their human rights. It could also be a criminal assault.

However where there is a high risk to employees of exposure to COVID-19, such as care homes and healthcare environments, you might be able to make it a requirement of their role to have the vaccine.

First, consider whether you need to have a blanket requirement covering all employees or whether only certain groups who work in the most high risk areas require the vaccine.

You will need to do a thorough risk assessment balancing the amount that the risk of exposure would be reduced against the interference with the employee’s human rights. Consideration will need to be given as to whether insisting on the vaccine is proportionate to the risk and whether other less invasive steps could be taken instead, such as maintaining social distancing, wearing a mask, washing hands.

Any requirement for employees to be vaccinated should be communicated clearly to employees and trade unions together with a clear explanation for why it is necessary.

Is there anything I need to put in place for their return? What are my responsibilities?

The basics of health and safety law requires that employers take “all reasonably practicable steps” to ensure workers’ safety and that a suitable and sufficient assessment of risk is undertaken. It is the individual assessment of Covid-19 risk in each workplace that will be central. Employers will be required to conduct a robust risk assessment and then, following the hierarchy of controls, put robust processes and safeguards in place to address those risks.

UK government guidance and HSE advice is continually evolving, which in practice means that any risk assessment will need to be reviewed very regularly as that guidance develops. There is flexibility for individual businesses within the overall government framework and there will need to be a process of evaluation to ensure that the measures in place continue to meet the requirements.

The starting point of avoid, eliminate and control means looking at individuals continuing to work from home where possible (the fewer the number of people back in the workplace the lower the risk), and if not look at risk management, which leads to administrative controls – i.e. changing work practices before ending up at PPE. PPE is generally seen as control of last resort but in practice – facemasks, disposable gloves and constant prompts to wash hands for example.

In terms of changing working practices, employers should be thinking about:

  • the workspace and how this is laid layout
  • how do we make sure it is kept clean and hygienic
  • how do we keep people apart
  • how can we use toilets, canteens or other shared spaces/facilities safely
  • how do we promote and enable higher levels of workplace hygiene
  • if we are going to rely on PPE – can we get it, and is it suitable
  • what about limiting customer interactions
  • will there be enough first aiders on site
  • can we manage fire safety, deliveries etc
  • what about higher risk workers
  • should work tools and equipment be allocated on an individual basis to employees.

These decisions need to be recorded and clearly communicated to staff members.

What are the standard holiday rules?

Under usual rules, workers are entitled to a minimum of 28 days holiday including bank holidays, each year. Except in limited circumstances, it cannot be carried between leave years meaning that workers lose their holiday if they do not take it.

The government passed emergency legislation relaxing the carry-over of the 20 days leave entitlement provided under EU law. Where it is not reasonably practicable for an employee to take leave in the relevant leave year as a result of the effects of the coronavirus then they could be entitled to carry over the untaken leave into the next year.