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What funding is the Government providing specifically for charities?

The Government has announced a £750 million funding package for charities to ensure they can continue their vital work during the coronavirus outbreak.  This is for a 3 month period and further specific funding may be made available.

Charities which are businesses can also access the Government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) – Please see our Funding and Finance FAQ’s.

Related FAQs

What routes of challenge are available to an insurer's rejection of my business interruption claim?

Many policies will only provide business interruption cover if it arises from property damage. The FCA has acknowledged that insurers are entitled to reject claims in relation to such policies, notwithstanding the success of the FCA’s test case in the Supreme Court, and which was generally favourable to policyholders [Insert a link here to our update on the test case]. In other cases the policy wording will be less clear and businesses may legitimately feel that their insurer is wrongly withholding payment.

One route of challenge to an insurer’s decision is via one of the well-publicised class actions. Another route of challenge is by a complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). This service is open to consumers and small and medium-sized businesses, ‘micro-enterprises’, charities and trusts. The service will be an attractive option for many businesses, as it is free and relatively quick (although it remains to be seen how the service keeps up with an increase in demand as a result of the pandemic). You will need to have complained to your insurer before bringing a complaint with the FOS.

Further details can be found here.

What tips can you share for giving evidence during remote hearings?

During these unusual times, we are all having to adapt to what has become the ‘new normal’ and implement changes in how we carry out civil cases. If you are to give evidence in a remote hearing, whether this is by Microsoft Teams, Skype for Business or the Cloud Video Platform, we have pulled together a quick and useful guide below on what would be expected by the courts:

Before the hearing

  • Make sure that you have access to the video-conferencing software that will be needed for the hearing. We will tell our clients and their witnesses in advance which platform will be used. The courts have increasingly been using Skype for Business to conduct the hearings (but you may find other platforms being used)
  • Test that your camera and microphone are working and it is clear to see/hear you.
  • Dress appropriately, as if it was an in-person hearing, and use the same formalities.
  • Ensure that the background which is visible on your screen is appropriate and allows for your face to be clearly seen. A ‘blur background’ option may also be available on your settings which you may prefer.
  • Make sure that your mobile phone is on silent and you are in a location where there will be no/minimal distractions. You should be on your own in a room when giving evidence, however, as we have all experienced with working from home, sometimes interruptions such as children appearing cannot be avoided.
  • Join the call ahead of the allocated time, in order to allow for any small technical difficulties.

During the hearing

  • Have a copy of the hearing bundle to hand, so that you can follow the proceedings (this may be in hard copy or soft copy). You are not allowed any other notes or papers, whether hard copy or electronic, in front of you when giving evidence.
  • Unless addressing the Judge or you have been directly asked a question, keep your microphone muted.
  • When giving evidence, you must make sure both your camera and your microphone are switched on.
  • Remote hearings can be difficult and if you do not understand or you do not hear a question properly, then do ask for the question to be repeated/re-framed.
  • You should not move away from the screen without permission from the Judge. The Judge will allow time for breaks.
  • Address the judiciary and other advocates the same way as you would if you were in a physical courtroom.
  • It is permitted to drink water throughout the hearing, but mugs of tea and/or coffee are probably best avoided. It is also not permitted to eat food during the hearing.
  • Don’t panic if someone walks into the room or the dog starts barking because there is a knock at the door. Judges are only too aware about what might happen. Communication is key and if the interruption has interfered with your train of thought or the evidence you are giving then do say so.
  • Be aware that all evidence is recorded and that a transcript of all evidence can be obtained at a later date.
Can an employee who has the resources to work from home, but struggles to do so, attend their place of work during the national lockdown?

Whilst many employees may now have the resources and equipment to work from home, an employee may struggle to effectively work from home for a number of reasons. For example, an employee may not have a suitable working environment where they can work without being disturbed or alternatively, working from home for prolonged periods of time may be having a detrimental impact on the employee’s mental well-being.

In circumstances such as these, employers must carry out a careful assessment. Unfortunately, there is not any specific guidance as to when an individual cannot ‘reasonably’ work from home – it is likely that each case will be fact specific.

In relation to employees who are struggling with their mental well-being, employers owe their employees a duty of care. It is crucial that procedures are in place which will enable an employer to recognise the signs of stress as early as possible. In the circumstances, it may be appropriate to allow an employee to attend their place of work if this would help alleviate work-related stress or to prevent mental health issues.

Can contractors with public sector engagements and who are in scope (deemed employment) for IR35 purposes be furloughed?

Contractors working for public sector organisations who are deemed employees for IR35 purposes may be eligible to be furloughed provided they are paid via PAYE. In this scenario the agreement to furlough would be made between the contractor’s personal service company (PSC) and the fee payer (usually the agency). The parties would agree that the contractor will carry out no work for the public sector organisation while furloughed and the fee payer would apply for the grant.

At the moment the guidance states that in order to be eligible a claim for furlough must have to have been submitted by 31 July 2020 for a period of 3 weeks between 1 March and 30 June 2020.

Can I still take legal action to recover money that is owed to the business?

You will need to check the terms of the contract you have with the debtor to make sure you are still entitled to be paid (including checking any force majeure clause).

It is also important to remember that the current exceptional circumstances might also affect your contractual rights in other ways too – please see our commercial & contracts site for more information.

Depending on the type of debt you are owed, there might be some additional restrictions in place that you will need to consider. For example there are certain restrictions on landlords being able to forfeit leases, evict tenants or send High Court Enforcement Officers to collect outstanding rent.

Assuming there are no sector-specific restrictions in place then you should be able to start county or high court proceedings to recover the debt.

As an alternative to starting court proceedings, if the debt is undisputed a creditor can usually opt to issue winding up proceedings against a debtor instead. However, the recently introduced Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act introduces a temporary suspension on the ability of creditors to present winding up petitions to recover money unless the reason why the debtor cannot pay is not related to covid-19. For more information click here.

Often taking firm action is the right thing to do, particularly given that it is a sad reality that it is the creditor who shouts the loudest that will often get paid first. However, one important consideration is the commercial reality that many businesses (and indeed individuals) now find themselves in.

Whether taking legal action is likely to result in payment is always a question any creditor should ask themselves. Some creditors might also want to try to support their customers during these difficult times and/or have concerns about their long term reputation if they pursue the debt too aggressively. However, even if that is the case it is still possible to engage constructively and positively with those who owe you money to try to reach the best possible outcome. This could include:

  • Having clear and consistent credit control processes in place
  • Obtaining statements of means to help understand what a debtor can afford to pay
  • Agreeing realistic payment plans
  • Negotiating formal payment holidays
  • Putting in place voluntary security to secure the debt
  • Identifying those debtors who can’t pay as opposed to won’t pay and targeting resources accordingly
  • Looking at what other options might be available, including recovering under parent company guarantees