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Do I have to continue to pay furloughed staff while furloughed? Can I wait until I receive the money from the government?

To qualify for a grant under the scheme you must pay your furloughed staff the wages you are claiming for. Failure to do so may result in a HMRC investigation and/or claims from furloughed staff for unlawful deductions from wages and possibly constructive dismissal claims.

Normal benefits including non-monetary benefits should continue during furlough unless the individual has agreed in writing to reduce or remove a benefit during this time.

Employers are expected to apply for one or more of the financial support schemes available to be able to continue to pay staff.

Related FAQs

What is the government's "Kickstart Scheme"?

This scheme is specifically aimed at creating jobs for 18-24 year olds who are on Universal Credit and considered most at risk of unemployment because of the economic downturn. The Government has announced that it will pay young people’s wages (equivalent to 100% the National Minimum Wage plus the associated National Insurance contributions and employer minimum automatic enrolment contributions) for up to 6 months, and that this will amount to a grant worth approximately £6,500 per young person.

The jobs that are created must provide a minimum of 25 hours per week and be paid at a minimum of the National Minimum Wage The Chancellor announced that will be no cap on the number of jobs that will be funded under the Kickstart scheme.

I’m the director of a company. What should I think about before accepting any of the funding that has recently become available?

Directors of a company that is in, or potentially facing, financial difficulty have a duty to act in the best interests of creditors as a whole. Failure to comply with that duty can have consequences for directors (including personal liability and disqualification if directors get it wrong).

The duty to act in the best interests of creditors as a whole begins when the company is (or in some cases is potentially or at risk of becoming) insolvent i.e. its assets are worth less than its liabilities and/or the business is unable to pay its liabilities as and when they fall due. However, just because a company is insolvent doesn’t always necessarily mean than an insolvency process is inevitable. Sometimes, the insolvency might just be caused by a temporary cashflow problem or perhaps wider problems in the business that can be overcome by making changes to the business itself.

In addition to that, the potential liability of directors ramps up even further when the company reaches the stage that the directors have concluded (or ought to have concluded) that there was no reasonable prospect of the business avoiding liquidation or administration. If the business reaches that stage, in addition to having to act in the best interests of creditors as a whole, directors can find themselves personally liable unless, from the time the directors ought to have reached that conclusion, they took every step that they ought to have done to minimise the loss to creditors. This is known as wrongful trading.

On the 25th June 2020, the government introduced new legislation – the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 – which includes measures to temporarily relax the rules around wrongful trading with the proposed changes to take effect retrospectively from the 1st March 2020. Essentially, the changes say that any court looking at a potential wrongful trading claim against a director is to assume that the director is not responsible for worsening the company’s financial position between 1st March 2020 and the 30th September 2020. Whilst the wrongful trading rules have relaxed, directors still need to proceed with caution if the business is potentially insolvent as the new Act does alter other potential pitfalls for directors, like the risk of breaching their duties or allowing the company to enter into transactions that can potentially be challenged.

The support being offered by the government is potentially a lifeline for businesses under pressure through no fault of their own, but notwithstanding the recent changes to the wrongful trading rules it is still likely to be important for the board to carefully consider whether it is appropriate to make use of the loans, grants and tax forbearance that are on offer.

Exactly what the board should consider will vary from business to business and getting it right can sometimes involve balancing several different (and at times conflicting) priorities, challenges and concerns.

Can we apply for a loan under the CBILS?

If you are running a business, yes you can.  Please see our Funding and Finance FAQ’s.

We are hearing that Banks are more likely to advance monies on the basis of known income, so for example notified legacies, where there may be a time lag in them being received or against investments where, if they were realised now, would crystallise a loss.  Asking for a loan which will need to repaid from future services or trading income should be carefully considered in particular where the charity does not operate to create a surplus which would allow this.

There is a court order in place in relation to access to my child. What should I do?

If there is a court order then this should be complied with, unless you are unable to do so because the parent with whom the child lives is self-isolating, the other parent is self-isolating or the children are showing symptoms of the virus. If you are unable to comply with the court order, the other parent should be notified immediately in writing and proposals put forward for how they can see and speak to their children by telephone, FaceTime, Zoom or some other method.

If any necessary variations to the arrangements cannot be agreed then you should contact us for legal advice.

Can I argue that my contract has been frustrated?

It could be possible depending on your contract. If there is no force majeure clause in a contract, it may be possible that the contract may have been “frustrated” by emergency legislation. In legal terms, a contract can be frustrated where an event occurs after it is entered into which was not contemplated by any party at the outset, is not due to the fault of any party, and which makes the performance of the contract impossible.

If this is the case, the contract could be “discharged”, meaning that the parties’ obligations under the contract are no longer binding.

It is possible that a contract could be frustrated within this particular legal doctrine by a change in the law that makes performance of a contract illegal. However, if it simply becomes more difficult, or more expensive, then the legal tests for frustration might not be satisfied. There are also limits to the application of the rule if the frustrating event was already known about at the time the contracted was entered into.

Again, careful legal advice will be required at an early stage. The rules about force majeure or frustration might help businesses that find themselves unable to perform a contract because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Any new contracts that are concluded should expressly deal with the possibility that performance might become more difficult, more costly, or impossible to perform.