What is available to stop creditors taking action against the company to recover debts during the current crisis?
The government has announced a number of measures to try to protect businesses during the current period of uncertainty. However there is no outright ban on creditors being able to take legal action to recover money they are owed, though there are temporary restrictions on some forms of legal action, like winding up petitions.
However, it is important to note that these measures only relate to winding up proceedings. Creditors will still be free to commence county court claims.
The new Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 brings in a new “moratorium” procedure. Businesses in financial difficulty that are viable and can be rescued will now be able to work with an insolvency practitioner to obtain at least 20 business days’ breathing space from creditors to allow the business to formulate a plan to deal with its financial problems.
For more information on the Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act, click here
As part of the raft of measures put forward by the government over recent months, there are also restrictions on landlords taking action to evict commercial tenants who miss rent payments. Various payment holidays and forbearance have been put in place in respect of certain tax liabilities and some business rates.
If your business is going to go into an insolvency process like administration or a company voluntary arrangement, there is the ability to obtain a freeze on creditors taking action whilst those procedures are put in place. However, these sorts of moratoriums will not be available to everyone and in any event not unless an insolvency process is being instigated.
Regardless of whether a business has formal protection from creditors or not, engagement with creditors and trying to reach agreement with them to deal with the debt is therefore vital. Much of the protection measures that the Government has introduced like curbing the ability of landlords to evict a commercial tenant, do not wipe out the debt. They simply prevent action being taken or a payment becoming due for a short time. All businesses should use that time to consider how those debts can be dealt with and engage with the relevant stakeholders sooner rather than later.
Following our webinars on all aspects of furlough and alternatives to redundancy, it is an unfortunate fact that a number of organisations are likely, sooner or later, to be forced to make some employees redundant.
Our employment experts Jamie Gamble and Roisin Patton take you through the key aspects of conducting cost reduction redundancies, but with a focus on aspects that make this exercise different this time. For instance:
- How are you going to conduct sensitive meetings remotely?
- How are you going to ensure that dismissing any furloughed staff will be fair? You may have furloughed at speed, but redundancy selection criteria cannot be defined by such factors.
- Will you use this time to review your selection criteria if you already have some in place?
- How will you deal with individuals who are shielding, have child care issues or are pregnant?
- How do you ensure this is all done sensitively and fairly for those roles that are being made redundant, but also for those who continue to work for you but are still isolated on furlough or working from home?
- And what are the risks for making redundancies in this “new normal”?
Although you may be perfectly familiar with redundancy exercises these are far from normal times and it is therefore worth pausing to think about the impact that Covid-19 might have and what else you need to think about or plan for.
The webinar was recorded on Thursday 2nd July.
No, there is no obligation on employers to offer a flexible furlough arrangement to staff. Operationally, flexible furlough may not be appropriate for your business and equally, returning on a part-time basis may not be suitable for individuals already furloughed for various reasons. Concerns about returning to work part-time or at all should be considered on a case-by-case basis.
The practicalities and processes regarding disrepair claims will undoubtedly be affected. Housing providers will have to adopt a risk-based approach and consider government guidance to handle claims going forward. Key points to consider are:
- Compliance with the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Conditions Claims (particularly disclosure)
- The practicalities of inspection
- Non-urgent repairs
From 1 July 2020 the furlough scheme has been operating more flexibly.
The key changes from 1 July 2020 were:
- All furloughed employees are subject to the new flexible furlough rules and the new basis for calculating claims
- Furloughed employees can be brought back to work on a part-time basis for any amount of time and can work any work pattern
- Employers can claim for the hours not worked compared the hours the person would normally have worked in that period
- There must be a new written furlough agreement in place to record the agreement with the furloughed employee to return to work part-time
- The new agreement (including a collective agreement) must be made before any period of flexible furlough begins but it may be varied at a later stage if necessary. The agreement must be incorporated into the employee’s contract of employment, either expressly or impliedly
- Employers must keep a record of this agreement until at least 30 June 2025, and they must also keep a record of the hours the furlough employee worked and the hours that they were furloughed
- Employees can be furloughed from 1 July 2020 for any amount of time and more than once
- However, if you re-furloughed an employee after 10 June but before 1 July 2020, they had to be furloughed for an initial period of three consecutive weeks
- Claims for payments under the scheme must not cross calendar months so if you are claiming for the initial three week period of a re-furloughed employee who was furloughed on 12 June for example, you must submit separate claims for the dates in June and July
- Although flexible furlough agreements can last any length of time, you should only submit a claim to HMRC once a week.
As a result of the CJRS being extended, the Job Retention Bonus will no longer be paid in February 2021.