What is the guidance for doctors working during the pandemic?
The General Medical Council (GMC) have published guidance online for doctors during this time of uncertainty.
Alongside this, their website displays guidance for temporary registration to approximately 15,000 doctors, who left the register or gave up their licence to practise in the last three years.
These clinicians have been contacted to assist with the growing pandemic, outlining the process they would follow and informing them of their right to opt-out. The Secretary of State for Health can ask the GMC to grant such registration under Section 18a of the Medical Act 1983, in an emergency.
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.
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
The outbreak is certainly going to have an impact on new lease negotiations.
Undoubtedly many transactions will be put on hold or indeed stop entirely. Where matters are ongoing, tenants may well look to strengthen rent suspension provision.
It is also possible that tenants and their representatives will also now seek to include termination rights for unseen events. In this regard, the concept of force majeure may start to appear more often in leases.
In both of the examples above, such attempts are not likely to be well received from landlords who will undoubtedly suggest that tenants ensure that their business interruption insurance policies are robust enough to protect the tenant in the event of any future pandemic events.
Another approach tenants might adopt going forwards in negotiations for a new lease (or indeed seeking to vary existing leases), is to move away from the traditional market rent model to a turnover rent arrangement. This will offer some protection going forward if trading conditions deteriorate, but again getting institutional landlords to agree such an approach may prove difficult.
In some circumstances, visitors and customers are required to wear face coverings, such as those travelling on public transport, shoppers and museum visitors. The government guidance states that:
- businesses must remind people to wear face coverings where mandated; and
- premises where face coverings are required should take reasonable steps to promote compliance with the law.
As part of their duty of care to employees and to uphold a relationship of mutual trust and confidence, employers should consider how employees can ensure that visitors and customers comply with the rules and provide their staff with guidance. They must also seek ways to protect their employees both from the risks of those customers not wearing face masks and potential abuse from customers or visitors who decline to wear a face covering. This may include having signs in place requiring customers and visitors to wear a mask and allowing staff to refuse to serve customers if they do not follow the rules.
However, it is ultimately the responsibility of the police, security and public transport officials to remove customers from premises where they are not complying with the rules on face coverings.
The police and Transport for London have been given greater powers by the government to take measures if the public do not comply with the law relating to face coverings without a valid exemption, such as refusing to wear a face covering. This includes issuing fines which have now been increased to £200 for the first offence (and £100 if paid within 14 days). Transport operators can also deny access to their public transport services if a passenger is not wearing a face covering, or direct them to wear one or leave a service.
The Government’s Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act introduces amendments to the current rules for companies on holding meetings, to address the difficulties companies are facing due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new provisions apply to meetings held between 26 March 2020 and 30 September 2020 (referred to as the “Relevant Period”). Subsequent regulations by the Government can be used to shorten this period or extend by up to 3 months but not past 5 April 2021.
The provisions will have retrospective effect, so meetings that were held after 26 March 2020 that may not have met the usual legal requirements due to lockdown, will be validated under these new provisions. These provisions under the Act make amends to relevant legislation and override a company’s articles of association.
For general meetings and certain other meetings of companies, the Act states that:
- The meeting need not be held in any particular place;
- The meeting may be held, and any votes may be cast, by electronic means or other means;
- The meeting may be held without anyone being in the same place
- Persons attending the meeting no longer have the following rights: the right to attend in person, the right to participate in the meeting other than by voting, or the right to vote by particular means.
The aim of these changes is to facilitate virtual meetings, and remove the need for a physical venue.
Where a company was required to hold its AGM between 26 March and 30 September 2020, it can be held at any time before 30 September 2020. The Secretary of State has the power to make regulations to further extend the deadline.