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What should I do if the contractor is in suspected financial difficulty?

In the event that the contractor is displaying one or more of the above signs, then it is worth considering the following actions to protect the employer’s position as far as possible:

  • Closely monitor the financial and on-site performance of the contractor in order to assess the likelihood and timing of potential insolvency
  • Ensure all bonds, guarantees and collateral warranties have been obtained under the building contract, and if not take steps to obtain them immediately
  • Consider the terms of any guarantees to ensure that the guarantor’s obligations are not inadvertently discharged
  • Bonds may require adjudication to have been commenced (or even completed) prior to insolvency so as not to be stayed pursuant to insolvency laws
  • Carry out an audit of the on-site plant, equipment and materials, and evidence this (for example with photographs and written records)
  • Ensure that copies of all relevant documentation have been obtained, for example drawings, specifications and anything required to comply with CDM requirements. If not, take steps to obtain these
  • Review the payment position under the building contract, including whether any over payments have been made to the contractor which should be reclaimed, what retention is held or has been released, whether any payment notices may be necessary, and whether there are rights of set-off which should be exercised
  • Check whether the involvement of any third party is required, for example funders, landlords, tenants or purchasers who may have rights in relation to the building contract and how it is administered
  • Review the terms of the building contract relating to contractor insolvency – hopefully the parties will be fully aware of the building contract terms and have been administering it correctly to date, but if it has been hiding in a draw then now would be a good time to dust it off and ensure familiarity with the relevant provisions!

In general. there is often a stick or twist decision.  If the employer chooses to financially support the contractor (for example by agreeing different payment arrangements), this may help to keep the contractor solvent and more likely to complete the project, but it also exposes the employer to greater risk if the approach is not successful.  Conversely, withholding payments  from the contractor may make insolvency a self-fulfilling prophecy.  The precise advantages and disadvantages of the approach will be dependent on the specific circumstances of each case.

Related FAQs

What technology is being used by the COP for remote hearings?

Interestingly, there is currently no ‘single’ technology to be used by the judiciary within the protocol. The court and parties must choose from a selection of possible IT platforms or audio/telephone hearing (further details available in the guidance e.g. Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Zoom etc.) The particular platform must be agreed at the outset of each case and then specified in the case management order. The guidance issued also sets out the basic principles which apply when conducting remote hearings.

What is the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme?

All employers in the UK are eligible to participate in the scheme. The purpose of the scheme is to allow employers to claim back employment costs if they have furloughed employees arising from the coronavirus crisis. Importantly this means the scheme is not limited to cases where the employee would otherwise have been made redundant.

Key points:

  • Between 1 November 2020 – 30 June 2021, the government will reimburse employers for 80% of wage costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month, with employers expected to contribute 10% of that 80% in July 2021 and 20% of that 80% in August and September 2021. Employers will still need to pay employer NICs and employer pension contributions (these cannot be claimed for).
  • The scheme now also allows employees to return to work part time being on furlough for the remainder. See flexible furlough above for more information.
  • The employer can agree to pay the employee more than it will be reimbursed but it cannot reclaim the additional amount or any other costs associated with the additional amount.
  • The workers covered by the scheme are those who have been “furloughed” which is a leave of absence.
  • Workers must be told about and agree to this change of status (see below).
  • Employers have to continue to pay the furloughed workers and the Government will reimburse the employer.
  • HMRC is administering the scheme and it has been extended until the end of September 2021
  • Those who left employment and are re-employed and subsequently furloughed by agreement are eligible (please see the FAQ regarding redundancy and furlough above).
  • Payments may be withheld if claims are based on inaccurate or dishonest information, or are found to be fraudulent. HMRC has put in place an online hotline for employees and the general public to report suspected fraudulent claims.
  • The Government has made alternative help available for employers to continue to pay employees while the scheme is set up.
VIDEO: Redundancy exercises in the new normal – what should we do differently?

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.

 

How do I apply for CBILS?

CBILS is made available through the British Business Bank’s 40+ accredited lenders and partners, which are listed on their website (https://www.british-business-bank.co.uk/ourpartners/coronavirus-business-interruption-loan-scheme-cbils/accredited-lenders/).  

 Businesses should initially approach their own lender and only consider other lenders if they are unable to access the finance they need. Note, not every accredited lender can provide every type of finance listed.   

 Some banks/lenders are not included in the list of accredited lenders which appears to mean that they cannot provide support through the Scheme. We understand from the British Business Bank that further lenders are applying to be accredited but that this may take a little time to process. If the provider of your senior debt is not on the accredited list you should consider approaching the bank which provides your day to day account banking services.

 If you wish or need to access the Scheme via an alternative funder the process may take longer as usual on-boarding and KYC processes will need to be undertaken.