Taking the positive out of lockdown – health check your business and upgrade your legals!
While we are all hopefully staying healthy and safe, this is also a time to refocus on business and protect what we’ve worked so hard to build.
Contracts and breaches of contract due to lockdown?
We’ve blogged here about the most frequently asked questions around performing or not performing obligations under a contract, namely “force majeure” and how on earth does it work in a pandemic and government lock down ? See here for the full article https://tiger-law.com/contracts-and-covid-19/
In summary, we guess that all terms and conditions are going to be picked over and force majeure clauses are likely to include a number of situations that perhaps hadn’t been foreseen just a few short weeks ago !
Most office staff are now working from home and only key workers are out and about carrying out vital services. This means that, potentially, we have a huge workforce working from home who have never done it before. If you’re a large, well resourced business you’ll have been stretched, if you’re a small or young business, this could have pushed you to your limits. Either way, you will need to consider what your employees are doing with your data at home: the same obligations apply to you as data controller as they did before and the fines are big! See here for some guidance from the ICO: https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/data-protection-and-coronavirus/
You will need to consider what devices are being used, what security around your server and remote access is in place, what access family members have to your CRM and so on. Is this all an opportunity for criminals to hack home wifi and get into your data ? It’s your responsibility to ensure that you are as protected as you can be.
These didn’t change the data protection regime in the UK too dramatically but then a lot of people weren’t compliant with that either. Looking at this will also mean you’re thinking about your marketing and making sure it’s all working properly and in compliance.
You should also think about the Consumer Rights Act 2015 and think about what you’re selling (goods, services, digital stuff?) and your order, cancellation and refunds policies i.e. your terms and conditions. This means ensuring that they capture how you make a sale and your contract is binding, how payment is taken, cancellation and refunds (and returns if you sell goods), what promises you’re making and what you want to exclude liability for. Businesses evolve so now is a great time to check that your terms have evolved with you.
People are buying online at a rate never seen before so make sure you’re doing it safely !
HR & Employment Contracts
If you’re an employer, there are some changes coming in April that will mean you need to tweak your employment contracts. This is mandatory, although not hugely onerous, and a little prep now will ensure that you’re giving out compliant contracts as of next month. Why not use this opportunity to review your staff handbook or put one in place if you haven’t already ?
You should also note exactly who you owe your employer obligations to, employees, workers and so on. Have you got the right remote working policies in place ? We are seeing employers scrambling to force employees into potentially dangerous lone working situations without due thought, much better to take some time and plan out what you need and get it right.
Noone wants their first step out of lockdown to be straight into the Employment Tribunal.
Lots of directors have supported their company’s development and growth by giving personal guarantees. This might be on the bank’s overdraft facility or loan but it could also be on the company’s leased property. If your lease is of a gym, bar, restaurant or anywhere else that has been closed due to Covid-19, then your business will be suffering a massive drop in income and may find itself unable to make its payments.
The next step for anyone that the company owes money is to look at the personal guarantees, there is generally no obligation to take action against the company first and the lender or landlord will be looking for the slickest, easiest way to recoup its losses.
Identify your personal liabilities, open a dialogue! We tend to think that landlords want tenants with established businesses in place rather than scrabbling around trying to find new tenants when the working world wakes up again – now is the time to negotiate.
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