Most of us will never in our lifetimes have seen such a threat to the way we live, our families and our loved ones as the current pandemic. All of us are now being forced to re-think our lives and adjust to a new normal. Whether you agree with Nicola Sturgeon’s politics or not, she perhaps made a good point when she said “life shouldn’t feel normal right now….. do the right thing.”
What is the right thing? Below we suggest 8 ideas to help protect your business, your staff and your customers as well as your family, your loved ones and yourself.
- Be kind: Almost everything is a little bit more difficult at the moment; for you, and for everyone else. Remember that without people, your business will have no staff, no customers and no future. We’ve seen a lot of good in people helping others to avoid crisis but unfortunately some degree of selfishness (who pinched my children’s Rice Krispies from the food order)?
- Adapt: With much of the nation home-schooling and working from home, there’s a natural tension. We need to try to keep business going and if that means adopting a different routine, perhaps with less hours each day, at different times and maybe even seven days a week, at least the work is getting done. Trust in staff and the use of telephones, emails and virtual meetings all open new possibilities for less stress beyond the current crisis. Other businesses have been required to close to customers and despite government reliefs, owners and staff will be concerned about the future. Is this a hidden opportunity to review contracts, insurance coverage, your business continuity plan and more? Whilst most are being asked to stay at home, many key workers must still travel to and from work and need to adopt hyper vigilance around social distancing, the use of Personal Protective Equipment and washing hands and clothes to lower their risk of contracting and transmitting COVID19. Employers need to support their staff with this and patients and customers should have the utmost respect for their invaluable support.
- Re-assess workplace health and safety: At the forefront of our minds must be keeping our work environment safe and now more than ever is a time for risk assessing work processes. These may well need to be modified in order to respond to the current pandemic and comply with the health and safety legislation. Remember, when things change you must review new and existing risks and how these impact upon workers and then find ways to eradicate or if this is not possible, reduce them to the lowest practicable level. Staff working from home are moving to a new place of work and employers should take reasonable steps to ensure their safety. You may also need to consider how you ask your staff to work in light of their contractual terms (their rights and obligations) and you should consider the need to vary employment contracts.
HBB can advise on workplace, restructuring and other human resource matters.
- Take advantage of help for business and employees: The Chancellor has announced an unprecedented range of measures to support the economy, business continuity and jobs whilst other Government departments impose necessary restrictions on trading. For small and medium sized businesses (with a turnover of up to £45 million), the new Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme is now available for applications. There is a Bank of England scheme, the Covid Corporate Financing Facility, for larger businesses. Meanwhile there is relief for anxious workers through the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme which allows a claim for 80% of earnings up to £2500 a month whilst laid off.
HBB can help you to understand and take advantage of these benefits and incentives.
- Review contracts: It may be that you, your suppliers or customers are currently unable to fulfil contractual obligations or that you just want to take the opportunity to review your standard terms of business. It is necessary to consider the effect of contractual terms devised without contemplation of COVID19 in the current environment and whether it is possible or desirable to enforce or vary these. For example, what is the effect of a Force Majeure clause and is that outcome desirable? Or where a contract provides for penalties or indemnities for late or non-performance?
HBB can help you to interpret and understand the effect of existing contracts, to vary and implement contract variations or review and update standard terms of business.
- Resolve disputes: Disputes and unpaid debts will continue to arise and can seriously hinder business continuity. These are unprecedented times and a range of Government support is available. Where disputes do arise, whilst they will still ultimately need to be resolved, it is prudent to consider when and how it is best to do this in order where possible to maintain business continuity and relationships.
HBB can assist you with devising and implementing innovative solutions as well as debt recovery and litigation.
- Consider insurance: You may be entitled to make a claim under your existing insurance policies. The inevitable rise in insurance claims means underwriters will scrutinise claims more closely than ever. As such it is all the more important that claims are made fully and thoroughly, having given due consideration to the terms of the policy. Remember that if you are unhappy about an insurer’s decision, you have the right to challenge it.
HBB can advise you on policy coverage, making a claim and challenging a decision.
- Be aware of data protection issues: The European Data Protection Board (EDPB) has adopted a formal statement, which emphasises that data protection laws should not hinder measures taken in the fight against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. That said, the EDPB emphasises that, even in these exceptional times, controllers and processors must ensure the protection of the personal data of data subjects and this is particularly pertinent with many staff now working remotely. Many businesses struggled with the changes introduced by the General Data Protection Regulation (EU) 2016/679 (GDPR) and the new Data Protection Act 2018. Contract terms remain out of date and business processes unrevised.
HBB can help you with contract and process review.
Julian is a Solicitor at Hadfield Bull & Bull.
Please contact 0208 301 0808 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss any business related matters with Julian.