Remobilising UK Construction needs Guarantees, not Guesswork- Part 2

By Steve Nichol and Matthew Friedlander 

Last week we discussed, in light of the encouragement from Robert Jenrick MP (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) for the construction industry to remobilise, the government’s apparent reluctance to provide confidence and clarity for the construction industry in respect of the safe operation of sites.

In the Prime Minister’s address to the nation on 10 May 2020, he re-stated that encouragement for the construction industry, where possible, to return to work. Continue reading “Remobilising UK Construction needs Guarantees, not Guesswork- Part 2”

COVID-19: Review of the UK Government’s Guidance on Responsible Contractual Behaviour

By Steve Nichol

On 7 May 2020 the UK Government published its “Guidance on responsible contractual behaviour in the performance and enforcement of contracts impacted by the COVID-19 emergency”.  Here are some of the key points arising and our analysis of the same.

It is not mandatory. The Guidance repeatedly stresses that the Government is merely strongly encouraging compliance with the Guidance, rather than suggesting that it is or should be mandatory.  However, as with previous policy announcements by the UK Government, it seems likely that public and local authorities, and indeed potentially companies such as Network Rail who are exercising delegated governmental authority, will be compelled to give greater regard and attention to the Guidance than the private sector. Continue reading “COVID-19: Review of the UK Government’s Guidance on Responsible Contractual Behaviour”

Remobilising UK Construction needs Guarantees, not Guesswork

By Steve Nichol and Matthew Friedlander

In yesterday’s edition of the Government’s daily coronavirus briefing, Robert Jenrick MP (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government) relayed tales of how some local authorities have been able to continue essential fire safety work in the COVID-19 era in order to address defective and dangerous cladding in their areas.  He then went on to say:

I would urge any building owner or contractor…as soon as practicable, where it’s safe, to begin work once again.

If Mr Jenrick envisioned this statement as a call to arms for the industry to remobilise in a flurry of activity, it is likely that he will be disappointed. Continue reading “Remobilising UK Construction needs Guarantees, not Guesswork”

Adjudication during the COVID-19 lockdown – breach of natural justice?

By Vijay Bange and Tanya Chadha

In the UK, adjudication remains one of the quickest and most cost effective methods of resolving construction disputes.  As most people adjust to the “new normal” of working from home, an away from the usual office environment, adjudication may not be at the top of everyone’s agenda.  That is somewhat ironic given that the current COVID-19 situation is fast becoming a potential breeding ground for construction disputes.  Projects are in delay, labour and materials supply may be an issue and cashflow may become and inevitable effect of the lockdown.

The courts have shown a resolve to carry on with court business where there are live proceedings. There was however some uncertainty as to what approach the TCC would take in relation to adjudications during the period of lockdown, particularly given the fast and furious nature of the process. Would breach of natural justice arguments hold strong in adjudications pursued during this restrictive period of lockdown?  What would be the position where some relevant participants are self-isolating?  Can the adjudication process be conducted fairly, and with proper regard to the rules of natural justice? Continue reading “Adjudication during the COVID-19 lockdown – breach of natural justice?”

COVID-19: New Protections For Commercial Tenants – Are Tenants Now ‘Safe’?

By Milan Patel

01.05.2020

The UK Government has recently announced further steps to protect commercial tenants from aggressive rent collection by landlords including a ban the use of statutory demands and winding up orders where a company cannot pay their bills due to COVID-19 and preventing landlords from using commercial rent arrears recovery (CRAR) unless 90 days or more of rent is unpaid.  These measures support the existing ban on landlords evicting commercial tenants.  All of these measures will remain in effect until at least 30 June 2020.

Does that mean commercial tenants can now relax?

Definitely not.  These measures are temporary and do not alter the terms of the lease.   Once they are lifted, landlords will be free to employ such collection methods again and while some landlords have deep pockets, many more do not and almost all will have investors and/or funders to satisfy so it is highly unlikely that unpaid rent will simply be ignored for long once these protection measures end.

So what should commercial tenants be doing now?

Continue reading “COVID-19: New Protections For Commercial Tenants – Are Tenants Now ‘Safe’?”

Employee Refusal To Return To Work in face of COVID-19 ‘Threat To Safety’ – What Is Your Response?

By Nic Hart

01.05.2020

The effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the workplace continue.  It is undeniable that the potential litigation arising out of COVID-19 will be far reaching and there will be several areas that Employers need to consider now and when the return to work phase commences in earnest.

In a matter of months the Coronavirus pandemic has not only changed the way millions of employees work but also the way they may now view the work place, particularly how safe they feel within their workplace.

Health and Safety claims may become a real issue for employers as employees either leave or propose to leave, refuse to return to work or take (or propose to take) appropriate steps to protect themselves or others from what they believe is serious and imminent danger from infection. Continue reading “Employee Refusal To Return To Work in face of COVID-19 ‘Threat To Safety’ – What Is Your Response?”

COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme – Summary of Updates to UK Gov Guidance

By Nic Hart

30.04.2020

Whilst I am very mindful of furlough fatigue, there have been further updates to the Government Guidance on The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – both How to Claim (short form and long form) and the Guidance. None of these have substantively changed but there are points to note in each, which are as follows.

The How to Claim (short form) deals with some of the practicalities of claiming. For those yet to do so please note that you need to submit your claim in one session – you cannot save it and return later. Sessions will time out after 15 minutes of inactivity.

There has been guidance given on what steps to take following a claim;

  1. keep a copy of all records, including:
    • the amount claimed and claim period for each employee
    • the claim reference number for your records
    • your calculations in case HMRC need more information about your claim
  2. tell your employees that you have made a claim and that they do not need to take any more action
  3. pay your employee their wages, if you have not already.

It must be stressed that Employers should record and retain documentation at all stages of the furlough process, both to be compliant with the requirements of the Treasury Direction but also to ensure that if there is any audit undertaken by HMRC they have the requisite records set out in the Guidance. Continue reading “COVID-19 Job Retention Scheme – Summary of Updates to UK Gov Guidance”

MAC Clauses & COVID-19: A Free Pass For Lenders?

By Drew Salvest

28.04.2020

The Scenario:

A client is prudently engaging with its bank to put in place a credit facility to address working capital needs which it anticipates might grow due to the Covid-19 isolation measures causing its customers to reduce requirements for its services and to pay more slowly than during less distressed times. As the motivation for this client to enter into the facility was its potential exposure to the risks to general economic conditions arising from the pandemic, the client was understandably concerned about the lender’s insistence on the inclusion of a “Material Adverse Change” or “MAC” representation and event of default.

The client’s question to us, after vain attempts to remove the language and tepid protestations from its relationship manager that such clauses “are rarely relied upon”, was whether it had any reason to be concerned.

To be fair to the lender, MAC events of default are rarely relied upon to enforce an event of default. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the government ordered lockdown is having an unprecedented impact on the UK and the global economy. One has to consider whether the changed circumstances arising from this event might have a similarly unprecedented change in the approach lenders take in limiting losses in their loan portfolios. More importantly, if it does, will a typical MAC clause assist them? Continue reading “MAC Clauses & COVID-19: A Free Pass For Lenders?”

Is COVID-19 A Contractual “Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free” Card?

By Sue Laws

28.04.2020

COVID 19 is having a massive impact on supply chains and business continuity and, post lockdown, questions will be asked about who pays for this. The knee-jerk response of many businesses is that the pandemic is a unique, unforeseeable “Act of God” and that businesses which have furloughed staff or been forced to close during the lockdown or have had difficulties with their own supply chains or customers reducing purchase volumes, have no liabilities to or remedies against others for the consequent losses sustained. The reality is that on a case by case basis, businesses already adversely affected by this pandemic may find that contractual claims are being made against them or that they have a route to mitigate their losses by looking at their own contractual or statutory rights.

Key to the analysis which will be carried out is a bit of “jargon-busting” and debunking some commonly held views: Continue reading “Is COVID-19 A Contractual “Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free” Card?”

Post-lockdown and the new world order: Construction & Engineering UK

By Vijay Bange and Tanya Chadha

Social distancing measures and lockdowns have been replicated across the globe and have brought world economies to all time lows. Understandably, there is now a degree of anxiety to getting back to work. The longer the lockdown goes on for, the harder the bounce back may be. Unsurprisingly murmurings of getting the country back to work are beginning to surface.  Some manufacturers and building firms that shut down are now slowly preparing to return to work from a state of hibernation.

Aston Martin and Jaguar Land Rover have set out plans to re-open their factories early next month with strict safety measures in place. Taylor Wimpey, like some other national house builders, is planning to resume work on multiple sites. HS2 is also now resuming works on Phase one, opening 75% of its sites, with a notice to commence being approved by the government. These companies have spent time planning how they can re-start, whilst ensuring adherence with the government’s social distancing guidelines. Continue reading “Post-lockdown and the new world order: Construction & Engineering UK”

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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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