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Coronavirus: how we can help

If you would like to discuss any coronavirus issue in more detail, please get in touch with your usual Browne Jacobson contact, or one of our lawyers listed below.

Banking: Jonathan Edwards

Our banking team is well positioned to advise businesses on their access to emergency funding being made available by the Treasury and the Bank of England as part of the Government’s initiative to support businesses through the period of disruption caused by COVID-19. The team also has the expertise to advise and assist banks and borrowers in relation to the restructuring of their debt facilities which may be needed as a result of cashflow difficulties.

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Commercial & supply chain: Anthony Nagle

As the coronavirus situation and potential impact on commercial and business interests unfolds, businesses are looking to their contracts to ascertain what will happen if contracted goods and services cannot be provided. We are working closely with our clients to ensure they future-proof their businesses by updating their existing arrangements, including analysing existing force majeure or drafting new force majeure clauses in a more robust way. There are also other mechanisms in contracts that could prove useful and we can review them and recommend whether they should be triggered for your particular set of circumstances. We can also advise on your supply chain, subcontracting arrangements, conducting risk assessments, auditing suppliers and more.

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Construction: Michael Sadler

Our construction team is currently advising a number of employer, main contractor and sub-contractor clients on the impacts of COVID-19 and the entitlements under building contracts for an extension of time and entitlement to loss and expense. We can help with draft notices and correspondence to preserve your position and advise on how to navigate your way through the various contractual requirements.

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Corporate: Richard Cox

Ongoing corporate transactions will be impacted. The current issues will increase the need for thorough due diligence to understand the potential impact of the coronavirus on the target business – such as reviewing force majeure provisions in contracts and understanding the implications for the workforce. We can advise on potential timing issues created by delayed completions including how to manage risks arising from split exchange and completions. Inevitably in the current climate many businesses will be concerned about a shortfall in liquidity and the risk of breaching financial covenants with a need for reviewing and implementing restructuring options and/or refinancing (see our Banking section for more details on the latter) as appropriate. Our extensive and market-leading corporate team will be able to advise you on all relevant implications and co-ordinate input from our wider specialist teams in order to fully support you through these challenging times.

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Data protection: Richard Nicholas

The position in respect of Covid-19 is fast moving and organisations are increasingly being required to make quick decisions to protect employees and others. Whilst data protection laws should not act as a barrier to handling personal data relating to Covid-19, certain steps, in particular sharing such personal data internally or with third parties, could have significant data protection implications if not done in a proportionate way. With more employees being required to work from home or otherwise off site as a result of Covid-19, enhanced measures may be required to ensure that personal data is kept secure and personal data breaches are avoided. We are working closely with our clients to ensure that they are able to meet their obligations under data protections laws at this time.

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Disputes / claims: Jonathan Tardif

Coronavirus will cause unavoidable disruption to current court timetables which will inevitably result in extensions being sought for important deadlines. We are working with clients to implement practical solutions - these include advising on upcoming limitation issues; giving guidance on whether the doctrines of frustration or force majeure can be used where the contractual and commercial effects of coronavirus has had a significant impact on the performance of contractual obligations.

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Employment: Peter Jones

All employers have duties in respect of the health and safety of their employees and so need to take steps to monitor and manage risks created by COVID-19. Businesses will also need contingency plans in place to deal with increased staff sickness absences and requests for leave, such as to care for dependents. Some employers will have a reduced need for staff due to travel restrictions, or a drop in customer demand; others will experience an increase in demand and will be facing resourcing challenges, including challenges caused by travel restrictions. We are working with our clients across public and private sectors to review their disaster planning and business continuity policies, and advising on options available to them to best manage their workforce.

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Insolvency: John Adams

It is a sad reality that COVID-19 will soon be cited as the main reason for business failure in 2020. Directors’ duties are unchanged at this time and now, more than ever, they need to be monitoring their businesses’ financial position, future cash flows and, if insolvency is unavoidable, acting in the best interests of their creditors. The speed at which market conditions are changing may hamper more traditional rescue mechanisms and investor interest in transactional recoveries, but it is still just as important that appropriate steps are taken to properly manage these situations. Likewise, for creditors, it is vital to ensure that no business failure is allowed to go under the radar simply because of COVID-19 when there might be valid areas for investigation and recovery. Our team will be able to advise you on all aspects of corporate and personal insolvency across a range of sectors with the support of our wider teams wherever specialist knowledge is required.

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Insurance: Tim Johnson

Our specialist insurance team is actively advising a number of insurers and intermediaries on issues arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, such as exposure mapping, claims response, policy coverage, policy wordings and communications with policyholders and the regulator.

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Procurement: Peter Ware

We can advise on how Covid-19 could impact your tender processes and timetables, along with suggesting how to build in as much flexibility and ability to make changes to your procurement arrangements. We can advise on whether any terminations or extensions need to be put in place or amended in connection with your existing incumbent supplier arrangements. We can advise on the likelihood of any procurement claims from disgruntled suppliers.

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Public law and regulatory: Gerard Hanratty

Local authorities and the NHS have specific statutory obligations to respond to and co-operate when emergencies arise that affect the health and wellbeing of the public. That means they have clear processes in place already under the Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response Framework. We are advising our clients to keep up-to-date with government guidance and apply a common sense approach to the provision of services and risk assess wider issues. Compliance with guidance should enable the sector to meet the challenges which Coronavirus creates but we are committed to working with our clients and sharing the best practice we see in across the system.

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Real estate: Caroline Green

With the closure of all non-essential retail stores, leisure and community spaces, tenants are asking what impact closure has on their leases and in particular their obligations to pay rent. Other businesses are affected by the lock down. We can advise on the support available and how to document agreed concessions.

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