COVID-19 Coronavirus legal advice & support for the public, social housing and third sectors

Dedicated support for organisations needing legal advice in relation to the COVID-19 Coronavirus pandemic in the public, social housing and third sectors.

We recognise that the outbreak of COVID-19 Coronavirus will present many organisations with unique and unprecedented challenges over the coming months. We are determined to help our clients navigate their way through this crisis and will do all we possibly can to help.

The public and housing sectors are at the front line of the response to the COVID-19 outbreak and will be essential to the combined effort to return to normality in its aftermath. Protecting staff, the public and the communities in which you operate are of paramount importance. We understand that now, more than ever, access to clear guidance and legal advice is key in an ever changing environment and our expert teams are working around the clock to guide our public and housing sector clients. We have set out below some of the key areas that may be affecting your organisation.

We also understand that the issues facing private sector businesses may be different, so we have put together a dedicated resource page on their specific pressures.

If you need assistance, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Key areas where we can support

Assets & Development

 

Development projects can be beset by delays at the best of times so the current financial uncertainty, lack of workers and disruption to supply chains causes inevitable challenges in getting the job done. Our team is the largest commercial property team in Wales with the resources to assist with guidance on the full spectrum of issues you may be experiencing on your current projects.

We have the ability to quickly ascertain the salient issues from your contracts, address delays in the planning process and protect your position and your investment so far whilst also making suitable plans for the future.

If you think that your or the other party’s obligations under your construction or development contract have been or may be affected by COVID-19, you should check the legal position without delay. Is there a force majeure clause (this operates to release a party from its obligations or provide a party with additional rights when unforeseen circumstances happen) in your contract? What other clauses may apply: insurance, extensions of time, loss and expense, suspension or termination rights? Does the legal doctrine of frustration apply if it is impossible to perform the respective contractual obligations? – this is often quite a tough test to satisfy.

Other issues to consider include: have you got a paper trail to record the effect of COVID-19? Do you need to serve any contractual notices to protect your position? Finally, consider whether this is a good opportunity for your organisation to review the way its contracts deal with these issues for the future.

 

Key Contacts 

Find out more on our commercial property page or contact Peter Hurn on: 

t: 029 2267 5403

e: peter.hurn@hughjames.com 

 

Find out more on our construction & projects page or contact Ioan Prydderch on:

t: 029 2267 5472

e: ioan.prydderch@hughjames.com

Care & Social Work

 

Many of our clients in the adult care home sector are working on the frontline of the COVID-19 response. In the short term, it may be necessary for some elements of social care regulation to be relaxed in order that essential services can still be provided to vulnerable residents and we are working with clients to ensure that appropriate compromises are agreed when necessary without exposing residents or social care workers to greater risk. We are advising on urgent recruitment issues and the application of National Minimum Standards in exceptional times.

We are working with the Court service and our many clients with public protection responsibilities to ensure that essential work continues to be done. We continue to undertake advocacy on a daily basis either in person where that is possible or by way of telephone and videoconferencing. We continue to offer a full service to those of our clients with responsibilities in respect of child safeguarding, adult protection and workforce regulation. In many cases, we are working with our clients to design innovative means to protect the public and comply with statutory responsibilities whilst still maintaining article 6 compliant fair hearings

Our team led by Martin Jones is well versed on advising our clients through challenging times, for help, guidance or questions, please get in touch.

 

Key Contact

Find out more by contacting Martin Jones on:

t: 029 2267 5913

e: martin.jones@hughjames.com

Employment & HR

 

Looking after your people and the communities within which you work has never been a greater priority. In these unprecedented times those interests have the potential to collide and you need to be able to take decisive action. Our team can help provide you with the clarity required to take difficult decisions swiftly and respond to circumstances that are constantly evolving.

Having years of experience advising these sectors, we understand your policies, values, the social landscape impacting your decisions as well as your long term strategic objectives. Led by Louise Price, our Employment and HR Services team can help your organisation take the right decisions at the right time, provide the best protection for a worst case scenario and guide you towards sustainable solutions for the future of your workforce.

Whatever the situation you as an employer are facing, our Employment team will be able to assist with any employee related issues you may have. We can assist you with the following:

  • advice in relation to the furloughing of employees;
  • provision and implementation of homeworking policies;
  • advice in relation to lay off and short time working;
  • queries in relation to the payment of sick pay, self-isolation and social distancing;
  • health and safety measures for staff;
  • advice regarding care for dependants and restricted travel;
  • redundancy, restructuring and collective consultation exercises;
  • progressing with employee relations work remotely;
  • advice in relation to Working Time Regulations issues
  • changes to terms and conditions or restricting pay arrangements.

We will provide you with pragmatic advice to help you navigate the challenges ahead and mitigate against the potential risks.

 

Key Contact

Find out more on our employment and HR services page or contact Louise Price on:

t: 029 2267 5611

e: louise.price@hughjames.com

Governance & Decision Making

 

In this current health crisis, now is the time to ensure you are able to take swift but calm decisions to be able to respond to the ever challenging way our life is being affected by COVID-19. Clear priorities, decision making structure and agreed lines of communication are key to ensuring the risks and issues facing the organisation can be addressed with appropriate actions.

Our team can help you assess your incident plan, organisational critical areas and ensure you meet key timescales as well as communicating effectively with staff, tenants, service users and the wider community. We can also help with contingency planning so if a worst case scenario were to develop, your operational and strategic plans can weather the storm.

This in turn will allow you to be able to make good, correct and valid decisions based on the best information and resources available at the time.

 

Key Contact

Find out more by contacting Emma Poole on:

t: 029 2267 5116

e:  emma.poole@hughjames.com 

Health & Safety

 

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on health and safety for staff and the public are far-reaching. Our specialist health and safety lawyers have drafted some guidance of initial steps to take. To discuss in further detail, please get in touch.

 

Key Contact

Find out more on our health & safety page or contact Justin Davies on:

t: 029 2267 5915

e: justin.davies@hughjames.com

Housing

 

The current crisis poses a number of challenges around the provision of housing by local authorities and housing associations. Tenants will be looking for reassurance about their security in the event they struggle to make payments, may be concerned about outside visitors being required to carry out essential maintenance/gas servicing at their property whilst in isolation as well as the long term impact that social distancing may have on the vulnerable.

Our Housing team has worked in this sector for over 30 years and has an unrivalled understanding of the implications of your decisions. A long term partner of Community Housing Cymru, our teams regularly liaise about how our advice can benefit the sector as a whole to ensure consistency of approach leading to the best possible outcomes. We understand that your priorities must be the safety of tenants and staff and can help you proactively manage the risks while finding sustainable strategies to continue providing homes for those that need them.

 

Key Contact

Find out more on our housing management page or contact Bethan Gladwyn on:

t: 029 2267 5569 or m: 07583 054 724

e: bethan.gladwyn@hughjames.com

Procurement and State Aid

 

The rapidly evolving nature of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the government’s response to it, means that urgent needs can change from day to day. It is already clear that these are exceptional circumstances and therefore contracting authorities will need to source goods, services and works with extreme urgency. From pausing current procurements, extending (and modifying) current contracts under regulation 72 and the use of regulation 32 under the PCR 2015, our expert team of experienced procurement lawyers are on hand to guide you during this uncertain time.

We can provide specialist advice on the application of regulation 72 to contract amendments or extensions required due to changing circumstances arising from the crisis. In conjunction with regulation 32 which allows contracting authorities to award contracts utilising the negotiated without notice procedure due to urgency arising from a crisis, there is considerable flexibility in the approach that contracting authorities can take to procurement in these uncertain times. We also have considerable expertise in drafting VEAT notices for publication following contract modifications and contracts awards in reliance on regulation 32 to mitigate any residual risk to contracting authorities of a declaration of ineffectiveness.

Please see our recent procurement blog for more detail on considerations for contracting authorities awarding contracts during this pandemic.

State aid issues have also been brought to the forefront by this crisis. The need to keep key suppliers afloat and local employers operating will be at the top of public authorities’ agendas. Our team can help you navigate the state aid regime. We are closely monitoring the European Commission’s approach to state aid in the current climate as well as the UK government’s response and are ready to respond to any relaxation of the state aid regime and assist our clients to benefit from any change in the rules.

 

Key Contact

Find out more on our procurement & state aid page or contact Emily Powell on:

t: 029 2267 5540

e: emily.powell@hughjames.com

Supply Chains

 

As providers of vital public services, public and housing organisations will have outsourced contracts with suppliers for the delivery of key public services. Concerns are already mounting over potential stock shortages and the inability to transport key goods. Many companies fear they won’t meet contractual obligations on time or without the necessary staff to deliver contracted services potentially leaving vulnerable citizens without access to key services. Our team can help look at your options to ensure that key contractors and contracts are prioritised. Our expert team of contract lawyers is able to help on an emergency basis to construe your rights, force majeure provisions, advise on any ability you might have to apply the doctrine of frustration (whether or not you have the ability to set your contract aside or not) and what your options are.

We can also review your key contracts and assist you to renegotiate key terms with your suppliers, in particular, delivery and payment schedules to help ensure continuity of service/supply.

 

Key Contact

Find out more on our commercial page or contact Aled Walters on:

t: 029 2267 5537

e: aled.walters@hughjames.com

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Private Sector Businesses

We also understand that the issues facing private sector businesses may be different, so we have put together a resource page on their specific pressures.

find out more

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