The highly experienced and commercially focussed Middle East legal team at Stephenson Harwood has released the following two articles in which they de-mystify the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the workplace and in commercial contracts.

1. The impact on the workplace

Remote working, sick pay and other measures

The following flowchart (published 20 March 2020), identifies some options for dealing with employees diagnosed with/exposed to COVID-19 (it does not deal with remote-working or closures that are directed by the government or other regulatory body):

Business continuity (“BC”) measures

The team also identifies the following key considerations in terms of BC:

  • Ensuring the BC plan is fit for purpose.
  • Having a designated team to track changing guidance.
  • Whether you will ask employees to work remotely, take annual/unpaid leave, agree reduced/varied hours/duties/pay?
  • Ensuring IT systems can cope with the increased remote-working demands.
  • Supporting vulnerable employees and monitoring the impact on employees’ mental health.
  • Being vigilant about discrimination, victimisation and harassment for COVID-19 related reasons.
  • Ensuring internal/external communications are informative but proportionate.
  • Having in place adequate policies/plans/rules dealing with:
    • travel restrictions or attending external events;
    • emergency time off for dependents/other leave; and
    • disciplining employees for failing to follow guidance/instructions. 

2. The impact on contracts

The possible relief available to parties under the contract or by law may include:

  • a right to terminate/delay/suspend obligations based on a force majeure (“FM”) event or change in law; and/or
  • claims under insurance policies. 

A party seeking to rely on such clauses should consider whether:

  • the event is defined as a FM; 
  • the event materially impacted its ability to perform its obligations; 
  • it has taken steps to mitigate the effects of the event? and
  • it has complied with any notice provisions contained in the contract.

Articles 1 and 2 were issued on 20th March and 23rd March respectively; therefore, governmental guidance is subject to change. Please seek up-to-date advice as appropriate.

Further information

Please click below to view the full version of each article:

  1. Navigating the new world of working from home, self-isolation and sick pay – first issued 20th March 2020.
  2. Legal and Contractual Implications – first issued on 23rd March 2020.

If you require further information relating to the Coronavirus then please see Stephenson Harwood’s Coronavirus guidance webpage which shares their latest webcasts, newsletters, podcasts, media coverage and other useful resources –  please click here to view.

Questions

Should you have questions relating to this article or any other general queries related to COVID-19 then do not hesitate to contact Kiersten Lucas or Nicholas Sharratt.

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