RESPONDING TO COVID-19

The impacts of COVID-19 have resulted in many unprecedented market challenges.  All organisations are having to be agile and open minded as they respond to the continually evolving situation.

A proactive commercial approach together with early and regular communication with your financiers and other business partners will be essential to establishing a pre-emptive and practical response to the current market conditions.

In addition to implementing Lavan’s own response to the business disruption caused by COVID-19, our multi-disciplinary team is available to assist you in determining your immediate response and to provide guidance on your longer-term risk management planning across all aspects of your business.

EMPLOYMENT 

For most companies, protecting the health and well-being of your employees is your most important and immediate priority but also raises some tricky questions like:

  • How should you handle the need for staff to self-isolate from a leave perspective?  
  • To what extent can you, as an employer, direct an employee to take paid or unpaid leave?  
  • Under what circumstances can your employees be stood down with or without pay if all or part of your business needs to close down temporarily?

If you need assistance with these or any other Employment related questions, please contact Lavan partner Ian Curlewis.

LANDLORDS AND TENANTS

COVID-19 is resulting in the closure (at least for the foreseeable short-term) of many offices while staff work remotely.  Additionally, social distancing will impact retailers, food outlets and centre owners.  

  • Does your lease provide for these unprecedented times?  
  • Will your insurance respond?
  • We can assist with discussions and deliberations in relation to requests for relief, concessions or other temporary measures during this time. 

Lavan partner Tamara Heng can be a valuable source of advice as you formulate your approach.

LIQUOR LICENSING

The new regulations and implications surrounding COVID-19 are affecting the hospitality industry in various ways and significantly.

  • Venues with capacity for 100 to 500 people must ensure they comply with the 100 person restriction.  Venues with capacity for 500+ people need to comply with the 100 person per room limit and the maximum limit of 500 total.  Additional restrictions affecting the hospitality industry are expected.
  • Liquor retailers may find themselves busier than usual as customers try to stock up which can make ID checking challenging. 
  • Many businesses are expected to see a downturn in revenue and will need to manage operational costs carefully which may make complying with some licence conditions very difficult.

If you have questions about the impact of these restrictions on your venue, please speak to Lavan partner Jessica Patterson.

CONTRACTUAL OBLIGATIONS

The impact of COVID-19 may prevent or delay your organisation’s ability to perform and meet your contractual obligations.  It may also increase the costs associated with complying with contractual obligations.  In this situation, it is important to consider:

  • Weaknesses in your supply chain which may limit your ability to meet contractual obligations.
  • Whether you should or can suspend performance of your contractual obligations.
  • Your ability to terminate a contract or seek to vary its terms.
  • Whether any non-compliance will be covered as a force majeure event.

If you would like to discuss these considerations or others in relation to your contractual obligations, please contact Lavan partner Ben Fong. 

CONSTRUCTION

Like most industries, COVID-19 is having an escalating impact on construction and infrastructure projects in Western Australia. The impact can vary from delay and disruption to exposure to increased costs, availability of labour or an inability to perform your contractual obligations.  Parties should therefore consider:

  • What rights and entitlements exist under their contract to seek an extension of time or suspension of works?
  • Is there a basis to claim additonal costs?
  • Does the contract include a force majeure provision and what are the consequences that flow from such an event?

Lavan’s construction team is currently advising clients on the specific implications of COVID-19 under their construction contracts. Please contact Lavan partner Tamica D’Uva if you would like to discuss your contractual entitlements.

CORPORATE GOVERNANCE

The rapidly evolving impacts of COVID-19 including the Government's call for social distancing and self-isolation present many challenges for listed companies, including:

  • Understanding your obligations under the Listing Rules and Corporations Act and your obligations to hold shareholders’ meetings.
  • Ensuring you meet your organisation’s continuous disclosure obligations.

Lavan special counsel Mona Gill can assist you to formulate a plan to meet your obligations.

INSURANCE

As the impact of COVID-19 varies between industries there will be a range of insurance issues to consider, including:

  • Whether a force majeure clause will apply in the situation.
  • Whether you can claim for increased costs of working.
  • Whether any shutdown or alteration in your business will ground a claim under your business interruption policy.
  • Whether there is a need to notify your insurer if your staff begin working from home.

To discuss these or other Insurance related concerns, please contact Lavan partner Iain Freeman.

MANAGING THE IMPACT ON YOUR BUSINESS

COVID-19 has resulted in a complex and ever-changing business environment.  As your organisation grapples with the challenges this creates, you may be considering:

  • The options available to you to manage the financial impact of the crisis.
  • Whether protections like Safe Harbour are relevant to your business in the current market environment.
  • How to best manage some of the difficult discussions you may need to have with key stakeholders.

Lavan partners Lawrence Lee and Joe Abberton can assist in developing solutions to protect your business during these difficult times.

FAMILY LAW

For separated and separating families the outbreak of COVID-19 can add additional uncertainty to already stressful circumstances. Some points to consider are: 

  • The options available for families requiring help to re-arrange or discuss ongoing  arrangements for children’s care or financial arrangements including variations to Court orders and mediation or other dispute resolution via telephone or other electronic means.
  • The special provisions made by the Family Court to assist people to attend and to file documents if they are applying to the Court or involved in Family Court proceedings.
  • It is still possible for people needing urgent assistance to take measures to ensure their personal and financial protection.

If you would discuss any of the above, please contact Lavan partners Natalie Kam and Framy Anne Browne

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Anna Bligh, the CEO of the Australian Banking Association, has announced today that banks will defer loan repayments for small businesses affected by the COVID-19 virus for up to six months.  The press release, which can be viewed here, states that banks will fast track the approvals process.  Lavan understands that small businesses will need to register with the banks to access this assistance.  If you are a small business in need of assistance, Lavan strongly recommends that you get in touch with your bank to discuss this further.  If you would like to discuss your approach before speaking with your bank please contact your Lavan partner or Paul O'Farrell of Quadrant Advisory. 

Lavan’s multidisciplinary team has significant experience in assisting clients to plan for and respond to business disruptions like COVID-19.  We are monitoring current developments and we are readily available to assist you with planning your response to the unprecedented challenges resulting from COVID-19.  If you would like to discuss your organisation’s response, please call any of the Lavan partners.

20 March 2020
COVID-19
AUTHOR
Ian Curlewis
Partner
AUTHOR
Tamara Heng
Partner
AUTHOR
Jessica Patterson
Partner
AUTHOR
Ben Fong
Partner
AUTHOR
Tamica D’Uva
Partner
AUTHOR
Mona Gill
Special Counsel
AUTHOR
Iain Freeman
Partner
AUTHOR
Lawrence Lee
Partner
AUTHOR
Joseph Abberton
Partner
AUTHOR
Natalie Kam
Partner
AUTHOR
Framy Anne Browne
Partner