With the country-wide lockdown having largely come to an end in the UK, restrictions have been eased and businesses will undoubtedly be formulating bounce-back plans to take their business from survival mode to a position close to their former trading conditions.
Businesses will be evaluating their position in a range of areas including their finances, furloughed staff, office safety and of course, contracts with suppliers and customers.
Dan Dowen, Commercial Contracts Associate Solicitor at Berry Smith, sets out below, some of the main contractual issues businesses should consider in their post-lockdown plans.
It is likely that businesses may experience issues with either not being able to pay suppliers on time or customers not being able to make timely payments to them. In such circumstances, businesses should try to enter into a payment agreement with customers and suppliers. Agreeing a timetable of estimated payment dates or grace periods will avoid disputes.
Renegotiating and terminating contracts
There may be contracts that are no longer profitable to a business or there may be terms within existing contracts that are no longer possible to adhere to in which case, it may be possible to renegotiate the terms of the contract if all parties to a contract agree to enter into such negotiations.
Varying any terms of the contract will require careful analysis to ensure that any variations made to the original terms of the contract are still beneficial for the business and do not carry any negative implications for it.
In regard to termination, the terms of the contract will need to be reviewed to ascertain how, if and under what circumstances, the contract can be terminated. It is highly advisable that you seek legal advice before terminating a contract to avoid any negative consequences such as being liable for breach of contract for terminating it before it’s end date.
Force majeure and updating contracts
We previously published an article on force majeure clauses and how a pandemic can trigger such a clause and enable the parties to terminate the contract (see here). Going forward, businesses should ensure that both existing and future contracts include this clause to ensure that they are afforded protection in case an unanticipated event occurs.
Businesses may benefit from performing a contract audit to review their position in relation to their contractual agreements and then take the necessary steps to rectify any concerns.
How Berry Smith can help
We, at Berry Smith, have assisted and advised numerous businesses in navigating their contractual affairs during these unprecedented times. We have an exceptional understanding of commercial contracts and have the knowledge and experience to offer your business specialist advice on commercial contracts in order to help your business operate as efficiently as possible.
For further information or to discuss how we can help your business, please contact Dan Dowen at firstname.lastname@example.org or alternatively call us on 029 20 345 511 and ask for the commercial team.