Charlotte Lines and Naomi Ramsay have joined Wilkes as newly qualified solicitors in the Corporate and Private Client Teams respectively.

Having first joined Wilkes as a trainee solicitor in 2018 Charlotte Lines joins our busy Corporate team and will advise clients on a wide range of corporate transactions including mergers and acquisitions, management buyouts, disposals, company reorganisations and share buy-backs.

Naomi joins the Private Client team having successfully completed her training contract at a local Birmingham based firm. Naomi will predominantly be working from our Solihull offices and will advise our clients across the full spectrum of private client services such as, Wills & Tax Planning, Trusts & Trust Administration, Court of Protection matters and Lasting Powers of Attorney.

Ellie Holland, Managing Partner at Wilkes said;

“2020 has been a challenging year for everyone and as a firm we are fortunate to be in a position where we are able to grow two of our core teams. We are delighted to be able to welcome Charlotte and Naomi to Wilkes and wish them every success as they develop their legal careers.”

“Both Charlotte and Naomi are talented young solicitors who have already demonstrated they are able to hit the ground running and I am sure they will prove themselves to be valuable assets to our firm.”


In this video Rick Smyth, Partner in the Corporate Team and Helen Smart, Solicitor in the Corporate & Commercial Team discuss the state of the corporate market and offer some useful insights for shareholders and directors.

If you have any questions in relation to any matter arising from this video update please contact rsmyth@wilkes.co.uk or hsmart@wilkes.co.uk.

As part of our COVID-19 Helpline & Resource Centre we are offering a no cost, no obligation, initial consultation to businesses and individuals affected by COVID-19. Please email helpline@wilkes.co.uk to take advantage of this offer or call us on 0121 733 4303.

As the UK starts to turn its attention to life after lockdown and businesses begin to reopen, the need to adhere to social distancing remains. For businesses to be able to comply with these measures more space will be needed. Proposals to encourage local authorities to close high streets and redirect traffic away from town centres have encountered opposition.

Leenamari Aantaa-Collier, Partner and Head of the Planning & Regulatory Team at Wilkes explores how these much-needed changes are set to impact towns and cities across the UK.

Current proposals aim to make social distancing easier and create more room for walking and cycling, as well as providing the extra space businesses need to continue trading. The challenge being that in our already crowded towns and cities the only additional space is on local roads, including high streets.

“Traffic Regulation Orders (TRO’s) are orders issued by local authorities allowing them to close roads and redirect traffic. The solution that the government has implemented has been to amend the current TRO procedure, streamlining the processes so councils can speedily apply TRO’s within a week of notification” says Leenamari.

“Traffic modelling, particularly in smaller towns and cities is complex, and the speed at which these orders can be issued will not allow adequate time for this. Therefore, traffic will be pushed into the surrounding residential areas creating increased congestion and problems for local businesses.

The safety of schoolchildren, the elderly and all vulnerable groups using narrow roads and pavements also needs to be considered. In some of the smaller towns around the West Midlands such as Kenilworth, Warwick and Knowle, these orders may not be practical at all.”

Leenamari continues: “Shopkeepers, food and hospitality businesses have been working hard to keep their businesses operating, many rely on large deliveries which will no longer be able to easily access business premises. Others who have moved to a click and collect service, and restaurants and pubs who have diversified to deliver food or become a takeaway, may have to close again if vehicles are banned from the High Street.”

Creating a balance

“Careful consideration needs to be given regarding the use of TRO’s to ensure they are not detrimental to local residents and businesses. If the traffic can’t get to the towns and cities due to poor traffic management, that could potentially be more detrimental for businesses and in turn the wider economy than the issue around lack of space.

Of course, safety needs to be paramount, but councils should look at creating a flexible hybrid solution which benefits all involved. This could be implementing temporary closures during busy times such as peak shopping hours and weekends, implementing a one-way system or using car parking space to create wider footpaths.”

If you require any advice on a Planning & Regulatory issue please contact Leenamari-Aantaa Collier on 0121 710 5934 or laantaa-collier@wilkes.co.uk.

In light of the current situation surrounding COVID-19 The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors are offering a complimentary, no obligation initial consultation designed to help you understand any issues facing you or your business and help you map out the best route forward.

To take advantage of this offer please call 0121 733 4303 or email helpline@wilkes.co.uk

For the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, a large number of working people in the UK have seen their income decrease and the future of their jobs uncertain. This has been a particularly unsettling time for those who are self-employed who do not have the protection of an employer to lean on in this time of need.

As of 13 May 2020, the government has launched a significant support package to help self-employed workers known as the ‘Self Employed Income Support Scheme’ (SEISS).

The SEISS scheme allows for self-employed workers to apply for a grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profits to help them cope with the financial impact of coronavirus. This is averaged over the last 3 tax years and subject to a maximum of £7,500 per month.

The rules for working out average pay are complicated. But if you are potentially eligible for the grant HMRC will make contact directly and invite those who qualify to submit a claim. HMRC will also work out your average monthly profits for the purposes of the scheme.

The SEISS scheme is now a part of package of measures target to assist the self-employed. Those measures include:

  • Suspending the minimum income threshold to gain access to Universal Credit
  • Deferring Self-Assessment income tax payments
  • Deferring VAT payments
  • Emergency business loans in the form of:
    • the Business Interruption Loan Scheme
    • the Bounce Back Loan

HMRC estimates that 3.8 million self-employed workers could qualify under the SEISS scheme.There are useful on-line guidance notes produced by HMRC which you can read here.

There is also an online tool for self-employed individuals to check whether they are eligible.

Jas Dubb comments “The SEISS scheme comes as part of a raft of measures taken by government to try and stabilise the economic fallout from the COVID 19 pandemic.  Sensibly the government has had to look at the full spectrum of the UK workforce to provide targeted support to prop up the economy.”.

For any further guidance in relation to this update, or any other employment law related matter, please contact Jas Dubb on 0121 710  5929 or any member of the Employment Team at The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors at employment@wilkes.co.uk.

On Sunday 10 May 2020 the UK Government announced a “road map” to recovery in relation to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic that hit the country in March this year.

As the lockdown restrictions are eased businesses will face different challenges ranging from getting staff back to work and decisions on when to relax furlough leave and whether there is a need around cutting costs and making redundancies.

James Leo, Head of Employment Law at The Wilkes Partnership considers the guidance on offer to assist employers, businesses and their staff in returning to work after lockdown.

Returning to the workplace

While it is advised employees who can work from home continue to do so, the government’s plans for returning to the workplace continues to emerge. This includes specific guidance for eight different sectors including construction, other outdoor workers, warehouses, labs and research facilities, contact centres and offices. Other guidance considers working in other people’s homes such as cleaners, restaurants offering takeaway or delivery, shops and similar environments and people who work in or from vehicles.

It is important for businesses to ensure they can meet a certain criteria before allowing their employees back to the workplace. This will include questions such as:

Is it essential?

As stressed by the government if people can continue to work from home they must continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

Is it safe?

Employers have a duty of care to manage and identify risks. This is to ensure it is safe to return to work and that there are sufficient safety measures in place such as protective equipment (e.g. gloves, hand sanitiser). In line with government guidance, social distancing measures are still in place and employers need to determine whether the two meter rule can be maintained. Employers are urged to take their time with gradual returns to work to test health and safety measures in practice and ensure they can work with larger numbers.

Is it mutually agreed with employees?

There should be a clear dialogue between employers and their staff. This can address any concerns employees may have such as travelling to and from work. Flexibility is required on both sides to accommodate working times and managing risks. Employers should be aware that some employees may not feel comfortable returning to work at this early stage. It may be that this will gain a great deal of friction in the coming weeks and months.  If not handled carefully, the issue may lead to claims for disability discrimination under the Equality Act 2010 (“EA 2010”), constructive dismissal, unfair dismissal for health and safety issues under the Employment Rights Act s100 (“ERA 1996”) and detriments suffered as a result of not attending work due to health and safety concerns under s44 ERA 1996.

In particular Under s100(1)(d) and (e)  ERA 1996 an employee will be deemed as unfairly dismissed if the principal reason for dismissal is that in “circumstances of danger which the employee reasonably believed to be serious and imminent”.  Employers should listen to their employees’ concerns about returning to work, consider whether the employee in question suffers from any underlying medical condition which makes them vulnerable to the virus and also to consider if they suffer from a disability requiring adjustments to be made.

Short-term working/ Redundancies

The government furlough scheme has been extended to October 2020. When planning a return to the workplace, a business may decide not all of the existing workforce will be needed.

This may create a situation whereby it starts to consider:-

  • Reduced working hours
  • Continuing furlough leave for employees
  • Furloughing other members of staff
  • Recruitment freezing
  • Redundancy
Reduced hours 

Employers may want to consider reducing the working hours for staff if there is a reduced level of work upon returning. This is usually considered  a temporary measure and should be agreed in writing.

Further furlough

Employers should check their furlough letter to individual staff in order to see if it included a specific date for return and whether a specific percentage salary payment was included. If employers wish to continue to keep employees furloughed it may be worth updating their letters in order to make further updated agreements with staff for the continuance of furlough leave and payment rates.

Redundancy

Employers may not be able to continue trading or there may only be enough business for significantly fewer staff. This may create a need to consider redundancy planning. Employers need to ensure that they follow correct procedures and apply them fairly. Employees have rights in a redundancy situation.

James Leo comments: “Given that the nature and timing of any further relaxation of restrictions is uncertain, it is sensible for a business to consider all options and have the capability to move quickly from one scenario to another”.

For any further guidance on this issue or any other employment related matter, please contact James Leo or a member of the Employment Team at The Wilkes Partnership Solicitors. Alternatively email us at employment@wilkes.co.uk.

In this article Mark Hodgson, Partner in the Real Estate team at Wilkes and Katie Briggs in the Property Litigation team, identify the issues for commercial landlords and tenants as a result of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and what action can still be taken by landlords if rent is not paid during lockdown of which commercial tenants should take note.

The March quarter day (25th) fell due for tenants shortly after the lockdown was announced and The Coronavirus Act 2020 was brought in by the Government. Section 82 of the new legislation is important for landlords and tenants at commercial properties.

There have been concerns on both sides regarding the rent due from tenants who are struggling to pay whilst the lockdown continues and retail units cannot open. This has then undoubtedly affected the income stream for landlords and any associated mortgage or loan payments due.

Section 82 under the Act itself introduced a moratorium on forfeiture of leases until 30th June 2020 as a result of a tenant being unable to pay the rent due during this period. Under normal circumstances a landlord would be entitled to re-enter the premises and change the locks or alternatively issue proceedings on the basis of forfeiture. Additionally, during this period any demand for rent or conduct by a landlord suggesting a lease exists will not amount to a waiver of the right to forfeit a lease. The date of 30th June 2020 is subject to review and may be extended by the government as necessary. During this period the rent remains due and once the moratorium has been lifted landlords will be entitled to forfeit leases for any unpaid rent.

Whilst it has been possible for some agreements to be reached between landlords and tenants, in terms of rent holidays, rent reductions (on a temporary basis) and allowance for payments to be made monthly, some tenants have failed to make any payment or even communicate with their landlord to agree any temporary measure until 30th June 2020.

Recently, on 23rd April 2020, the government announced a moratorium would be placed on insolvency proceedings with a ban on the temporary use by landlords in issuing statutory demands (presented during 1 March and 30 June 2020) or winding up petitions (presented from 27 April to 30 June 2020) against their tenants who have not paid the rent due. This moratorium is expected to last until 30th June 2020 but the legislation has not yet been passed to confirm the specifics of this moratorium. A general stay has been imposed on all winding up petitions by the Companies Court in any event.

The Government have further proposed restrictions on recovery of rent through the use of Commercial Rent Arrears Recovery (CRAR) save for rent which has been due and outstanding for 90 or more which can still be enforced using this method.

This procedure would usually allow landlords of a commercial premises to instruct an enforcement agent (for example a certificated bailiff), after giving 7 days’ notice, to take control of a tenant’s goods and sell them in order to recover the value of the rent arrears.

If a Landlord were to proceed down this route, it would waive their right to forfeit for the current arrears, although a new right would accrue if rent due on the next rent payment date is unpaid.

Landlords remain able to use other methods of enforcement with tenants who do not agree any concessions for rent during this period or are utilising this time to avoid making any payment at all.

These include the following:

Sue for arrears

The Landlord may issue a demand for payment, coupled with a threat that County Court Proceedings will be issued on expiry of the deadline set in the demand in default of payment.

Although this can be an effective tool, court proceedings considered to be money claims are being generally adjourned by courts at present so the process is unlikely to elicit the rent or money due from the tenant for a few months. Court proceedings of this nature are often rejected in favour of other methods of recovery because they can be expensive, and it can take months to receive a hearing date, if there are any grounds to dispute the demand. In this time, the lockdown and moratorium may have been lifted. It is worth bearing in that at that juncture the landlord could consider forfeiting the lease instead which would be a quicker and cheaper method to utilise.

Pursuing a guarantor

If a person or company has agreed to act as a guarantor for the tenant’s covenants under the lease, it is open to the landlord to consider pursuing them if the tenant is in arrears of rent.

Depending on the provisions in the lease and the guarantee given by the guarantor, the usual way to enforce the guarantor’s obligations would be to issue court proceedings.  A landlord may also, in certain circumstances, be able to claim against a former tenant of the premises.

Rent Deposit

Depending on the terms of any rent deposit deed landlords may wish to consider utilising the deposit against rent arrears due from the tenant. The tenant will need to replace the deposit at a later date but would alleviate the pressure for both landlord and tenant during the interim.

To conclude, how the landlord proceeds is dependent on the solvency of the tenant and whether the landlord wants to prioritise retaining the tenant once the moratorium has been lifted. Any agreement regarding the rent during this period should be set out in a side letter to ensure it is clear this is temporary measure and not a variation of the lease terms generally.

Mark and Katie recommend that the first course of action is to start a dialogue with the landlord to achieve a sensible and reasonable compromise.

Any assistance required in achieving an agreement can be dealt with the team at Wilkes. Mark can be contacted on 0121 710 5848 and Katie on 0121 710 5839 or via email at mhodgson@wilkes.co.uk or kbriggs@wilkes.co.uk.

In this video Jeremy Parkin and Helen Smart from Wilkes Corporate & Commercial teams discuss commercial contracts in the wake of COVID-19.

If you have any questions in relation to any matter arising from this video update you can contact Jeremy Parkin at jparkin@wilkes.co.uk or Helen Smart on hsmart@wilkes.co.uk.

As part of our COVID-19 Helpline & Resource Centre we are offering a no cost, no obligation, initial consultation to businesses and individuals affected by COVID-19. You can also stay up-to-date with our latest legal updates by clicking the button below.

The evolving situation surrounding COVID-19 is causing unprecedented disruption to businesses and individuals around the globe. Every business is having to make swift and decisive decisions on a daily basis to protect jobs and ensure the future success and ultimately the survival of their businesses.

Being an owner-managed business ourselves we are feeling the impact in the same way as many of our clients. At times like these business owners and leaders must pull together to proactively plan a sustainable route forward.

Our lawyers are working around the clock to service clients, providing them with proactive advice across the full spectrum of legal services.

COVID-19 Helpline

With this is mind we are offering clients a no cost, no obligation, initial consultation designed to help you understand any issues facing you or your business and help you map out the best route forward.

To take advantage of this offer please contact our COVID-19 Helpline which will be manned Monday – Friday between the hours of 9am-5pm.

Calls made outside of these hours will go to voicemail and a member of the team will be in touch as soon as possible the next working day.

Once your initial requirements have been identified, we will then schedule a convenient time for your consultation with the relevant legal specialist.

Please call 0121 733 4303 or email helpline@wilkes.co.uk

Resource Centre

Our newly launched COVID-19 Resource Centre is there to provide you with our latest thinking and commentary on issues relevant to you and your business.

In light of the challenges presented to businesses from the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) the government announced emergency legislation in the form of the Working Time (Coronavirus Amendment) Regulations 2020 (“the 2020 Regulations”).

The 2020 Regulations were brought into force with effect from 26 March 2020 and allow workers to carry over up to four weeks’ annual leave into the next two leave years.

Pam Sidhu, Senior Associate Solicitor at Wilkes, considers what effect this will have on businesses.

What are the changes and what does this mean?

The 2020 Regulations amend the Working Time Regulations 1998 (“WTR”) and ease the requirements on businesses to ensure that workers take their annual leave in any one year. Under Regulation 13, employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks’ annual leave each year pursuant to EU law. Regulation 13(9) WTR provides that this period of leave may be taken in the leave year only in respect of which it is due; it may only be replaced by a payment in lieu where the worker’s employment is terminated.

The 2020 Regulations amend Regulation 13 of the WTR to permit the carry-over of any of such untaken leave where it was not reasonably practicable to take it in the leave year “as a result of the effects of the coronavirus (including on the worker, the employer or the wider economy or society)“. Carried-over leave may be taken in the two leave years immediately following the leave year in respect of which it was due.

The 2020 Regulations also limit an employer’s ability to refuse an employee taking leave on a particular day. Under the WTR, employers were able to require a worker to not take leave on a particular day provided notice was given in accordance the WTR. However, the 2020 Regulations introduce a new requirement that employers will only be able to refuse leave where the employer has “good reason” to do so.

These changes do not apply to the additional 1.6 weeks’ annual leave granted by Regulation 13A of the WTR, which can still be carried forward one leave year (but not further) through an agreement between workers and their employers.

Pam Sidhu explains, “Under the WTR, there is an obligation on employers to ensure their workers take their statutory entitlement in any one year and failure to do so could result in a financial penalty. The 2020 Regulations are aimed at allowing businesses under particular pressure from the impacts of COVID-19 the flexibility to better manage their workforce, while protecting workers’ right to paid holiday. These measures will also provide workers with the security that they can carry over holiday into the next two leave years, where it is not possible or practicable for them to take some, or all, of the holiday they are entitled to due to coronavirus.” 

For any further guidance on this issue or any other Employment related matter, please contact Pam Sidhu on psidhu@wilkes.co.uk or 0121 710 5815.

Most commercial contracts will contain a number of standard clauses that the parties will have paid very little attention to. Such clauses, commonly referred to as “boilerplate” clauses, will have been included to cover off various technical legal points.

One of the most common – and least used – of these clauses is a “force majeure” clause. Yet amid the economic uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, these little used clauses might be about to come into their own.

The basis of any contract is to set out what obligations the parties have to each other – essentially, what they have agreed to do to fulfil their part of the bargain. However, very occasionally a party is impeded or prevented from performing its’ obligations as a result of events beyond its’ control. Such an event or circumstance can be a force majeure event.

A force majeure clause – often nestling toward the end of what may be a lengthy contract – will set out the requirements for establishing the existence of a force majeure event in that particular contract. All contracts and clauses are different, but force majeure clauses generally contain some fundamental characteristics.

To invoke the clause, a party will often need to prove that some event has occurred which is beyond that party’s control; that this event could not have reasonably been foreseen when the contract was agreed; and that the effects could not have been avoided or overcome by that party.

The outbreak of a “new” virus resulting in a global pandemic which has largely paralysed economies across the world, would seem to tick all of those boxes.

If a party to a commercial contract is able to successfully rely on a force majeure clause, typically that party can: –
  1. Avoid having to perform the contractual obligations which have been impeded or prevented; and
  2. Avoid having any liability to pay damages for breach of contract during the period that the force majeure event impedes or prevents that party performing the contract.

Often the other party is then also permitted to suspend their performance of the contract – so the contract is effectively “put on hold” whilst the force majeure event is ongoing.

Gavin Evans, Partner in the Commercial Dispute Resolution team at The Wilkes Partnership, comments: –

“The current disruption is exactly the type of event that force majeure clauses were designed for. So now is the time to dust off those clauses and see if they can help your business out of a potentially difficult situation. We can review your contracts and advise on the particular clauses that may be relevant. We can also assist in negotiating with the other party in order to resolve any disputes at an early stage and help to protect you and your business.”

For further information or to discuss how we can help you, contact Gavin Evans at The Wilkes Partnership on 0121 710 5950 or by email at gevans@wilkes.co.uk