TRENDS – 20th August 2020

This is our second article in the ‘Trends’ series, looking at legal and other recent trends.

 

  1. Employment matters.

In a recession, employment disputes usually increase. What is different this time is the scale of disputes. This is combined with a regulatory blitz, particularly in Queensland and Victoria, and some ‘interesting’ court decisions. Company Directors have reason to feel vulnerable.

We have seen a substantial increase in work in the areas of work health and safety, employment contracts and disputes, and general preparation for the ongoing regulatory impositions. One would think that governments would have better things to do at present. The new regulations, as with all bureaucracy, are focused on paperwork. If your business has a documented Work Health and Safety Plan and well-documented employment contracts and procedures, the bureaucrats are far less likely to get involved.

 

  1. Family Law.

Another trend (and not a good one) has been the increase in family law matters. Again, this area always increases when recession is upon us, but of course there are other stresses on all Australians this time around. Unfortunately, there is not much advice we can give as to how to avoid this issue! Hopefully you won’t need our help in this area.

 

  1. Commercial Property.

The National Code of Conduct for commercial tenancies was brought in to deal with the COVID-19 situation. We have advised many Landlords and Tenants as to the operation of the Code.We take the view that the Code at least forms a basis for Landlords and Tenants to enter into discussions, but these discussions are never easy.

Surprisingly, commercial building valuations are not falling to any great extent in our experience. Retail may be tougher in the months to come.

 

  1. Coronavirus-related cancellations.

As you would expect, contractual disputes are increasing. In particular, businesses are hardening their position on refunds and cancellations as trading conditions tighten. There is a risk that long-established trading relationships will unravel as businesses, facing their own cash flow challenges, start to tighten up their refunds policies. There are some complicated legal principles at stake in these matters including issues around frustration of contracts and whether there has been a complete failure of consideration for the contract.

We are urging our clients to get onto these issues early and to preserve business relationships wherever possible.

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