As the nation opens from COVID, with property investment and development on a high, and recent indicators reflecting low levels of small business collapses; lawyers are experiencing an upsurge in contractual disputes from the construction industry and small business in particular; with the expectation disputes and litigation will continue to rise well into next year.
Commercial & Legal Partner Nick Graham expects legal action will reach record levels across the board as businesses seek to recoup damages, losses and inconvenience flowing from the pandemic. “We have been playing a critical role in helping business weather the storm posed by an increase in disputes. These last 18 months were particularly disruptive with the pandemic wreaking untold economic and social havoc, causing businesses to contend with occupancy, staffing and general operational issues arising from lockdowns and cancelled contracts; all while trying to navigate increased regulation and obligations across a wide variety of areas.”
“Essentially Covid-related economic uncertainty, and the increase in litigation that comes hand-in-hand with it, will continue to feature heavily for the foreseeable future as impacted businesses look to rebuild and claw back losses.”
Mr Graham suggests when confronting a dispute, the options available to businesses will depend on the facts of the matter, records, quantum of loss and most importantly the desired outcome. If you want to preserve your business relationship with the other party, it’s worth considering some form of alternative dispute resolution or mediation. While if you just want to get your money or to finish the contract and move on, it may be better to formally call in your debt with the assistance of a lawyer or, if necessary, take the matter to court. In any event, even if matters do proceed to court, it’s worth attempting to reach a commercial resolution wherever possible.
“However, pandemic impacts aside, disputes are generally predicted to rise year-onyear in 2022, with increased contract/commercial disputes, labour issues and insurance cited most often as the top areas of concern from business groups.” As we rapidly shift to the post pandemic new norm it is important for businesses to also consider their resourcing model including workplace policies and strategies to reflect continued hybrid and work from home environments. In particular, businesses will need to consider their workplace, health and safety obligations to employees and consider the viability of implementing vaccine mandates to protect their workforce. This will be imperative to avoiding inevitable disputes.
Article by @nicholas Graham
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