PREPARING FOR THE UNKNOWN: How the Coronavirus may impact your business

The strategic response to the increasing spread of COVID-19 is rapidly evolving in Australia and overseas to protect the community and those most vulnerable.  Almost all of us will be impacted in some way as the restrictions have an inevitable economic cost and there remains prevailing uncertainty while the virus is uncontained.  One thing we do know is that the unfolding challenge is without precedent, the impacts are being hard felt and it is important that you are aware of how you, as an individual, and your business may be impacted.

Due to the current and impending restrictions being implemented in Australia, and those that are presently being implemented in countries within Europe and in China, it may no longer be feasible to comply with certain contractual obligations that you owe to other parties, through no fault of your own.   Similarly, there may be obligations owed to you pursuant to certain contracts that may not come to fruition, either at all, or within the time within which they should be.  A review of your terms and conditions of trade is essential for any business and that review might help you formulate strategies to meet the challenges that we are all facing.

Almost all businesses will be impacted in the coming weeks and, perhaps, months, by the evolving strategies that have, and will be, implemented worldwide to fight its spread.  If you:

  • Have existing contractual rights, liabilities and obligations, it will be important to consider how you respond if the performance of the contract is made difficult or impossible;
  • Rely on the supply of materials from overseas or interstate, your supply chain will invariably disrupted;
  • Employ staff, you need to understand how Australia’s workplace laws operate so that you can comply with your obligations to your employees, including the obligation to provide a safe workplace for all employees;
  • Are a landlord or a tenant of commercial premises, there might be obligations that cannot be complied with which could lead to a default, or perhaps you need special agreements for rent concessions and the like; or
  • Are buying or selling a property, lenders may further limit a prospective purchasers’ ability to borrow funds and with the possibility that the market may soften, there may be a decrease in the number of transactions as investors look for other opportunities awaiting a better understanding of the long term impacts of the virus.

It is imperative that you know and understand your rights and entitlements under the relevant contractual and legislative framework, as well as those at common law, which regulate how to respond to these uncertain times.  Further disruption due to the implementation of tougher measures to fight the spread of the virus are anticipated.

If you are concerned that you, or your business, may be impacted by COVID-19, we encourage you to seek legal advice and stay on the front foot.  A review of your contractual obligations and advice on any future developments that impact your business will help you identify and mitigate, where possible, the risks that you or your business may be exposed to.  Even if you are well-equipped to navigate the unchartered territory that lies ahead, now might be the time to review how you are doing business and update your terms and conditions of trade so that you can safeguard against future risks before the impacts are felt.

For more information or to seek assistance, please contact our Partners, Elias Farah on elias@commercialandlegal.com.au or Nicholas Graham on nicholas@commercialandlegal.com.au, or alternatively, call our office on (08) 8206 8444 to find out more information.

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