The Cabinet Office published its guidance note on “Responsible contractual behaviour in the performance and enforcement of contracts impacted by the COVID-19 emergency” on 7 May 2020. The note sets out “guidance and recommendations” on “responsible and fair behaviour” in the current climate and makes clear the Government’s view that
“It is also right that individuals and businesses … consider their behaviour as part of the national response to the public health emergency we are currently facing”.
The paper lists 15 areas in which the behaviour it encourages should be observed. They run from requesting and giving time to perform contracts, returning deposits and part payments, giving notices, exercising remedies for impaired performance, making and responding to requests for changes and variations through to making claims, mediation and enforcing judgments.
Businesses are asked to behave in a way that will “support the response to Covid-19 and protect jobs and the economy” but, as the note makes clear, it is guidance only, albeit guidance that is “strongly” encouraged. Whether the guidance will be heeded, and whether parties will try to rely on it in court, remains to be seen, but its spirit is certainly sensible.