We all know how many people suffered during COVID, both those who were ill, and those who suffered from the side effects of the pandemic, such as seeing their businesses suffer or had to deal with stresses of working from home, either being isolated for long periods, or having to juggle work and parenting in confined quarters.

Of course, there are plenty of people who exploited the situation too. We are starting to see prosecutions of people who took bounce back loans that they were not entitled to, and those who applied for furlough relief whilst still expecting their staff to work.

We all knew that people like that were doing wrong. The only question was whether (and if so to what extent) they would be pursued.

What has been interesting is the number of people who believe that the word COVID will solve everything. That all they have to do is say to their employers, employees, opponents or the courts that they couldn’t do what they were required to do because of COVID and that will be the end of the matter. Whilst I told clients and potential clients that this was not the case, it is only now that we are starting to see results from the courts, who, unsurprisingly are agreeing with us.

Earlier in the year I saw a company trying to have a judgement set aside, saying that the only reason judgment was entered against them was because of COVID. However, the party in question consisted of an office of five people, and there had been a number of steps they could and should have taken, but hadn’t, and there was no evidence that any of them had been unwell and so couldn’t comply. Unsurprisingly, the court would not set the judgment aside, and awarded costs against them.

More recently, the first cases going through the Employment Tribunal are starting to make it to appeal. Not only are tribunals not sympathetic to those that believe that COVID fixes everything, but the higher courts are agreeing. For example, in Leeds an employee tried to argue that his dismissal was automatically unfair, because his refusal to go into the office was justified due to fears relating to COVID. The Tribunal disagreed, and so did the Employment Appeal Tribunal. That doesn’t mean that a fear of this kind could not make a dismissal unfair, but simply that it is not automatically unfair and will turn on the facts of the case.

Of course, if you have genuinely been affected by COVID, Courts and Tribunals will do what they can to provide you with the protection you deserve, but if you are in dispute with someone who is relying on COVID without any justification or evidence, the Courts will not take it lying down.

Kleyman & Co Solicitors. The full service law firm. Our advice won’t make you ill.