Christmas is a happy time for most, home with family or out with friends.
But while you’re sipping eggnog, there’s every chance that some kind of ticking time bomb is waiting for you back on site or at the office.
So while you’ve got a few minutes, try to defuse as many of those as possible before you head off for the year.
Check your Ongoing Contracts for Time Frames
Sure, your programme probably has an allowance for shutdown, but does that mean all the other parts of your contract do too?
What about variations, dispute notices, delay claims and show cause notices? Could you be receiving these over the break? Do you have to be issuing these over the break?
So – check the time frames in your active contracts so you know what needs to happen.
Call Your Registered Office
Many companies use accountants as their registered offices – but are they open over Christmas?
What happens if you receive an adjudication, a statutory demand, a Court action while your accountants are closed? Have they made arrangements for that and who to get it to? Is that person going to be checking emails?
Make sure you’ve confirmed a working system should your registered office get served with documents on your behalf. Just because your registered office is shut doesn’t mean that the documents won’t be counted as having been served.
If You’ve Still Got One, Unplug The Fax Machine
Bafflingly, many contracts still provide for service of documents by facsimile.
And, more often than not, proof of that service taking place is simply the transmission report that the sender will get – it doesn’t matter that nobody is there at the other end.
The easiest way to fix this? If you still have a fax, then unplug it.
Clear, Delegated Authority
If your management team is going to be hard to find, then having a clear system of delegated and empowered authority is important should the unexpected things come up over the break.
Who can sign letters, instruct lawyers, respond to notices or make decisions while management isn’t there? Do you need to relax some of the normal decision making procedures over Christmas?
As far as possible, help people who are going to be at the office understand what they can and cannot do if something outside the ordinary happens over the break.
Normal days are filled with safety-related matters. Fire wardens, first aid officers, management decision making and responsible persons.
But what happens if they are all away? Is a contingency plan in place? Is that plan compliant with your workplace obligations?
And beyond your own compliance, there is the security of your site and your staff. With fewer people present, does the security risk increase?
Be clear about the safety of your site and staff, and the ongoing compliance of your organisation over the break if a minimal staff presence is being maintained.
Open All the Mail
All of your contracts, by and large, contain a certain array of addresses at which people might serve you with documents.
Beyond that, you have your registered office (see above) and your places of business where people might try to send you correspondence.
And, of course, you have your PO Box(es) and site offices which might also get some mail from time to time.
So – who is going to open that? And once opened, does the person opening things understand how to recognise what needs immediate attention or not? Some notices are quite benign looking and can easily be wrongly ignored.
Apart from anything else, running the gauntlet of an argument that something wasn’t served properly is both more expensive and less preferable than actually just dealing with the thing.
Emergency Corporate Decision Making
In a multiple director company, or where management decisions are made by consensus, it might be necessary to have a “Christmas Break” delegated authority to enable certain emergency corporate decisions to be made in the absence of one or more usual participants.
Why? Because if the director is on holidays in the Bahamas without a phone signal or internet access, and unanimous board approval is normally needed to authorise an expense over $10,000, but that money absolutely needs to be paid out – then you’re stuck.
And being stuck is bad.
What else do you try to ensure gets sorted over the Christmas holidays so you don’t come back to a gigantic mess?