Along with mince pies, turkey and the Queen’s speech, the shutdown of the construction industry in the UK over the Christmas period is a long-standing tradition.
Whilst there is no general legal requirement to do so, many construction companies close over the Christmas period as a matter of custom and practice. This year, the last working day for many in the construction industry will be Friday 19 December. Most of the widely used standard forms of construction contract, such as the JCT or the NEC, do not expressly deal with this Christmas shutdown. Instead, this is factored within the programme for works.
However, while the construction industry may take a festive hiatus, the construction dispute industry does not always follow suit. Under any construction contract within the remit of the “Construction Act” (which most are), there is a statutory entitlement for both parties to refer any dispute atany time to adjudication. Adjudication is a 28 day dispute resolution procedure where weekends count as days and only Christmas Day and Bank Holidays are excluded.
Despite supposedly being the season of goodwill, it is not an uncommon practice for an adjudication to be commenced on Christmas Eve. This would mean that (unless an extension of time is granted by the adjudicator) the deadline for a response by the defending party could be as short as 7 days from receipt of the adjudication referral notice.
So our top Christmas tips are:-
- tackle or defuse potential disputes before the festive period and think about pre-preparing your position;
- ensure that there is a system in place for checking and taking action on post over the festive period if there are certain 'local difficulties' ; and
- if you return to find an adjudication notice on your desk, take action on this immediately to avoid the risk of an adverse adjudication decision being made against you.