Call for clarity on COVID-status certification plans

Employers and employees need detailed guidance from the government over its COVID-status certification plans – where vaccination data or testing is used to indicate if people have a lower risk of getting sick with or transmitting COVID-19 to others – solicitors’ leaders warned today.

The Law Society of England and Wales has published its response to the Cabinet Office’s call for evidence on COVID-status certification, focusing on the impact it will have on our members’ workplaces and their ways of working.*

“The more detailed the government guidance on how to use the proposed scheme, the more clarity employers and employees will have,” said Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce.

“If the guidance is not comprehensive, there is a risk the objectives of the scheme will not be fulfilled and/or that further strain will be placed on the courts and tribunal system as people seek clarity through litigation. This would not be a good use of an already heavily burdened justice system.”

Factors we say should be considered include:

  • existing guidance: what implications does the proposed scheme have on existing COVID-secure guidance – such as social distancing in the workplace and workplace testing – and how will government ensure that no one is unduly disadvantaged as a result of not yet being given access to the vaccine?
  • places in which solicitors regularly work: in evaluating risks to their employees, firms will wish to understand the arrangements in place for settings in which solicitors regularly work – such as courts, police stations and places of detention. They will also need to understand what certification their employees will need in order to access such settings
  • discrimination: the Equality Act 2010 prohibits employers from discriminating against employees for reasons including age, race, disability, pregnancy and religious belief. In developing the scheme, the government must consider carefully the potential impacts on people sharing different protected characteristics and how those impacts could be mitigated
  • data: high levels of security will be needed for both the technology the government uses for the COVID-status certification and the data-processing mechanisms used by  employers who may be required to check the certificate. The public will want to be confident that the data will only be used for very specific and limited purposes

“We hope that there will be opportunity to provide views on the scheme once the government decides how it wishes to proceed,” concluded I. Stephanie Boyce.

Notes for editors

* “COVID-status certification” refers to the use of testing or vaccination data to confirm in different settings that individuals have a lower risk of getting sick with or transmitting COVID-19 to others.

See the government consultation and read our response.

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Press office contact: Nick Mayo | 020 8049 4100

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