Caution urged amid diverging approaches to Covid-19

Law Society of England and Wales president Simon Davis today urged solicitors’ firms to exercise caution amid the diverging messages from the different governments in England and Wales in the latest detailed guidance on working safely during the pandemic.

“Downing Street is clearly moving towards a gradual easing of restrictions in England requiring firms to conduct a risk assessment, create an action plan to manage those risks and follow practical steps on workforce management to help their staff and clients to be safe,” said Simon Davis.

“This situation continues to present a number of dilemmas for employers and employees alike which will need careful consideration.

“When functions of the justice system begin to wind up again – such as jury trials potentially restarting next week – it is imperative that good hygiene and appropriate distancing are maintained.

“However, the extent of the roll-out will depend on the ability of each court to meet those requirements. Some courts i.e. those with newer, larger courtrooms – will find it easier than others. The priority must be to carefully balance access to justice with safety as the easing of restrictions are planned in the coming weeks.

“The KPMG report we commissioned earlier this year showed that in 2018 legal services supported an estimated 552,000 full time employees – 358,000 directly in the legal services sector; 150,000 indirectly in the legal services supply chain; 43,000 more supported through the spending of direct and indirect employees’ wages within the UK economy.

“It contributed nearly £60bn total Gross Value Added to the UK economy in 2018 while in 2017 legal services exports hit approximately £5bn.

“This, by any reckoning, is a serious contribution to UK PLC and we remain very concerned about the impact of this period on firms, on solicitors and on the public’s access to justice.

“By virtue of their work, solicitors are naturally risk managers and will certainly appreciate that as lockdown eases we will all have to be cautious and adaptive. Amid the tragedy we have all learned important lessons from the past few weeks and we need to take these into the next phase.

“I would urge all our members to be vigilant as government advice evolves.

“We also should be careful to make sure we keep our employees informed and work together so that the legal profession is agile in its ability to adapt, protecting each other and our clients, finding ways of working in these unchartered waters. For our part, the Law Society will be working tirelessly to ensure we support our members through yet another difficult time.”

Notes to editors

The UK government published guidance on 11 May on offices which covers the following areas:

  • Risk management
  • Who should go to work
  • Social distancing at work
  • Managing clients, visitors and contractors
  • Cleaning the workplace
  • Personal protective equipment (PPE) and face coverings
  • Workforce management
  • Inbound and outbound goods

See the UK government's guidance

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