Coronavirus (COVID-19) advice for the public
During the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak you may need legal advice now more than ever.
Solicitors are the experts when it comes to the law and how it affects you.
We’ve put together the following advice for:
We’ll update this information regularly to reflect the most recent guidance from government.
Make sure you follow the government guidance on coronavirus at all times.
Using a solicitor
Are solicitors still working?
Most solicitors will be working during this time and can still provide the help and advice you need. However, law firms will be following government guidance and their staff will be working from home.
To find out if a solicitor is working, you can:
- check their website
- call them
They’ll be able to tell you what their working arrangements are and how they can support you.
If you need to find a solicitor, visit our Find a Solicitor website to find contact details for the one nearest to you.
What if I need a solicitor urgently?
To find a solicitor near you, use our free Find a Solicitor website.
It has information on solicitors in England and Wales and lists what kind of work they do.
Most solicitors will be working from home. Look on their website for details or call them to check.
Are solicitors key workers?
The government has made a list of key workers. This includes people “essential to the running of the justice system”. These are:
- advocates (including solicitor advocates) required to appear before a court or tribunal (remotely or in person), including prosecutors
- other legal practitioners required to support the administration of justice including duty solicitors (police station and court) and barristers, solicitors, legal executives, paralegals and others who work on imminent or ongoing court or tribunal hearings
- solicitors acting in connection with the execution of wills
- solicitors and barristers advising people living in institutions or deprived of their liberty
There’s no need to pull out of transactions, but where possible you should delay moving to a new house.
You should work with the other parties to agree a delay or another way to resolve the matter if:
- you’ve already exchanged contracts, and
- the property is currently occupied
If you’re moving into a vacant property, you can continue with the transaction. However, you must follow the government’s guidance on moving house.
Your solicitor will continue to support you through the sales process and will help with the current difficulties of completing transactions.
Speak to your solicitor if you have any questions or concerns about moving to a new house.
Guidance for safe home moving
A quick guide to moving home safely during this period has been created to help you understand what you, and anyone involved in your move, will need to do to provide a safe environment for everyone.
- the estate or letting agent
- the property lawyer
- the photographer
- the energy assessor
- the valuer or surveyor
- the removal company who move you
- someone helping you organise your mortgage
This guidance is aligned with the UK government's COVID-19 recovery strategy and advice on home moving during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Making or amending a will
Solicitors who draw up wills are classed as key workers.
Most law firms can take instructions over the phone and have set up procedures for the signing of wills whilst the stay-at-home measures are in place.
If you already have a solicitor, they’ll be able to tell you what procedure their firm is using.
If you need to find a solicitor, visit our Find a Solicitor website and use the quick search option "Wills and probate" to find your nearest solicitor.
Choosing a law firm that’s a member of our Wills and Inheritance Quality Scheme means your solicitor will meet our high standards for wills and probate services. You’ll be using a specialist legal professional who is regulated and insured.
The government has produced guidance for employees on:
- going to work
- staying at home
- sick pay
- furloughed workers
- claiming benefits
Job Retention Scheme
The government wants to help organisations to keep as many workers as possible on their pay roll until the longer-term economic impact of coronavirus are known.
The Job Retention Scheme is an economic package to help UK employers, regardless of size or sector, pay the wages of workers who would otherwise have been made redundant due to coronavirus.
Through the Scheme you can claim a grant to cover 80% of a worker’s salary who you’ve furloughed, up to £2,500 a month.
The scheme is backdated to 1 March 2020 and will run for at least three months.
Furlough: your employment rights
The scheme does not directly change the employment relationship between employer and worker. This means that you may need to agree a contractual change with your employer if you’re furloughed. Employment and equality law applies to this process.
If you need legal advice visit our Find a Solicitor website and use the quick search option "Employment" to find your nearest solicitor.
If you’re a trade union member, you may be able to get legal advice from a solicitor appointed by the union.
Can my employer force me to return to the office?
Before coronavirus, the answer to this question would be yes. Most employment contracts require a person to be available for work at a specific location and during a certain time. If you refuse to do as instructed then you are breaching your employment contract, and face the possibility of being dismissed.
However, these are not normal times. Workspaces carry risk and the right safeguards and policies need to be in place before re-opening. You're entitled to ask questions about these safeguards and policies.
Employers' duty of care towards employees
The first thing you should do, if you're not happy about returning to the office, is to identify your concerns and let your manager know about them. For example:
- are you concerned about taking public transport to get to work?
- are you likely to struggle with childcare or caring commitments?
- are you worried about having to share an open plan office with a number of colleagues?
Employers have a duty of care towards those they employ – to look after both their physical and mental health. They also have to abide by a variety of health and safety standards, such as ensuring that sanitation measures are in place, and that there are enough first aiders and fire wardens on site.
Employers have a duty to comply with equalities legislation and not discriminate against those who have protected characteristics, such as a disability.
All of this means that employers need to consider how to alleviate any concerns you raise about your health and/or your ability to do your job.
Ask for the office risk assessment and details of how the risks will be mitigated.
Under the government's COVID-19 return to the office guidance, all businesses have a duty to conduct a COVID-19 risk assessment. Staff groups should be consulted about the risk assessment and, if the business has more than 50 employees, it should be published on the organisation’s website. Ask your employer for a copy of the risk assessment and discuss it with your manager.
If you're unsure whether the workplace is safe, ask your employer to explain the measures they're implementing to bring the risks down to an acceptable level.
Making a flexible working request
If you want to work in a way that's different from the one stated in your contract, ask your manager about whether this is possible. All employees have the legal right to request a new working arrangement. This is known as a flexible working request. You do not need to have a specific or special reason to do so.
Most organisations will have a specific process for dealing with such requests as legally they are required to approach the requests in a “reasonable manner”.
When making such a request, give your reasons for doing so and any evidence that shows how your new way of working will not impact on your performance. This will help your employer to consider the request, and if they do not agree with what you're asking for maybe suggest a compromise.
If you're a victim of domestic abuse during the COVID-19 lockdown it might be harder than normal to get away from your home or stay somewhere else.
The government has advised that the household isolation instruction as a result of coronavirus does not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.
If you need help, there are several organisations you can contact.
Contact the 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline for free at 0808 2000 247.
If you need legal advice visit our Find a Solicitor website and use the quick search option "Family and relationships" to find your nearest solicitor.
If you need help paying for legal advice, check to see if you’re eligible for legal aid.
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