Covid-19 update to 'key worker' status in the justice system - Bar Council reaction
The Government has rightly acknowledged that the Bar and other legal practitioners are fundamental to the running of the justice system.
The Government has rightly acknowledged that the Bar and other legal practitioners are fundamental to the running of the justice system. That is why it has recognised that some barristers are key workers. Of course, all those involved in the justice system play a vital role in its administration.
The Department for Education has just issued further guidance (see below) on which legal practitioners come within the limited category of key workers whose children may continue to attend school or nursery whilst they deliver essential services in this time of crisis. We welcome this clarification.
The Government's guidance makes clear that, even if you are a key worker, if your child can be looked after at home, they should be. In the current climate, schools are open as places of safety, for the few children who cannot safely be looked after at home, because those caring from them are key workers doing essential work. This applies to essential workers not just in the justice system, but in all areas; for example, it applies to key NHS workers.
Barristers should decide for themselves whether they fall within the category of key worker and, if so, whether they can nevertheless keep their children at home or need to send them to school. As the short government guidance states, it may be that you don’t fall into the category of key worker all the time, but there comes a point when you do, because of a change of workload.
We appreciate the very considerable challenges you face and the changes you are all making to keep the justice system operating as best it can. During this period of uncertainty, we have regular updates to support and inform the Bar on our website and on Twitter.
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar
NEW MINISTRY OF JUSTICE GUIDANCE: Clarification on legal practitioners covered by key worker category
The Government has confirmed that keyworkers include those “essential to the running of the justice system”. On Friday, the Ministry of Justice shared a list of key workers within this category.
The Ministry of Justice would like to provide further clarification of those legal practitioners covered within this category who are essential to the running of the justice system, and, in particular, the courts and tribunals:
· 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
Only legal practitioners who work on the types of matters, cases and hearings listed above, will be permitted to be classified as a keyworker.
In addition, some legal practitioners will intermittently fall into this category because they need to provide advice or attend a hearing for an urgent matter relating, for example, to safeguarding of children or vulnerable adults, or a public safety matter. For the limited time required to deliver this work, a legal practitioner will be a key worker.
As the Government has said, many parents who are key workers may be able to ensure their child is kept at home and every child that can safely be cared for at home, should be.
As events evolve this guidance may change. Please ensure you regularly check this and other Government guidance for the most up to date information.