Union Says Home Working Should Not Be Just For Fee Earners
The Legal Sector Workers Union (LSWU) has stated that in the current circumstances home-working should not just be for fee-earners, and that those who are working at home should “show solidarity” with their administrative staff who have not been allowed to work from home.
The Union expressed outrage last week at the “classist allocation of risk” saw partners working from home, with others being forced to go into offices.
The Union represents qualified lawyers as well as others in the legal sectors and has stated that it will be taking action against any firm that dismisses any staff for not attending offices due to health concerns.
In a tweet on the 17 March 2020 the union said:
“We have been forensically mapping law firms’ responses to COVID-19 across the legal sector. A shocking divide is evident: wealthy partners are working from home, while the lowest paid, most precarious staff are being forced to come into the office.
“This is an outrage. We are organising against this classist allocation of risk, which is an abuse of legal sector workers. If your bosses are sending you to work when you could be working from home, join LSWU without delay. We will support you immediately in making your demands.”
The LSWU sent an open letter to all employees in the legal sector, demanding that all workers sent home, regardless of the circumstances, should be done so on full pay, ‘this includes any outsourced workers, as well as those on zero-hour contracts, including our cleaner and security colleagues.’
The letter also reminded employers of their obligations under legislation:
“We remind you that as per s.44(100)(1)(d) Employment Rights Act 1996, workers will be found to be automatically unfairly dismissed if the sole or principal reason for dismissal is because the worker left or proposed to leave work and refused to return because they felt being at work posed a serious and imminent danger to themselves which could not be reasonably averted.
“We will not hesitate to avail ourselves and our members of any and all legal remedies should they be subjected to any unlawful sanction in connection with their reasonable responses to the pandemic…
“By arriving at an agreed response, your business along with the legal sector as a whole will be in the best possible position to pressure the government in adopting a more comprehensive and responsible approach…
“We do not want to see our workplaces — your businesses — falter. Together we can overcome this emergency.”
Alongside the LSWU’s comment, the Law Society has also stated that firms must ‘act consistently and fairly across your organisation’ and that if employees are refused to work from home, and instead made to attend the office against government advice, the firm will ‘be at risk of facing a strong legal claim’.
The Bar Council meanwhile had confirmed, prior to the Prime Minister’s announcement on the 24 March, that barristers are classed as ‘key workers’ and that their children will have priority in education provisions during the pandemic.
However, there seems to be uncertainty following Boris Johnson’s announcement on Tuesday, especially as social gatherings of more than 2 people have been banned. The Bar Council website has the latest statement from Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council:
“The Prime Minister’s message yesterday evening was clear that everyone must stay at home to inhibit all contact and stall the spread of Covid-19. Since the announcement, we have been seeking clarity from the Senior Judiciary on what will happen with courts from Tuesday 24 March 2020. We had hoped to have this advice earlier but, just before midnight, we saw guidance indicating that you should not attend the Civil or Family Courts in person. You should not attend the Crown Court in person unless you are in a part-heard trial. The situation for Magistrates’ Courts is unclear, but we suggest you do not attend in person until the guidance is clear. I have a planned call first thing in the morning with the Senior Presiding Judge. If no published guidance is available to the profession by then, we will pass on any further details we get from her.”