On 8th February 2022, Young Legal Aid Lawyers (YLAL) published its third and final report on the impact of Covid-19 on its members’ working lives. The report constitutes results from a survey that was conducted between 29th November 2021 and 20th December 2021 which we received 51 responses for. This report is an update and comparison to YLAL previous Covid-19 report, which was published on 25th May 2020.
Repetitive themes in this year’s report included examples of poor practice and a lack of care for the wellbeing of junior practitioners. We saw many bad practices concerning returning to the office after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted, including ‘’pressure to come into the office, not listening to concerns about COVID, not discussing or making any adjustments to working styles because of covid’’…’’expecting office attendance, admin staff feeling they had to come in when ill’’.
Key findings in the third Covid-19 report include:
22.9% of respondents said that they are ‘’extremely’’ worried about their job security, and a further 27.1% said that they are ‘’quite’’ worried about their job security.
4.1% of respondents said that the work they had to undertake was beneath the level of their experience and 24.5% responded that they had to take on work that was beyond their experience.
68.1% of our members had been furloughed and 16 of those who responded had been furloughed at 80% pay.
Two-thirds of our respondents indicated that they were still required to attend court, with 26.1% having to attend once a week and 17.4% having to attend five times per week.
The report makes recommendations to the Government, chambers, employers and other stakeholders.
The Legal Aid Agency to make payments to legal aid providers in areas which have been severely impacted by ‘Plan B’ rules which were in place until 27 January 2022.
The Legal Aid agency to make prompt payments to legal aid providers for all work carried out.
The Ministry of Justice and Treasury to consider the impact that the pandemic has had on access to justice, particularly those who are marginalised and most vulnerable in our society.
Employers to ask their employees about their practical arrangements for working from home, assess the tolls given to their staff and provide them with the appropriate equipment so that they can work from home efficiently.
Employers to be more aware of the needs and caring responsibilities of individual employees and the impact of their personal circumstances and to ensure that vulnerable staff are kept safe.
Employers to consider the way they communicate with their staff, specifically: (i) Communicate within working hours wherever possible; (ii) Name a point of contact for staff to discuss concerns; and (iii)Consider whether information can be better disseminated over telephone or video conference, rather than by email.
HMCTS to consider maintaining standardised safety measures across the court system to keep lawyers, clients and court staff safe in the event of further public health concerns as well as to build on the progress made regarding remote hearings and to continue to use technology for hearings where in-person attendance is not necessary.
YLAL understands that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused severe disruption and it has created novel and difficult circumstances which are complicated to navigate. However, it is vital that all stakeholders have a thorough understanding of this impact on junior legal aid practitioners as well as the clients that they represent and therefore implement a collaborative approach when making decisions.
We call on the Ministry of Justice and Treasury to consider the catastrophic effect that the pandemic has had on the legal aid sector and start moving forward to resolve the issues that our practitioners are experiencing. We also call for a thorough reform of the Legal Aid system such that all sections and parts of our society can enforce their rights, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
The full report can be found here.
For questions about the report or media enquiries, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Young Legal Aid Lawyers
8 Febuary 2022