Following an assessment of the risks associated with the spread of COVID-19, the Government of Jersey has this evening announced a 'Stay at Home' Order, which will be in effect from 8.00am tomorrow, 30 March 2020.
To maintain business continuity during this period, which is expected to last until at least the end of April, various 'essential worker schemes' have been developed by the Government in conjunction with the Law Society and other regulatory bodies and business groups.
The ‘Essential Worker: Legal Services’ Scheme for legal services is a scheme to ensure that essential workers in law firms on the Island of Jersey are able to go freely to and from work to maintain essential services including compliance with law and regulation and the maintenance of key services to clients.
In line with Government advice, the overarching approach to essential work must be the need to protect public health. Employees should therefore only be designated an essential worker if it is absolutely necessary that they must visit the business premises to ensure the ongoing functionality of the firm.
Any employee who enters the business premises must adhere to strict social distancing and hygiene guidance.
Until further notice, law firms must, in line with Government advice, operate on the basis that the vast majority of employees should now work from home.
This would mean that only a skeleton team of essential workers would go to the office. The ‘office’ means all work locations other than an employee’s home.
It is the responsibility of firms to nominate such individuals and their responsibility to keep the number of such nominated persons to an absolute minimum to maintain essential services to clients in an orderly way from a pre-dominantly home-working staff pool, to support the financial stability and international reputation of Jersey.
To this end, firms should identify for themselves the activities, services or operations which, if interrupted, are likely to lead to the disruption of essential services.
Firms should then identify a skeleton staff of individuals that will allow these functions to be conducted primarily on the basis of home working, if that skeleton staff has access to office or remote site working.
For law firms, the maximum number of individuals who may be authorised at any time is 5.
Where a firm is in doubt as to the definition of a particular term or process in this scheme, it should proceed on the basis of its own best-efforts interpretation having regard to the dual purpose of the scheme as being to limit social interaction, while supporting continuity of essential services. It should do this rather than submit queries either to Government or the Law Society on the meaning of terms and processes.
The Law Society requires firms to nominate by email to email@example.com its ‘Essential Workers Scheme Key Point of Contact’ (to include email address and mobile telephone number) who will be the responsible person for arranging administration of the scheme, including issuing relevant notifications to staff, holding accurate records of the administration of the scheme and act as the key point of contact for the Law Society for further contact. This is likely to be the Principal or Senior Partner of the firm.
Each ‘Key Point of Contact’ nomination MUST be received, without exception, by 6pm on Monday 30 March 2020.
In the absence of a response from a firm, no authorisations may be issued such that access to business premises may not be permitted under Government restrictions.
This request is MANDATORY and is made pursuant to a Directive issued by the Committee of the Law Society of Jersey on 29 March 2020, in accordance with Bye-Law BL50, which provides for "a duty on members to co-operate with the Law Society, the Government of Jersey and other authorised bodies in relation to matters associated with COVID-19 and any instructions, conditions or limitations relating thereto".
The Key Point of Contact will then organise and oversee an internal process within the firm to identify the minimum number of staff to work in the office and arrange for these individuals to be notified and provided with appropriate letters of certification (in accordance with a pro forma letter to be issued by the Government of Jersey). The pro forma letter will be provided to the key point of contact by the Law Society.
Letters of certification should be issued ideally before the beginning of work on Tuesday 31 March 2020 and in any event not later than before the beginning of work on Wednesday 1 April 2020.
Firms must maintain a Register of all authorisations (those active and those de-activated) which must be available for inspection by the Law Society or any other authorised body, including the States of Jersey Police;
Each ‘essential worker’ must be advised to have certification (in physical or electronic form) and a form of identification available for inspection when travelling to and from work.
Firms must have an alternate Key Point of Contact and must subsequently change the ‘Key Point of Contact’ if the initial Key Point of Contact is unable to act for a period of time. This must be advised immediately to the Law Society at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This scheme may be changed at any time in the interests of public health, which will be directed by the Government.
The following criteria should be applied by firms in determining their list of essential workers:
- For law firms, up to a maximum of FIVE people at any time, based on their essential need for the running of the firm - this should not be regularly changed and for many firms should be less than 5 (for some firms significantly less)
- Advocates essential to ongoing Court matters (matters still being heard by the Court)
- Maintenance of core services - such as IT systems, mail collection and delivery and banking
Any individual who is attending their office must adhere to strict social distancing guidance at all times.
The Government has asked it to be made clear that any identified breaches of the essential worker guidance and protocols will result in the withdrawal of individual or firm authorisations and the immediate imposition of a far stricter regime in the legal services industry.
Thank you for your co-operation and support at this difficult time.
Any profession-specific enquiries in relation to the Coronavirus should be directed to Neville Benbow on 01534 734826 / 07797 824112 or email email@example.com.
Chief Executive Officer
The Law Society of Jersey