Covid-19

We are fully operational and have been delivering client services with appropriate adjustments throughout the pandemic since mid-March. This has been achieved by staff working remotely with secure online access to all client files. All client meetings are currently being held online or by telephone. Apart from some of the largest, third party organisations (banks, financial institutions and HMRC to name a few) nearly everyone has successfully used electronic means of communication wherever possible. There may be a slight delay in dealing with paper documents received at our Shrewsbury office, as we rely on a skeleton staff to visit the office in rotation.

Lockdown restrictions are being further lifted in England with effect from 4 July and some people have asked when and how our office will re-open.

HM Government issued updated guidance on 24 June about working in offices. The guidance is helpful and deals with issues that affect our staff and managing our clients’ requirements, as well as visitors to our office.

The Government advice remains that if we can work from home, we should continue to do this.

The Government advice also remains that we should continue to use remote working tools to avoid ‘in person’ meetings.

The transition to homeworking for our staff has, thankfully, been almost seamless. Most of our clients have readily adapted to our new way of working and delivery of our services to them has been unaffected.

A very small number of clients are now however, understandably, asking when we can arrange face-to-face meetings with them. We have carried out this risk assessment to help us consider these meeting requests appropriately and to address the concerns of our staff.

For our clients

  1. We will continue to offer you online or telephone consultations rather than face-to-face meetings in our office until further notice.
  2. After 4 July we will only hold a face-to-face meeting if it is deemed essential and in those cases the likely venue will be outdoors, for example in your garden. ‘Essential’ may be for example in relation to a document that needs to be signed with a witness (1 or more) and where you are unable to call upon a neighbour, or someone you are already in face-to-face contact with to assist.

In relation to any face-to-face meetings taking place at our office, the below table summarises the factors which have been considered. Items in green are deemed to be straightforward and, or to have a positive outcome. Those highlighted red either represent a more significant risk factor, or a more negative outcome or client experience. Orange represents a neutral or inconsequential consideration, but a factor, nonetheless. We hope this will help you understand that we take the risks seriously and that we have everyone’s wellbeing at heart.

We thank everyone for their support, understanding and continuing legal instructions.

Most matters can be satisfactorily dealt with online or over the telephone. We therefore need to carefully consider the increased risk and small benefit of opening our office to visitors for face-to-face meetings by appointment at this current time.

A safe social distance with colleagues and clients is required at all times within our office. Our office space readily permits this although there is a ‘pinch point’ by our front door.

Opening our office for a meeting would always involve a minimum of two members of staff being present in the office.

Signage and pre-meeting arrangements must make it clear that no one should visit our office if they feel unwell, have any symptoms of Coronavirus, or consider they may have had contact in the last 14 days with someone who has symptoms.

 

We would provide hand sanitiser in meeting rooms that clients would be asked to use on arrival.

 

The Government recommends that essential ‘face-to-face’ meetings are configured so that people sit ‘side to side ‘, socially distanced, rather than ‘face-to face’.

 

Unlike a shop or a restaurant where the customer interaction with staff is usually brief, our meetings and consultations usually involve a prolonged period of sitting face-to-face. This is inadvisable indoors, even with a safe social distance being maintained.

 

The Government advice is that indoor meeting spaces must be well ventilated to reduce the risk of spreading the virus. Our office is in a historic, listed town centre building and the sash windows do not open. It is therefore very difficult for us to ventilate the building.

 

Meetings should be kept as brief as possible – so for example a Will or LPA signing meeting would be limited just to the exercise of signing the documents. Any discussion should have taken place in advance online or over the telephone and all queries should have been resolved prior to the meeting. Refreshments would not be provided.

 

Face-to-face interaction is made safer if there is a Perspex screen or, if all involved wear a face covering.

 

Pens, documents and other equipment should not be shared between staff, or between staff and clients.

There would need to be increased cleaning of meeting rooms and any office facilities used by multiples of clients and/or staff.

 

Clients would need to freely accept the risks, limitations and requirements of any face-to-face meeting that may take place at our office and they would need to personally accept the increased risk to themselves by attending a meeting. We would consider we had taken all reasonable measures to protect them and we would not incur any further potential liability in this regard.