The Stage 4 restrictions in greater Melbourne are in place to limit the movement of people across the city and to save lives. We understand that these restrictions are having an impact on the legal profession, and that many of you are facing difficulties.
There are very limited reasons to be accessing your office. Simply working largely in a paper based way is not sufficient to be a permitted reason to be working on site under the “administration of justice” exception and attracts considerable penalties, up to $99,132 for businesses. Criminal penalties and OH&S sanctions may also apply to those who breach the regulations on permitted activities.
Last week we met with the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions and the Department of Justice and Community Safety for a legal industry roundtable. Some clarifications on the stage 4 restriction advice was provided and there was an opportunity to offer feedback on how the restrictions are impacting lawyers. Since the roundtable the DJCS have provided some further clarification outlined below.
- Lawyers who are undertaking online court-initiated proceedings from home, including audio visual link trials, court ordered mediations and directions hearings, can access childcare for preschool age children. This applies where there is no capacity for practitioners to supervise their children or there is a risk that the children will be exposed to unsuitable material. The exemption only applies if there is not a second carer who can supervise the children
- On-site management of mail, scanning, printing, etc. can only operate where it directly supports permitted work (for example, priority court matters and urgent administration of justice matters such as urgent powers of attorney). Activities of this kind which do not relate to permitted work must be done remotely. Please remember that you need a permitted worker permit to access the site and a COVID Safe plan
- Sole operators/traders cannot attend on-site unless for permitted work
- Admin and assistants can attend on-site but only where related to permitted work and only to do the permitted work
- Supervised legal practice should be done via virtual means. Please refer to our advice on SLP on the COVID FAQs
The LIV have valuable FAQs that answer your questions in more detail, including the child care changes.