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UPDATED: Covid-19 update August

Commissioner update

On Monday the Premier announced new restrictions for greater Melbourne and Victoria. These restrictions have an impact on all of us, and at the bottom of the email you’ll find resources that may be able to support you if you‘re struggling.

We have received further guidance from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) regarding the Stage 4 restrictions in the Melbourne metropolitan region that started Wednesday at 11.59pm. Please note that some initial guidance has now changed.

You can read the guidance on the DHHS website here.

Impact of Stage 4 restrictions on lawyers in greater Melbourne

There is a blanket restriction for legal services performed ‘on-site’ (that is, your office or chambers) unless you are covered by any of the following exemptions established by DHHS. You must work from home unless:

  • you are required to attend urgent or priority court or tribunal matters as determined by the relevant head of jurisdiction, including for bail, family violence, remand, child protection, warrants and urgent guardianships, human rights or residential tenancy issues
  • you are attending to administration of justice matters for your clients where the matter cannot be reasonably undertaken and/or the client cannot participate reasonably in an online communication, teleconference or by means of an audio visual link facility; and the matter cannot be reasonably postponed – for example signing or retrieving urgent emergency powers of attorney
  • staff need to attend on-site for the purposes of performing critical safety and environmental works – for example maintenance of IT infrastructure

Earlier advice about sole traders/operators being able to work on-site has changed. You cannot work on-site unless you fall into one of the exemptions above. This includes barristers working in chambers. Further information about the operation of the exemptions can be found on the LIV website.

Employers must:

  • issue any employees with a permit if they are working in the office. Details about the permitted worker scheme can be found at the DJCS website
  • ensure all offices have a COVID Safe Plan if there are employees attending the office.

It is the responsibility of the employer to determine if the justice exemptions apply, and significant penalties apply for individuals and businesses that issue worker permits to employees who do not meet the requirements of the worker permit scheme or who otherwise breach the scheme requirements.

We are experiencing an extremely serious public health crisis in Victoria at the moment. As leaders in the community, and as a profession that prides itself on ethics and integrity, it is vitally important that the legal profession does all it can to protect clients, colleagues, staff and the community by following the spirit and the letter of government requirements.  Where possible I expect you to follow the government’s directives.

Links to resources and information:

Impact of Stage 3 restrictions on lawyers in regional Victoria

If you can work from home you must work from home.

Audits and examinations

As with the stage three restrictions, I’d like to reiterate that my office is not undertaking any face-to-face audits or examinations – all investigations and examinations will be undertaken electronically. 

Contingency plans

I strongly encourage you to create a practice contingency plan if you haven’t already. In particular, you should consider safeguards you can put in place in case you need to self-isolate or are unwell. This should include identifying a legal practitioner who can help run your practice. Please note that if you cannot run your practice due to ill health, or for some other compelling reason, and do not have a contingency plan, you must contact us.  

What to do if you need help

We are facing many challenges as a community, and I would like to reassure you that we are here to help.  Contact us via our lawyer enquiry form if you’re facing difficulties with your practice and, in particular, if you feel that you are unable to continue to practise. The LIV is also able to provide you with support and guidance.

Be well,

Fiona McLeay
Board CEO + Commissioner

Wellbeing resources

This is a time of great uncertainty for many of us, and I encourage you to get any help you need to get through this. Please remember that there is no requirement to disclose mental health conditions to us unless your condition affects your ability to meet your legal practice obligations. You can also get help via the resources below.

  • If you or someone you know need immediate mental health support, call Lifeline crisis support on 13 11 14.
  • In an emergency, call 000.
  • The Victorian Bar independent counselling services for members and their families:
    • Revision Group – (03) 9650 5540
    • Converge International - 1300 687 327
  • The Law Institute of Victoria member assistance program EAP service – 1300 687 327 provides confidential, 24 hour wellbeing services for LIV members.
  • Beyond Blue provides information about depression, anxiety and related disorders - 1300 22 4636
     


 

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