Lawyers and barristers hampered by lack of ECEC under Stage 4 restrictions, ALA says

by Freya Lucas

August 13, 2020

The Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) has warned that a number of plaintiffs in Victoria may not be able to have their cases heard because of lawyers and barristers not being eligible to access early childhood education and care (ECEC) services under Stage 4 restrictions, as they are not deemed to be permitted workers

 

Although courts continue to operate remotely, Jeremy King, Victorian state president of ALA said, barristers and lawyers do not fall into the permitted worker category, something he said “does not make sense.” 

 

“The ALA has written to the Attorney-General requesting an urgent review of access to childcare, nanny and babysitting services for legal practitioners as the current situation means that a large number of injured plaintiffs will be denied full and prompt access to justice,” Mr King said. 

 

The County Court will continue to hear civil cases remotely but the majority of these matters will not be considered to be ‘priority’ which means the lawyers and barristers involved are not ‘permitted workers’ and therefore cannot access childcare, nanny or babysitting services. 

 

Even when a case is considered to be a ‘priority’, access to childcare may not be allowed if someone else is at home, even if they are also working.

 

“The ALA acknowledges and applauds the fact that the Courts continue to operate. However, many legal practitioners will be attempting to run trials or hearings without childcare or support. The difficulties of running a trial in which a client’s legal rights are being determined with young children in the background are self-evident,” Mr King added.

 

With female legal practitioners being primarily responsible for childcare arrangements, he noted that women who practice are most likely to be seriously impacted by the decision. 

 

“Many of our members are informing us that they are simply unable to do this and will either have to adjourn cases, or in the case of barristers, return the brief to their instructor,” he said.

 

“The end result will be that many injured plaintiffs, despite the best efforts of the courts to hear cases remotely, will have their matters adjourned and their cases delayed.”

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