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Could The Government Face Legal Backlash From Their Handling of Covid-19?

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On Monday 23rd March 2020, Boris Johnson made a public announcement declaring that the UK would be going in to an initial 3-week lockdown. Since then, we’ve experienced a new three-tier lockdown system, 'eat out to help out' scheme and a furlough scheme to support businesses – these unprecedented times have been a test for us all!

The UK government is no stranger to facing a legal backlash, with recent famous inquiries including the Grenfell Public Inquiry, the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, the Infect Blood Public Inquiry and The Leveson Inquiry. These inquiries have seen high costs to the government in a financial and reputational way, with the Infected Blood Inquiry expected to cost around £1bn in pay outs and legal fees.

In a recent report by the BMJ, doctors have suggested that any inquiry made (surrounding Covid-19) should should look into “the mismanagement of care homes; the purchase, delivery, quality control, and guidelines for personal protective equipment; the UK testing strategy; the wellbeing of health and care staff; the timing of interventions; and the timing of the easing of restrictions.”

On the other hand, government initiatives such as the extended furlough scheme has been a life support for so many businesses nationwide. As I have seen first-hand, many law firms have utilised this scheme in an effective way to ensure that they stay afloat and ensure their long term futures. Law firms such as Hogan Lovells, Slater & Gordon and Ashurst’s placed some staff on furlough which relieves some financial pressures during these uncertain times. With many of these firms starting to pay back their furlough payments back to the government, on the whole it seems like it has been a positive step the government had taken to support these law firms.

It is difficult to judge at this stage, especially with a second wave upon us, to judge what implications that will come off the back of this pandemic. There will be no doubt that there will be scrutiny on key decisions that were made (i.e. timings of lockdowns, the tier system, timings of easing of the lockdown etc.), but it is also key to remember that thousands of jobs may have been protected in the long run.

I am currently recruiting for legal staff (such as solicitors, paralegals and legal secretaries) so if you are looking for a job or looking to recruit please contact me.
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