Our Practice Advice Service is a confidential telephone-based helpline for solicitors. They have compiled a selection of questions and answers on some coronavirus topics that have been raised by members.

I’m a solicitor and have been put on furlough. I’ve been approached by a friend to work in their private client law firm as they’re inundated with clients who want to make new wills. Is this permitted?

You’ll need to discuss this with your employer, as the position will depend on your employment contract.

Most contracts require you to be available to work if your employer asked you to be, so it would not be possible for you as a furloughed employee to take another job within your usual contracted hours. You would still have a duty of confidentiality and are unlikely to be allowed to work for a competitor. 

The Solicitors Assistance Scheme provides up to an hour’s free legal advice for members, including advice on employment law.  For more information, visit their website.

For further information on furlough, see the Law Society’s guidance on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme

Are there any special arrangements in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic for statutory declarations required for insolvency proceedings?

The lord chancellor published a Temporary Insolvency Practice Direction on 7 April 2020, which addresses various issues in this area.

It includes guidance on the requirements for statutory declarations.

For more information, download the Temporary Insolvency Practice Direction

Are members of my staff entitled to receive Statutory Sick Pay (SSP) if they’re self-isolating and, as an employer, will I be entitled to claim the cost of SSP back from the government?

Yes. Members of staff will be entitled to receive SSP from the first day of absence if they’ve been advised to self-isolate or are caring for others in self-isolation.

For businesses with fewer than 250 employees, the government will refund in full the cost of providing COVID-19-related SSP for up to 14 days.

As an employer, you should keep records of staff absences and SSP payments made. 

For more information, see:

I’m a private client solicitor and am currently inundated with clients’ instructions for new wills. According to the government’s guidance, I fall within the category of ‘key worker’. My secretary has two young children. Is she also afforded the status of a ‘key worker’?

The reference in the government’s guidance to unqualified staff relates to ’paralegals and others’. They could be key workers if among ’others who work on imminent or ongoing court or tribunal hearings’.

The implication is that your secretary will not have the status of a key worker if they’re helping you with work related to execution of wills. 

For further information, see

I act for a client in a sale where contracts have exchanged and completion is due next week.  My client’s buyer has a related sale and has requested that we vary the contract to delay completion until the lockdown is lifted as they’re self-isolating. As my client’s property is vacant, are they obliged to agree and, if so, is there any guidance on how the contract should be varied?

Government advice confirms that house moves should only take place during this time if the move is critical and it’s safe to do so, with police emergency powers disapplied for critical home moves only. 

Whilst moves involving unoccupied properties may continue (so long as Public Health England and Public Health Wales guidance is observed) where there’s a chain involving occupied properties, the parties should be encouraged to agree to a variation to the contract so that the completion date is deferred to a time when it’s possible and safe to proceed. 

The Law Society’s prepared a draft variation agreement and has issued guidance on its use. It’s to be used as a framework and is not one size fits all.

It’s important to take your client’s instructions about how they want to proceed and to advise them as to the risks and benefits of both varying the contract and if the contract is not varied as some clients could find themselves worse off and some could benefit.

You should obtain confirmation from your client in writing that they understand the risks and wish to proceed. 

The draft variation agreement is available for download: Variation agreement (Word 40 KB)

See the Law Society’s general guidance on residential conveyancing transactions and guidance for using variation agreements

Further information on the government’s guidance is available on the GOV.UK website.

A former client has raised a complaint. However, their file is in storage and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our archive service provider is temporarily closed. Is there any guidance on the approach the Legal Ombudsman will take should the client raise a service complaint in the current situation.

The Legal Ombudsman has issued guidance on their approach during the pandemic

You can also see the Law Society’s guidance on handling complaints.

Our team of solicitors answer questions on a wide variety of subjects, including anti-money laundering, costs, conveyancing, client care and complaints handling. 

The service operates from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday and you can call us on 020 7320 5675 or email your questions to practiceadvice@lawsociety.org.uk.

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information in this article, it does not constitute legal advice and cannot be relied upon as such. The Law Society does not accept any responsibility for liabilities arising as a result of reliance upon the information given.