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Wealthy partners work from home while lowest paid staff are forced into the office, legal union claims

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Legal Sector Workers United brands pandemic response a ‘classist allocation of risk’

Wealthy law firm partners are working from the comfort and relative safety of their own homes while lower paid staff are being forced to come into the office, a trade union branch for legal sector workers claims.

The Legal Sector Workers Union (LSWU) — which represents qualified solicitors and barristers, as well as paralegals, secretaries and cleaners — says it has identified a “shocking divide” in the treatment of law firm staff in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a series of tweets overnight, the group wrote: “We have been forensically mapping law firms’ responses to COVID-19 across the legal sector. A shocking divide is evident: wealthy partners are working from home, while the lowest paid, most precarious staff are being forced to come into the office.”

It added:

“This is an outrage. We are organising against this classist allocation of risk, which is an abuse of legal sector workers. If your bosses are sending you to work when you could be working from home, join LSWU without delay. We will support you immediately in making your demands.”

In an earlier tweet, the LSWU said one of its members, a trainee at a large legal aid firm, had recently walked out of a meeting that their employer was trying to make them attend. “No sanction was imposed”, it continued, but “if you’re a LSWU member and reasonably decide to take your and others’ safety into your own hands, we’ll back you.”

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The claims follow the group’s open letter (below) earlier this week to employers of the legal sector, demanding that they taken action on the COVID-19 pandemic in a way which “prioritises the wellbeing of employees” as a matter of urgency that takes “precedence over short-termist economic interests”.

It says all legal sector workers should be encouraged to work from home, receive full pay if they’re sent home (sick or not), as well as full transparency when communicating with staff about COVID-19 policy.

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