The Bar Council will act as a ‘quasi-employer’ to ensure barristers receive priority testing for Covid-19, as it steps up efforts to help members through the pandemic.

The government’s current testing scheme allows employers to refer essential workers – including lawyers - for testing at regional drive-through centres. As the bar is largely self-employed, the burden of arranging testing would normally fall on individuals.

However, the representative body said it will act as a ‘quasi employer’ in order to refer members through the government portal. From today, self-employed barristers can apply for testing for themselves and symptomatic household members via the Bar Council’s website by completing a short form.

Amanda Pinto QC, chair of the Bar Council, said: ‘Being self-employed brings its own challenges; for testing, you face these challenges without the support of a traditional employer. Now, self-employed barristers won’t have to grapple with the red tape that comes with the DIY testing process. We will take on that burden to make life easier for barristers with symptoms. As essential workers, barristers’ health and that of their families is paramount, particularly if we are to keep the justice system up and running.’

Barristers can still choose to apply individually for a test, including home-test kits, directly to the Department of Health & Social Care.

Last week, the Bar Council furloughed a fifth of its staff and cut its budget to prepare for a ‘significant drop in income’ next year. The chair, vice chair and chief executive of the council – along with the chair, vice chair and director general of the Bar Standards Board – have also agreed to a temporary 20% pay cut.