Members of the public visiting high street law firms now have to wear face masks under new government guidance – but the rule does not apply to firms who see clients only by appointment.
On 8 August it became mandatory for the public to wear face coverings in a wide range of indoor settings, including premises providing legal, professional or financial services. However, the Health and Safety Executive has told the Law Society that this requirement only applies to law firms with a ‘shop front’ on to a high street, where members of the public can walk in.
All other firms - for example those who only see clients by appointment - do not require their clients or visitors to wear face coverings on their premises. No staff are required to wear face coverings in the office, but several firms have indicated that employees will cover their faces in communal areas.
Last month it became compulsory to wear face coverings in public areas of courts and tribunals buildings in England. Courtrooms themselves are covered by previous guidance which does not require face coverings: when people are speaking or presenting evidence in the courtroom, masks may be removed, and judges and magistrates may ask for them to be removed. Anyone speaking without a face covering must strictly observe two-metre social distancing rules.
*The Law Society is keeping the coronavirus situation under review and monitoring the advice it receives from the Foreign & Commonwealth Office and Public Health England.