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13 January, 2021 Open access

HMCTS can’t continue with its ‘business as usual’ approach under the new lockdown, says Public and Commercial Services Union

Calling for reversion to Critical Business Priorities used in first Covid-19 lockdown, Union says the situation is now at a tipping point

HM Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) can't continue with its 'business as usual' approach under the latest Covid-19 lockdown, the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) Union has said.

While HMCTS initiated an emergency response to the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, closing a number of courts and moving to video and telephone hearings where possible, in July 2020 the Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice Robert Buckland announced that, having responded to the immediate crisis, HMCTS would be bringing in a recovery plan focusing on increasing courts and tribunals capacity to deal with normal workloads and outstanding cases.

However, following the new national lockdown in England from 5 January 2021, the PCS has highlighted the steep increase in the numbers of Covid incidents reported amongst court staff, and other professional and lay court users, and says the situation is now at a tipping point.

As a result, in a letter to the HMCTS chief executive officer, the PCS says it has serious concerns that the current Covid mitigations may not protect people from the mutated virus, and calls for - 

Commenting on the situation, the PCS adds -

'We have called on the Chief Executive Officer to work with us to try and find an agreed way forward that recognises the seriousness of the current situation and ensures that staff, judiciary and all other stakeholders are not only safe but also feel safe where they continue to be in the workplace. We made it clear that we do not and cannot support the current messaging on business as usual. If the response is unfavourable, then we have to next steps which will necessarily include consideration of an industrial response.'

For more information, see PCS writes to HMCTS Chief Executive Officer from pcs.org.uk