Junior barristers are suffering from the current pandemic in multiple jurisdictions. In the UK there has been strong criticism of the government’s package to support self-employed individuals and in New South Wales barristers are seeking urgent support.
The UK junior barristers have written an open letter signed by over 200 junior barristers about the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme saying it was “woefully insufficient” and requesting urgent attention from the Bar Council.
The barristers’ letter adds that new entrants to the profession are particularly vulnerable because they earn the least, have the least savings and are the most reliant on attending hearings and tribunals as a source of income.
The barristers say the government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme announced last Thursday neglects newly-qualified barristers and fails to provide financial support to barristers without 2018/19 self-employed tax returns that accurately reflect their current earnings.
The government scheme permits self-employed workers who earn up to £50,000 a year to apply for a grant worth 80 per cent of their average monthly profits. However, the government has since stated that little can be done for those without tax returns, with the scheme relying upon a database of people the government knows about.
Australian Barristers Seek Support
The New South Wales Bar Association, representing 2,400 barristers, has also sought support for the profession in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, saying they need rent relief and financial help.
As in the UK and elsewhere, there has been indefinite postponement of non-urgent court hearings that has created major problems for barristers who are not yet qualifying as ‘sole traders’, despite being self employed.
Other jurisdictions are also seeing barristers seeking support, particularly the junior members of the Bar who have often negligible earnings. Support by way of rent relief, bailout payments, deferred fees and more.
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