Press release: COVID-19 Self Employed Support and Impact on Most Junior Barristers

Society of Labour Lawyers Report on the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme and its Impact on Junior Barristers

The Society of Labour Lawyers, the legal think tank of the Labour Party, has released a report highlighting the exclusion of junior barristers from the government’s Self-employed Income Support Scheme (SEISS) because they do not have ‘eligible’ 18/19 tax returns. The report raises concerns about this issue and recommends that the government should relax the eligibility criteria to extend the scheme to all the junior barristers who have been excluded.

The full report is available here and a 1-page summary document is available here.

Announcing the release of the report, Kate O’Rourke, Chair of the Society of Labour Lawyers, said: “The exclusion of junior barristers from the self-employed income support scheme is very concerning. Not only is it unfair – as these are the most junior and vulnerable members of the profession, many of whom have been badly affected by Covid-19 – but it appears to have a disproportionate impact on those with protected characteristics, and raises serious questions about access to justice. At a time when the justice system has already suffered a decade of cuts, we cannot afford to lose the newest members of the Bar.”

Matthew Turner, Chair of the Labour Campaign for Human Rights and one of the barristers excluded from the scheme, said: “It is deeply unfair that the most junior members of the Bar – along with all of the recently self-employed – have been excluded from this critical support. Many of us have seen our incomes fall off a cliff as a result of the Covid-19 and the closure of courts, and are in desperate need of support. The 2019 Conservative Manifesto said that the government would do everything it could to support those who ‘strike-out on their own’. The government needs to honour that promise now and extend SEISS to the recently self-employed. The future of the Bar depends on it”.

SLL has circulated the report to Labour’s Shadow Justice team. Commenting on the briefing, David Lammy MP, the Shadow Justice Secretary, said:

“As this report highlights, without more government support, Covid-19 threatens many aspects of our justice system. The government should give proper consideration to a more flexible approach to newly qualified barristers – the most junior and vulnerable members of the profession – to prevent them from being left out of the government’s self-employed support scheme. They are the future of the justice system and play a critical role in ensuring access to justice for everyone”.

The release of this report follows the Bar Council’s recent ‘MakeTheCase’ campaign, in which they are asking barristers to write to their MPs about the impact of Covid-19 on the Bar. The first and foremost of their five recommendations to the government is: “Expand the types of acceptable evidence required to be eligible for self-employed relief, to include those under the £50,000 threshold who don’t have 2018/2019 tax returns”.

Press contact:

Joe Vinson, 07907 883626,

Matthew Turner, the primary author of the report, is available for comment, in addition to Kate O’Rourke. Please call the press contact to arrange this.