The Bar Council, the representative body for all barristers in England and Wales, will help self-employed barristers showing Covid-19 symptoms to get tested under the Department of Health & Social Care employer referral testing scheme.
With most barristers being self-employed, the burden of arranging testing and the associated administration would fall on each individual barrister. The Bar Council will instead act as a ‘quasi-employer’ for the profession and facilitate the tests for barristers who have been identified as essential workers because of their critical role in the justice system.
The Government’s employer referral portal allows employers to refer for testing any essential workers and those whose work cannot be done from home and who are self-isolating with coronavirus symptoms. Those who are living with an essential or other such worker, and who themselves have symptoms, can also get an appointment for testing through this scheme, whether or not the worker has symptoms.
Amanda Pinto QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: "The Bar Council's purpose is to support barristers and put their interests first, so it is only right that we step in and help in this way. We have been doing all we can to help the profession get through this crisis. 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.”
From Tuesday (5 May), self-employed barristers will be able to apply for testing for themselves and/or symptomatic household members via the Bar Council’s website by completing a short form. The Bar Council will do the rest, using the secure DHSC portal, after which the DHSC will contact the barrister directly by text message with a unique invitation code, to book their appointment at one of the regional drive-through test centres.
Barristers can still choose to apply individually for a test, including home-test kits, directly to the DHSC. Employed barristers should contact their employers to see if they are registered under the employer referral scheme.