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Post room staff at DLA Piper were given papers stating they were key workers in case they were challenged by the authorities on their way to work.

Ricoh, the outsourcing company which employs the workers, said it was an error.

In a meeting on 5 January, the day after the latest lockdown in England was announced, Ricoh staff who work for DLA Piper were handed a letter "to use as a way of circumnavigating the key worker rules", claimed a source. Ricoh denied that was their purpose.

The Ricoh letter, leaked to RollOnFriday, states that it has been provided "to facilitate movement of our workers where this may be limited". 

The letter claims that Ricoh "undertakes supports [sp] front line organisations, such as the NHS, hospital trusts, police forces, supply chain organisations, local councils and food manufacturing sites". For some reason, 'global corporate law firms' was omitted from the list or worthy organisations.

"To ensure the seamless operation of these key and critical organisations at this difficult time, we have defined our site service specialists as Key Workers to be able to continue to support office technology and communication requirements", the letter states.

"As a defined key worker, we have provided this letter to our employees to evidence the reasoning behind the classification", asserts the letter.

Under the lockdown rules, people may not go to work unless they cannot reasonably work from home, while employers must take "every possible step" to facilitate their employees working from home.

Any company which can categorise its employees as key workers will avoid the extra costs and business interruption caused by those stipulations. However, the list of key workers provided by the government would not appear to encompass law firm staff.

An insider said they understood how the Ricoh letter might validly apply to its employees working in the NHS, "but obviously", for "someone who works in a post room for a corporate law firm that's, in my opinion, taking the piss".

A source said they were "almost certain" that DLA Piper had "no knowledge of us being asked to use these too".

DLA Piper concurred. “DLA Piper was not aware of the note, and it was not a note specific to Ricoh staff working at DLA Piper", said a spokesperson. "As soon as we became aware we raised the issue with Ricoh and they confirmed to us they had identified the mistake and were already taking steps to rectify their error.”

A Ricoh spokesperson said, "We’re proud to be responsible for hundreds of key and essential workers, and we regularly share communications designed to ensure that staff can travel where needed in support of those working on the front line in industries such as NHS trusts, care homes and food distribution centers, or in business roles that cannot be carried out from home such as print and post rooms". 

"Following the government announcement of the most recent lockdown, a letter was circulated that incorrectly categorised some of our essential workers as key workers. An updated communication has since been shared and the issue is resolved." 

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Libel Bint 08 January 21 09:07

This is a bit odd. You don't need to be a 'key worker' or otherwise be fulfilling some kind of crucial function to travel to work - the test is (as noted above) whether you can reasonably work from home or not. And I'm sure at least some of these Ricoh people couldn't reasonably work from home if they are meant to be dealing with physical post that arrives in the office.

Being a 'key worker' is important if you are trying to secure a place for your child in otherwise closed schools. Some employers have been trying to stretch the definition here so their staff can continue to work rather than spend their days homeschooling - so is that actually what is going on here? Either Ricoh have got the wrong end of the proverbial stick, or RoF has....

Anonymous 08 January 21 11:06

This is 100% about getting kids into school so the workers have no excuse to take leave if they are needed physically in the office. If they cannot reasonably work from home and they are not key workers, but they have to home school, it is up to the firm to decide whether to furlough or provide a flexible arrangement for them. Not rocket science, chaps.

Lydia 08 January 21 11:49

Key workers is relevant to getting a school place. You do not have to be a critical or key worker in order to travel.


Also critical and key workers does include those working in the justice system.

Alex 08 January 21 11:57

Seems like a non-story. You don't need to be a key worker to leave your home to work. As long as you can't do your job at home you can visit your workplace. Nice try RoF at drumming up some scandal... 

Slug 08 January 21 12:27

Quick, everyone serve proceedings on DLA Piper, they have nobody to process physical service.

Arachnae 12 January 21 19:02

I think this is fuss about nothing. As a senior fee earner I have been given a similar letter. It doesn’t get me keyworker status for schools (my kids are 24 and 28). It doesn’t mention the word ‘keyworker’. It just explains that from I need to go into the office to certify stuff and check signatures from time to time. Thus it stops plod arresting me as I walk from Waterloo to the City carrying a takeaway macchiato in a built up area. And no, no one forced me to come in. It was me who begged and pleaded with my head of department so I don’t come back to a pile of 6 months crap like last time. Get a life, people.

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