“I’ve got someone from the SRA here, they say all our lives are but dust in the wind.”
Pouring salt in the wound of a firm it was shutting down, the Solicitors Regulation Authority sent an agent to oversee the closure who was infected with COVID-19.
The SRA’s intervention agent visited the troubled firm, which RollOnFriday is not naming, earlier this month, when about 12 employees were at the office along with staff from another firm which was taking over its files.
The day after the visit, the SRA agent developed symptoms, and the regulator called the firm to let it know that an infected person “may or may not have attended your office”. The day after that, the agent tested positive for the coronavirus.
As a result, the SRA effectively shut down the firm twice - once in a regulatory role, and then again with an infectious disease. That's dedication.
However, a source at the firm alleged that staff were unaware of the agent's diagnosis for days. They blamed the SRA for the delay, and said staff were "fuming" that the regulator was failing to keep the firm abreast of the agent's condition in a timely fashion. The insider said that several days after the agent tested positive, everyone was still working in the office and waiting for an update.
“We will find out tomorrow if we potentially have infected all our families and put our entire region into Tier 3!” joked the insider at the time. They described how staff at the failed firm were all at the office winding down the business and maintaining a “practically vacuum-packed” workplace, but now “had to make sure we kept checking ourselves to make sure we weren't feeling unwell”.
It is now apparent that they should not have been in the office at all, and should instead have been self-isolating for 14 days, having come into close contact with an infected person.
The SRA said that any failure to pass on the bad news to staff was not its fault, as it told the firm that its agent had the coronavirus as soon as they tested positive two days after their visit.