Are work habits changing forever?

We are currently witnessing an interesting “readjustment” of how people expect to work post the various COVID-19 lockdowns. Some businesses are accepting that there has been a seismic cultural shift in how employees want to work moving forwards in terms of more home-working and less time in the office. However other businesses are trying to force a return to what they regard as “normal” working conditions and expecting their employees to return to the five days a week and often long hours in the office culture many work places witnessed before COVID-19 changed everything.

What is the situation in public spaces?

In other environments such as shops, pubs and restaurants and public areas such as museums and sports stadiums, the “new normal” is still being sorted out. Some people are very reticent about the removal of face-masks and have got used to having space around them separating them from other people. Younger people seem to be generally more relaxed about the mixing in crowds and where social distancing is not an option. Where will we be in a few years time in terms of remote working, online access to meetings and still allowing people options to attend events “remotely”? It’s an interesting sociological study in many ways.

How are the courts dealing with remote attendance? 

The courts are also experiencing pressures from some people to allow remote hearings and “attendance” via online methods. There appears to be a push-back against those who are seeking to find ways out of attending the court in person, particularly since the lockdowns have come to an end. There have been several recent cases that have featured issues tied into COVID-19 related matters.

Business Mortgage Finance 4 plc and others v Hussain [2022] EWHC 353 (Ch) featured a situation where a defendant argued that he could not attend court in person because he had tested positive for COVID-19. The court rejected his argument due to a lack of evidence that he had taken appropriate testing procedures. The judge reminded the parties that “the mode of hearing is a matter for the court, not the parties” and ordered an in-person trial.

Farrer & Co LLP v Meyer [2022] EWHC 362 (QB) also featured a defendant arguing that they wished to attend a court hearing remotely from Zurich down to issues of ill-health. In this case it was reluctantly agreed to though the judge again questioned the strength of the medical evidence presented. The judge warned the parties that remote attendance is not permitted simply for a person’s convenience.

Given these two examples it is best to assume that the courts are likely to become considerably less willing to allow remote attendance at legal hearings the further we draw away from the main pandemic. Whether the attitudes shown in the courts start to permeate through other parts of society and we see a return to the “old norm” as the “new norm” waits to be seen.

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