Nearly 12,500 calls last year for free legal advice - with big increase in employment concerns

Flac’s annual report said employment law queries in one week in May 2020 “exceeded family law queries for the first time”.

A FREE LEGAL advice organisation received almost 12,500 calls last year, with an increase of almost 40% in employment law queries. 

Free Legal Advice Centres (Flac) said in its 2020 annual report that issues related to Covid-19 “dominated” the employment queries, with concerns about lay offs, annual leave, refusal of leave for childcare and redundancies. 

Flac is an Irish human rights group. It offers a number of free legal advice services, including an information and referral phone line.

Family law queries comprised more than one-quarter of the issues raised on this phone line last year, an increase of 14% on the year prior. Almost two-fifths of these queries related to separation or divorce. 

16% of all queries related to employment law, which is an increase of almost 40% compared to the amount of employment queries in 2019.

The chief executive of Flac, Eilis Barry, said employment law queries in one week in May 2020 “exceeded family law queries for the first time in Flac’s history”. 

In total, the organisation received 12,468 calls to its phone information line last year.

“It was particularly concerning for Flac to receive calls from people who were the subject of ongoing and exacerbated domestic violence and felt in genuine fear for their safety,” a statement from Flac said.

“This was often due to financial and alcohol stresses as well as people now living in close confines due to the sudden loss of employment arising from Covid Restrictions.”

Flac said this is an additional concern given reports last week that hundreds of 999 emergency calls from people experiencing domestic abuse had been erroneously cancelled between 2019 and 2020. 

In total, 4,860 people received basic legal advice from around 550 volunteer lawyers at free legal advice clinics last year, which Flac said were held remotely during the pandemic. 

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