The Covid-19 pandemic is presenting unprecedented challenges for us all. We will provide advice to Notaries in relation to Covid-19 which will be updated as the situation develops.
The Faculty Office
We continue to monitor closely the unprecedented threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. As far as possible, we are taking every available step to minimise the potential impact the virus will have on our service delivery to our regulated community and consumers whilst, most importantly, safeguarding and protecting our staff and their families. Faculty Office staff are all working remotely. You will find all our staff’s direct dial numbers and individual email addresses at: http://www.facultyoffice.org.uk/about-us/staff/ and the main email address remains unchanged at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use electronic means of communication rather than post where possible as post/DX will take longer to reach us.
We are here to support you with regulatory issues you may have in the current environment. We can’t give legal advice but we can talk through your concerns and may be able to provide guidance on your regulatory issue.
We want to support you in finding safe ways to provide service to your clients where it is safe to do so. These are exceptional times presenting unprecedented challenges to notaries and their clients. Lawyers around the world are facing huge difficulties and having to accept that delays, postponements and accommodations have to be made in legal transactions until some semblance of normality returns. Notaries have public duties and Rule 21 of the Notaries Practice Rules 2019 deals with the provision of Notarial services under the heading of ‘Supervision of a Notary’s Office’
R. 21.1 A notary shall take reasonable steps to ensure that every office where he practises is and can be seen to be:
21.1.1 open, save exceptionally and for a good reason, during normal office hours for the provision of appropriate notarial services to members of the public; (our emphasis).
It would be difficult, we believe, for anyone to successfully argue that these are anything other than exceptional times, so any decision by an individual notary not to provide their normal notarial services at the current time would be fully understood by the Faculty Office if there were to be a complaint made against a Notary and we will take a proportionate approach to enforcing rules on notaries working through the Covid-19 crisis.
Continuing Professional Education
We are aware that many of the CPE courses which the Notaries Society and Notary Training were scheduled to run have had to be postponed or cancelled. Both providers are working on online CPE courses which either already have been, or will shortly be accredited under the Notaries (CPE) Regulations 2010 and we are aware of other providers who are also aiming to have online courses available in the coming weeks. There will therefore be ample supply of online courses to enable notaries to achieve the required three accredited points as part of their annual six point CPE requirement before the Autumn.
For notaries who are currently under supervision and their supervisors, we are content that any supervision meetings required by the rules can be conducted by Skype, Zoom or other online platform provided that adequate arrangements for electronic inspection of documents, protocols etc can be arranged between supervisor and supervisee. The requirement for physical visits is waived until such time as the current lockdown and social distancing guidance from the government remains in place.
For further guidance see the Official Government response “Business and other Organisations” Coronavirus (COVID-19): UK government response – GOV.UK which, whilst not specific to Notaries, provides useful information.
Whatever pressure is put upon you to provide Notarial Services, your own health is paramount – where you can, work from home, and above all stay safe.