Offices operate a “Reception” arrangement whereby a staff member or staff members, will be available to answer the phone and deal with public callers. The office manager may draw up a rota for the clerical officers (and/or law clerks as necessary) to operate this position.
The duties of Reception are to:-
- deal with public callers
- answer the main phone (and where appropriate to transfer calls to the correct person)
- to check the general email inbox
- To check the fax machine and distribute incoming faxes
It is open to the office manager to assign other specific duties to the reception person.
The reception / waiting area should display up to date reading material and should be kept as clear as possible Chapter 7 deals with Client Care and maintaining confidentiality.
The Board’s information leaflets should be available for perusal and, where possible, information leaflets from other relevant service and support providers should be available. Dealing with the public is a duty of every staff member
Dealing with personal callers
Offices will, depending on their size and catchment area, have many personal visitors to the office each day.
Visitors during public opening hours
Visitors who attend during public opening hours should, in normal circumstances, be invited into the premises. If there is more than one visitor, they should be invited to take a seat in the waiting area and dealt with in the order they arrived at the office.
For routine matters – filling out application forms (where this is being done by the applicant themselves, unassisted), payment of contributions, and signing legal aid certificates – the visitor may be dealt with in the reception area. However, in the circumstances where an applicant / client wishes to discuss an aspect of their case, an appropriate appointment should normally be made for them to see their solicitor/mediator. If appropriate, a consultation room or a free office should be utilised in order to see an applicant / client who needs to discuss a matter in private. It is essential that a client / applicant’s business is kept confidential.
Visitors outside public opening hours
A visitor outside public opening hours should be seen only by appointment. Other visitors outside opening hours should be asked to call the office for an appointment. A member of staff should use their judgement as to what constitutes an “emergency”, or in case of doubt, ask their manager, or if he/she is absent from the office, a senior member of staff on duty. A degree of flexibility can be used in such circumstances, particularly with visitors who are slightly early or late.
Clients / applicants who bring children with them for an appointment
To avoid causing children any distress it is our policy that parents do not bring their children into any consultation unless it is for a mediation family session which has been pre-arranged with the mediator.
The Board informs clients that unfortunately we are not able to offer child-minding facilities in our offices and, for safety reasons, children cannot be left unattended in the waiting area.
A mother is permitted to breastfeed an infant in any area of the office. Staff should not raise any objections, nor may they ask the mother to breastfeed elsewhere.