1.1 Chambers is committed to applying the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of its work and recruitment.
1.2 All Barristers have committed to observe the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) Code of Conduct as contained in the BSB Handbook in relation to non-discrimination in the acceptance of work, the carrying out of that work and all dealing with clients, colleagues, staff and others.
1.3 All employees are required in their contracts of employment to comply with this Policy.
2.0 Statement of intent
2.1 Chambers values the rich diversity and creative potential that people with differing backgrounds and abilities bring to it and wishes positively to encourage a culture of equal opportunities for all in which personal success depends upon personal merit and performance. It is firmly committed to achieving equality of opportunity and to ensuring at all times that no-one should be treated less favourably because of any of the protected characteristics set out in the Equality Act 2010: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, national and ethnic or national origin), religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
2.2 This policy will apply to every aspect of life within Chambers including Chambers as an employer of staff, provider of services to the public, selection of pupils, recruitment of new tenants, relationships between members and engagement and treatment of third parties visiting Chambers. It will also apply to barristers when performing their professional role away from Chambers.
2.3 This policy includes the outlawing of harassment and victimisation which Chambers recognises as being forms of discrimination. Examples of behaviour which may amount to harassment or victimisation when based on any of the protected characteristics of a person are:
- Suggesting that sexual favours may in some way further a person’s career or that refusing sexual favours may damage it
- Compromising suggestions or invitations
- Display of pornographic or offensive material including on computer screens
- Offensive remarks or ridicule
- Jokes or abuse
- Exclusion from social networks and activities.
2.4 Harassment on any of the grounds mentioned above is a particular form of discrimination which will not be tolerated. It is conduct which is unwanted and a characteristic of it is that it undermines the victim’s dignity at work and can create a hostile or humiliating working environment not only for the victim but for the rest of the employees and/or barristers. Barristers and employees have a personal responsibility to behave in a manner which is not offensive to others.
2.4.1 Harassment can include:
- verbal conduct, for example insulting or abusive comments;
- lewd remarks;
- unwelcome propositions;
- unwanted physical contact.
2.4.2 Section 5 of the Public Order Act 1986 creates a criminal offence where a person uses (a) threatening or abusive or insulting words or behaviour or disorderly behaviour; or (b) displays any writing, sign or other visible representation which is threatening or insulting within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.
2.4.3 Chambers is aware of its duty to take reasonable steps to protect employees from third party harassment and will take any appropriate actions to do so. 2.4.4 Chambers’ Dignity at Work (Prevention of Bullying & Harassment Policy) sets out further definitions and examples of bullying and harassment and steps that can be taken to address problems both informally and formally. This is available via Human Resources or in the INFOPOLICIES Sharepoint folder.
2.5 Disability. Chambers will make reasonable adjustments to employment arrangements or to physical features of the premises to ensure that those who suffer from a disability are not disadvantaged in comparison with persons who are not disabled.
2.5.1 Chambers’ Reasonable Adjustments Policy sets out further information and examples of reasonable adjustments that may be put in place by Chambers. This is available via Human Resources or in the INFOPOLICIES Sharepoint folder.
2.6 Each employee should remember that should they be guilty of an act of discrimination this may be actionable personally against that employee as well as possibly being actionable against Chambers. Acts of discrimination or harassment by employees or barristers will normally result in disciplinary action. Employees are required to co-operate in any measures introduced by Chambers designed to ensure equal opportunity and non-discrimination and to draw to the attention of their manager or the Head of Human Resources suspected discriminatory acts or practices. The Head of Human Resources will use her best endeavours to ensure that managers and employees rigorously follow this Policy.
3.0 Legislation and Codes of Practice
3.1 Chambers’ Equality Policy is designed to ensure that the Equality Act 2010 and associated Codes of Practice are fully complied with in respect of all protected characteristics.
3.2 Chambers’ Equality Policy is also designed and implemented to deliver the expectations of the Equality Rules in the BSB Handbook and the BSB’s Supporting Information on the BSB Handbook Equality Rules.
4.0 Scope of the policy
4.1 This policy applies to all aspects of Chambers’ operations. Of particular importance, although not exclusively are:
The Chambers’ Pupillage Policy Document contains a commitment to equal opportunities in the selection and recruitment of pupils. It is intended that this policy document should apply to the selection and recruitment of pupils. The Pupillage Policy Document is readily available on request.
(b) The recruitment of established practitioners
It is the stated policy of Chambers, except in exceptional circumstances, to advertise for any identified vacancies which might arise and judge all applicants for those vacancies against set criteria which will be suitable for the vacancy which has arisen. The applicants will be selected in accordance with the aims of this policy document. However, it is recognised that some recruitment of experienced tenants inevitably takes place by informal methods. Whilst accepting that such methods are no substitute for a planned recruitment policy, Chambers is committed when considering an informal application to consider that application in a fair and consistent manner by reference to the needs of Chambers and the general statement of intent set out in this policy document
(c) The career development and marketing of tenants
Chambers is committed to ensuring that tenants have equal access to work appropriate to their experience and seniority. In the first instance it is the responsibility of the Chief Executive and the Head of Human Resources to ensure that career development is handled in a fair way and in accordance with this policy document. Equally, the marketing of tenants will be handled in a fair way and in accordance with this policy document so that no individual or group of individuals are unfairly excluded from any marketing events. It is the responsibility of any person arranging any such marketing event to ensure that this is complied with.
(d) Maternity, paternity and parental leave policies
Chambers’ Parental Leave Policy for Members provides for a member’s place in Chambers to remain open for up to one year while he or she takes maternity, adoption or shared parental leave. This may be extended by the Management Committee on application. During the period of any parental leave of 3 calendar months or longer, and for the first 3 months after returning to practice following parental leave of a period of 3 months or longer, a barrister member shall be entitled to a waiver of their monthly fee, up to a maximum waiver of 12 months of their monthly fee. The charge on expenses will also be reduced to 5% on any fees earned during the period of leave (i.e. the non-practising period).
The Parental Leave Policy for Members of Chambers provides full and further explanation of entitlements and how parental leave is supported in Chambers. This is available from Human Resources, a Senior Clerk or in the INFOPOLICIES Sharepoint folder.
(e) Flexible working
Chambers recognises the importance of flexible working in assisting its members to manage their family responsibilities or disability and to remain in practice and will take the following action to support this:
(i) allowing members to work flexible hours, part time or partly from home;
(ii) allowing members to have career breaks whilst retaining their membership in Chambers”.
The Flexible Working Policy for Members gives further information about how flexible working can be arranged and supported in Chambers. This is available from Human Resources, a Senior Clerk or in the INFOPOLICIES Sharepoint folder.
The Flexible Working Policy for employees of Chambers is also available from HR and can be found in the STAFFHR Sharepoint Folder.
(f) The recruitment of staff
The Chambers’ policy on recruitment of staff is specifically committed to equal opportunities in the workplace.
5.0 Recruitment & Promotion
Chambers will take the following actions to support this policy:
(a) During recruitment Chambers will take steps to try and attract applications from both sexes, all races and those with disabilities and will ensure that there are equal opportunities in all stages of the recruitment process.
(b) Promotion within Chambers will be based solely on merit.
(c) Clerks will ensure that all work is offered equally to those of similar skills and experience (subject to availability) and will take the necessary action under the BSB Code of Conduct should any professional client seek to unfairly influence the use of a particular barrister or decline to use a barrister on discriminatory grounds.
(d) All selection of pupils and tenants will be guided by this policy, as further detailed in the specific sections of the Pupillage Policy.
6.1 Chambers recognises the importance of monitoring so as to ensure effective implementation of its Equality Policy. Thus, in seeking to identify and eliminate sources of unintended discrimination, Chambers shall monitor:
(a) the consideration of the applications for pupillage;
(b) the recruitment of established practitioners;
(c) the career development and marketing of tenants;
(d) the application of Parental and Flexible Leave policies;
(e) the recruitment of staff;
(f) the allocation of work between members of Chambers.
This monitoring is conducted by the Senior Management Team, including Chambers’ Equality Data Officer (Helen Power) and analysis and recommendations considered by the Management Committee.
7.0 Complaints/grievance procedure
7.1 Chambers recognises that there may be particularly sensitive complaints where embarrassment, fear of causing a feud, of being labelled or of adverse judgement may prevent a complaint being made in the first place. Chambers is therefore committed that, as far as practicable, names of complainants shall not be released (save to those persons conducting the investigation and to the person complained against) without their consent. Equally, complainants will not be victimised or suffer detriment because of a complaint made in good faith. This is further set out in the Dignity at Work (Prevention of Bullying and Harassment) Policy.
7.2 A person subject to discrimination in any form may at their choosing deal with the matter in a number of ways:
(i) Voicing a concern: where an aggrieved person wishes to voice their concerns and no more they may approach any member of the Senior Management Team, the Equality and Diversity Officer (Kevin McNerney – 07785 398 519) or the Head of Chambers, for a confidential discussion. This is primarily intended to provide support and advice without the matter going any further, or to agree how it can be taken forward where action is required.
(ii) Informal complaint: the second option is the lodging of an informal complaint. This can be done orally to either the Head of Chambers, any member of the Senior Management Team, or the Equality and Diversity Officer (Kevin McNerney – 07785 398 519). An informal complaint is designed to act as a method for resolving disputes without the need for a formal investigation to determine the issues. If the complaint concerns the conduct of a person in Chambers, it may be that such a person can be made aware that they are causing offence and so cease the offending behaviour. Alternatively, where the complaint concerns a decision taken within Chambers it may be that such a decision can be reviewed or, if appropriate, overturned. An informal complaint may also be made for the purposes solely of seeking advice.
(iii) Formal complaint: the third option is the lodging of a formal complaint. This must be made in writing and must set out the allegations complained of so as to enable Chambers to carry out a thorough investigation of all the matters concerned. The complaint should be made as soon as reasonably practicable to the Chief Executive, the Head of Chambers or alternatively the Head of Corporate Services (David Anderson) or Head of Human Resources (Helen Power).
The complaint will be formally investigated and considered by a delegated member of Chambers with appropriate experience and objectivity (such as the Equality and Diversity Officer) and member of the Senior Management Team trained in conducting investigations.
Where appropriate the complaint will be directed through such other Grievance or Disciplinary procedure that may apply. Any complaint will be treated in the utmost confidence. The complainant has a right to make representations and/or be independently represented by an appropriate person as does the person against whom the complaint has been made. The procedure should be carried out expeditiously and any formal decision and/or action arising from a complaint should be communicated in writing to the complainant and/or the person complained against as soon as reasonably practicable.
7.3 If actual or potential discrimination has been found remedial steps will be taken immediately. These may include a re-evaluation of a decision, the further opportunity to be considered for an interview for pupillage or tenancy; the further opportunity to be considered for a particular brief or post as the case may be; a change in working practices; further advice, training or support; the comparative monitoring of work allocation; and any other action including disciplinary steps against the offender that appear to the delegation appointed to be appropriate.
7.4 Every complainant has a right to consult with the Bar Council Equal Opportunities Office for confidential advice and to lodge a formal complaint of professional misconduct with the Bar Standards Board. Complainants of unlawful discrimination have a legal right to apply subject to time limits to the County Court or for Chambers’ employees and barristers to the Employment Tribunal. The Equality and Human Rights Commission is also available for consultation.
7.5 Any appeals against any decision taken in respect of Chambers’ Equality Policy may be made through the grievance procedure or, as appropriate, a disciplinary procedure.
8.1 Copies of this Equality Policy shall be provided for Members of Chambers, Pupils, and Members of Staff who by virtue of their Membership of Chambers or employment will accept their duty to comply with this. It will also be published on Chambers’ website.
8.2 Awareness training, covering rights and responsibilities under this policy, will be provided to all pupils, members and employees on joining Chambers and refreshed regularly.
9.0 Action Plan
9.1 In addition to this overarching Equality Policy is the annual Action Plan designed to help eliminate discrimination. The Action Plan is saved in the INFOPOLICIES Sharepoint folder.
For our latest Equality and Diversity Data, please click here: Equality and Diversity Data.
For our latest Equality and Diversity Action Plan, please click here: Equality and Diversity Action Plan.
For our latest Reasonable Adjustments Policy, Please click here: Reasonable Adjustments Policy.