Bar Council backs calls to end harassment at the Bar

Bar Council backs calls to end harassment at the Bar

Calls to tackle harassment in the barristers’ profession have been strongly backed by the Bar Council who have admitted that harassment and bullying has been, and remains, a key priority for the organisation.

Sam Mercer, Head of Equality & Diversity at the Bar Council, said:

“The Bar Council is absolutely against any abuse of power in any organisations in which barristers work. Tackling issues of harassment and bullying is a top priority for the Bar Council. We devote considerable resources to supporting and encouraging barristers in their careers. Over the last few months we have updated sample anti-harassment policies and enhanced guidance to assist barristers’ chambers, and we are in the process of rolling out a specific training programme to support the profession.

 

“The Bar Council has campaigned successfully for more to be done to enable male and female barristers to progress equally through their careers; we have been working, and will continue to work closely with chambers and the Inns of Court, as well as the regulator, the Bar Standards Board (BSB), to tackle unacceptable behaviour. Therefore, we welcome the Behind the Gown initiative and look forward to working in conjunction with it to find additional and better ways to prevent harassment from happening in the first place – and to ensure that there are appropriate remedies and solutions when it does.”

The Bar Council’s sexual harassment guide can be found at https://bit.ly/2kw8z6r.

In a separate announcement, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has announced how it intends to work with the profession to make further progress in eliminating the discrimination, harassment and other unfair treatment of female barristers.

The actions include:

  • working with others, including the Bar Council, the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks (IBC) and the Legal Practice Management Association (LPMA), to address cultural issues at the Bar which may be contributing to various types of unfair treatment for women, and to consider future training needs;
  • reviewing how the BSB’s approach to supervision and enforcement can take account of equality and diversity best practice;
  • measuring the overall effectiveness of the Equality Rules in the BSB Handbook and considering whether these need to be improved or updated; and
  • reviewing the role of Equality and Diversity Officers within chambers.

This follows the regulator’s publication in 2016 of its Women at the Bar report which found that women could face unfair treatment across a number of areas including harassment, discrimination, allocation of work, flexible working and parental leave. It also found that women at the Bar were reluctant to report unfair treatment and that there were issues with poor implementation and non-compliance with policies, and unsatisfactory levels of awareness of the Equality Rules.

The Women at the Bar Action Plan can be found at https://bit.ly/2IRSiqV

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