Equality and diversity policy

Equality policy

1.1 Chambers is committed to equal opportunities in respect of all its activities. It is mindful that Barristers are obliged to comply with rc110 of the BSB Handbook and that under rC111 for the purposes of Rule rC110, the steps which it is reasonable to take will depend on all the circumstances, which include, but are not limited to: 1. the arrangements in place in chambers for its management, and 2 “any role which you play in those arrangements.” Chambers fully subscribes to non-discrimination in the acceptance of work, the carrying out of that work and all dealing with clients, colleagues, staff and others. It is mindful of The Core anti-discrimination duty set out at CD8 of the Handbook. CD8: “You must not discriminate unlawfully against any person”: supplemented by rC12 which expands and clarifies: “You must not discriminate unlawfully against, victimise or harass any other person on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship, sex, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, disability, age, pregnancy and maternity, religion or belief”.

1.2 Chambers is that of a Sole Practitioner but this policy is drawn up on the basis that all person connected with chambers must comply with this Policy

1.3 The Equality Officer shall ensure that this policy is reviewed at least once a   year, and on an ad hoc basis in line with any changes in legislation and guidance from the Bar Council. Any amendments necessary in consequence of such reviews will be promptly implemented.

1.4  Chambers will comply with the Rules require Diversity Data Officers (“DDOs”) within chambers to:

  • Invite members of their chambers’ workforce*  to provide their diversity data (rC110.q) using the model questionnaire and in line with their chambers’ written policy statement on the collection, publication, retention and destruction of diversity data (rC110.t.i); and
  • Publish an anonymous summary of that data every three years (rC110.r), subject to protections for anonymity (rC110.s.ii) and categorised by reference to the job title and seniority of chambers’ workforce (rC110.s.iii).

Statement of intent

2. Chambers fully subscribes to the view that diversity and equality of opportunity provides the widest and most fertile source of talent which benefits Chambers, the Bar and wider society. Its objective is equal opportunity, while recognising that certain under-represented groups in the professions, should be given particular encouragement within the law. No-one should be treated less favourably on the grounds of their sex, sexual orientation, marital status, colour, race, nationality, ethnicity, or national origin, or on the grounds of disability, religion or age without clear legal justification.

3. This policy will apply to every aspect of working life within Chambers.  As abovementioned, Chambers is that of a sole practitioner and rC110 of the BSB advises that the steps which it is reasonable to take will depend on all the circumstances. Chambers is not currently an employer of staff and is not registered for pupils, but this Policy is drawn up to provide for Chambers developing so as to employ staff, select pupils and recruit new tenants. In addition the Policy will apply to Chambers as a provider of services to solicitors and through Licensed Access, and treatment of third parties visiting Chambers.

4. This policy includes the prohibition of harassment and victimisation which Chambers recognises as being aspects of discrimination. Examples of behaviour which may constitute harassment or victimisation when based on a person’s race, sex, nationality, sexual orientation or disability are:-

  • Stating expressly or insinuating that sexual favours may in some way further a person’s career or that refusing sexual favours may be inimical to it.
  • Compromising suggestions or invitations, including those cloaked as jokes.
  • Display of pornographic or offensive material, including electronic material.
  • Offensive remarks or ridicule, which will be treated as denigrating the recipient of such remark or ridicule.
  • Offensive Jokes, irrespective of their masquerading as “good humour.”
  • Abuse
  • Ostracism, including exclusion from participation in social networks and activities.

5. Harassment on any of the grounds mentioned above will be regarded as manifestations of discrimination which are prohibited. They constitute conduct which expressly or impliedly is aimed at demeaning, though undermining the victim’s dignity at work and forcing them to function in a hostile or humiliating working environment. Such conduct adversely affects not only for the victim but impinges on the rest of the persons in a workplace. All persons connected with Chambers have a personal responsibility to behave in a manner which is not offensive to others.

6. The list of matters provided as examples of Harassment not only infringe obligations in the BSB Handbook but some could potentially engage the criminal law. Thus 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.

7. Disability

7.1 Chambers is determined to make reasonable adjustments to its arrangements or to physical features of the premises to ensure that those who suffer from a disability are not unjustifiably disadvantaged in comparison with persons who are not disabled. For example it has arranged its facilities to hold conferences on the ground floor which facilitates access for those who have a disability; and if attending a conference in chambers still presents difficulty for a disabled client, the conference can be arranged at the client's premises. Another example, is that  chambers has sourced providers of services relating to Braille if needed.    

7.2 Every person connected with Chambers must be mindful that an individual act of discrimination may not only be actionable against the perpetrator but also potentially against Chambers. Conduct constituting discrimination or harassment by any person connected with Chambers will normally result in disciplinary action. Persons connected with Chambers are required to co-operate in any measures introduced by Chambers designed to ensure equal opportunity and non-discrimination. The Sole Practitioner will use his best endeavours to ensure that this Policy is scrupulously adhered to.

7.3 Chambers further recognises that it may also be guilty of discrimination if it allows any third party to act in a discriminatory way when it could have reasonably prevented that from occurring. Chambers is committed to ensuring that this does not occur.

Governing legislation

8.1 Chambers’ Equality Policy is designed to ensure that all anti-discrimination legislation is fully complied with. Without prejudice to the generality of this, it follows the Equality Act 2010, and is mindful of the 'protected characteristics' under the law, and that discrimination based on any of these protected characteristics is against the law

8.2 Chambers is also fully committed to the complementary guidance given in various Codes of Practice and Guidance:-

(i) The Equal Opportunities Commission Code of Practice on sex discrimination, equal opportunity policies, procedures and practices in employment.
(ii) The Commission for Racial Equality Code of Practice on racial equality in employment.
(iii) (a) The Disability rights Commission Code of Practice Employment and occupation.
(iii) (b) The Guidance on matters to be taken into account in determining questions relating to the definition of disability.
(iv) The Equal Opportunities Commission Code of Practice on Equal Pay.
(v) Age diversity at work: A practical guide for business.
(vi) The BSB Handbook Equality Rules.

Scope of the Policy

9. This policy applies to all features of Chambers’ functions. Notwithstanding Chambers being that of a Sole Practitioner, this Policy is drawn up not only to cover the existing functions in Chambers but to also proactively encompass the potential expansion of chambers to encompass the taking of pupils and the engagement of staff. Without prejudice to the generality of the Policy, some particular matters the Policy extends to are as follows:-

(a) Pupillage

In the event of Chambers extending its functions to Pupillage, a Chambers’ Pupillage Policy Document will be drawn up containing a commitment to equal opportunities in the selection and recruitment of pupils. It is intended that this policy document will apply to the selection and recruitment of pupils.

(b) The recruitment of established practitioners

Chambers will 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.

(c) The career progression and marketing of tenants

10. In the event of Chambers expanding beyond that of a Sole Practitioner, Chambers will ensure that tenants have equal access to work appropriate to their experience and seniority 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

A female’s place in Chambers will remain open for up to one year while she takes maternity leave. For a period of up to six months the tenant shall be relieved from paying one half of the rateable Chambers’ expenses during such leave commencing with the date of commencement of such leave

(a) “Flexible working”
Chambers recognises the importance of flexible working to strike a balance between work and family life. An expansion of Chambers will result in the following action to support this balance:-

(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”

(f) The recruitment of staff

Recruitment of staff will occur in strict conformity with equal opportunities in the work place and the legislation and complementary guidance referred to above.

11. Promotion

Chambers will take the following positive action to support this Policy:-

(a) In respect of recruitment, Chambers will take steps to try and attract applications from all genders and races 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) Work will be offered equally to those of similar skills and experience, and will take the necessary action in accordance with the BSB Handbook 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, in the event of Chambers expanding, will be informed by this Policy.

Monitoring

12.1 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, and subject to Chambers expanding, 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) parental leave entitlement;
(e) the recruitment of staff;
(f) the allocation of work between members of chambers.

12.2 The monitoring will be arranged by the Head of Chambers.

Complaints/Grievance procedure

13. Chambers recognises that the making of a complaint may be inhibited by a number of matters, including a desire to prevent any ill feeling between colleagues, embarrassment, and fear of being wrongly labelled a troublemaker. The approach that Chambers will take, therefore, is to keep confidential the name of the complainant (except to those conducting the investigation and the subject of the complaint), unless the Complainant consents to the complaint being made more widely known. Chambers will ensure that complainants will not in any way be victimised or suffer any adverse consequences from making a complaint in good faith.

14. A person who considers that they are subject to any discrimination can choose to deal with the matter in a number of ways:-

(i) Registering a concern: where an aggrieved person solely wishes to voice their concerns, they may approach the Head of Chambers for a confidential discussion. This is primarily intended to provide support and advice without the matter proceeding further.

(ii) Informal complaint: this option can be exercised by the informal complaint being made orally to the Head of Chambers. An informal complaint aims at resolving differences without triggering a formal investigation to determine the issues. If the complaint concerns the conduct of a person in Chambers an option could be the person being made aware that they are causing offence and requested to desist from the behaviour complained of. Where the complaint relates to a decision taken in Chambers, consideration can be given to reviewing the decision and (if appropriate) reversing it. 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 Head of Chambers. Any complaint will be treated in the utmost confidence. The complainant has a right to make representations and/or be independently represented as does the person against whom the complaint has been made. In the case of a formal complaint, with the agreement of the Complainant, Chambers may request that the procedure is reinforced by participation of two agreed members of other chambers. The procedure relating to a formal complaint 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 subject of the complaint as soon as reasonably practicable.

15. If actual or potential discrimination is identified, prompt corrective measures will be taken. Without prejudice to the generality of corrective measures, examples include the revisiting and (if appropriate reversing) of a decision; the provision of a further opportunity to be interviewed for pupillage or a tenancy; considering the provision of a further opportunity for matters such as a particular brief; a corrective change in working practices; further advice, training or support; the monitoring of the allocation of work; and any other action including appropriate disciplinary steps against the offender.

16. Every subject of a complainant has a right to take advantage of The Bar Complaints Advisory Scheme (BCAS), which enables barristers who are the subject of disciplinary or complaints proceedings to obtain advice and assistance from fellow members of the Bar. BCAS is a support scheme for the Bar and includes a list of voluntary barristers maintained by the Bar Council’s Services Team and distributed on request to individuals seeking advice or assistance regarding a disciplinary or complaints matter.

17. Complainants can lodge a formal complaint of professional misconduct with the Bar Standards Board. Complaints of unlawful discrimination have a legal right to apply subject to time limits to the County Court or for Chambers’ employers to the Industrial Tribunal. The Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission are also available for consultation.

Appeals

18. 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.

Publicising of Policy

19. As abovementioned, chambers is that of a sole practitioner. Copies of this Equality Policy shall be provided for all persons connected with chambers who by virtue of their connection with chambers will accept their duty to comply with this Policy.

Review

This Policy was last reviewed on 11th December 2019 and will be subject to review on 10th December 2020.