23 September 2019

Blog: Monthly message from our Chair Sir Andrew Burns KCMG

We recently published our Women at the Bar Report, which includes the results of a survey conducted earlier in January with women at the practising Bar about their experience of our Equality Rules. The report looked at a number of areas where women can face unfair treatment, including harassment, discrimination, work allocation, flexible working and returning from maternity leave. The responses show that many women are reluctant to report unfair treatment if they experience it. It also identifies instances of perceived non-compliance, poor implementation of policies and unsatisfactory levels of awareness of the Equality Rules.

We received more than 1,300 responses and, while there is evidence of good practice and progress in several areas, we were disappointed with some of the findings. Our Equality Rules were introduced partly to support the progression and retention of women at the Bar and we want to ensure that all women are treated fairly. We intend to work with Heads of Chambers to ensure that the Bar complies with our Equality Rules and our Supervision department is reviewing their approach to equality and diversity issues during supervision visits to chambers. Ahead of September, the department is currently refining the questions to be asked during interactions with chambers and are equipping themselves with good practice examples to enable chambers to comply with and implement the rules. We have written to all Heads of Chambers to ensure that all self-employed barristers are complying with our requirements; you can view the full letter in the August issue of Counsel Magazine.

We aim to support you in implementing your equality policies because we want to see a positive culture change. We hope that you read our report with interest and work with us to help to make the Bar a fairer place for women to work.