Equality and Diversity Policy

1. This Equality and Diversity Policy incorporates:

  • General Commitment
  • Anti-harassment Policy
  • Parental Leave policy
  • Flexible Working policy
  • Reasonable Adjustments Policy

2. General commitment 

2.19.2.1 Chambers is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity in its own policies, practices and procedures and in those areas in which it has influence. This applies to Chambers’ dealings with members of Chambers (which in this policy shall include the Chambers’ employees), pupils, clients and third parties. 

2.19.2.2 Chambers will treat everyone equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect and will not discriminate against any person, nor victimise or harass them on the grounds of:

  • age
  • disability
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity
  • race
  • religion or belief
  • sex and sexual orientation

3.  Chambers will take such steps and make such reasonable adjustments as are necessary in all the circumstances in order to prevent any members of Chambers and clients from being placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled. 

Regulation and legislation 

1. In implementing its equality and diversity policy, Chambers will comply with the Equality Act 2010 and the Bars Standards Board Handbook. 

Chambers as an employer 

1. As an employer, Chambers will treat all members and job applicants equally and fairly and not discriminate unlawfully against them. This will, for example, include arrangements for recruitment and selection, terms and conditions of employment, access to training opportunities, grievance and disciplinary processes, demotions, selection for redundancies, dress code, references, work allocation and any other employment related matters. 

Recruitment and selection 

1. Chambers recognises the benefits of having a diverse workforce and will take steps to ensure that: 

  • It endeavours to recruit from the widest pool of qualified candidates possible;
  • Employment opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of their individual qualities and personal merits
  • Selection criteria and processes do not discriminate on any of the prohibited grounds referred to above
  • All recruitment agencies acting for Chambers are aware of its requirement not to discriminate and to act accordingly. 
  • All members of any recruitment panel (whether for pupils, tenants or employees of Chambers) shall have undertaken the Introduction to Equality and Diversity programme provided by the Bar Council.
  • At least one member of any such recruitment panel will have attended the Bar Council Fair Recruitment Course and all members of the panel will be familiar with the Bar Council’s Fair Recruitment Guide.

Conditions of service 

1. Chambers will create a working environment which is free from discrimination, victimisation and harassment and which respects the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of members of Chambers. 

2. Terms and conditions of service for members of Chambers will comply with anti-discrimination legislation. The provision of benefits such as working hours, maternity / paternity and other leave arrangements, performance appraisal systems, dress code and any other conditions of employment will not discriminate against any member of Chambers on any of the prohibited grounds referred to above. Where appropriate and necessary, Chambers will endeavour to provide appropriate facilities and conditions of service which take into account the specific needs of members of Chambers. 

Promotion and career development 

1. Promotion within Chambers will be made without reference to any of the prohibited grounds referred to above and will be based solely on merit. The selection criteria and processes for recruitment and promotion will be kept under review to ensure that there is no unjustifiably discriminatory impact on any particular group. Whilst positive action measures may, where lawful, be taken in accordance with relevant anti-discrimination legislation to encourage members of under-represented groups to apply for promotion opportunities, recruitment or promotion to all jobs will be based solely on merit. All employees will have equal access to training and other career development opportunities appropriate to their experience and abilities.

Barristers

1. Barristers should be instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability. Members of Chambers will not, on any of the prohibited grounds referred to above, encourage or discourage a client from briefing a barrister. Clients’ requests for a named barrister should be complied with, subject to Chambers’ duty to discuss with the client the suitability of the barrister and to advise appropriately. Chambers will discuss with the client any request by the client that only a barrister who is (for example) not disabled or who is of a particular gender, marital status, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief, age, or sexual orientation be instructed. In the absence of a valid reason for this request, which must be within any exemptions permitted by the anti-discrimination legislation, Chambers will endeavour to persuade the client to modify their instructions insofar as they are given on discriminatory grounds. Should the client refuse to modify such instructions, Chambers will cease to act. 

Clients 

1. Chambers must not refuse to accept instructions from clients based upon any of the prohibited grounds referred to above. Chambers will take reasonable steps to meet the different needs of particular clients arising from its obligations under anti-discrimination legislation.

Promoting equality and diversity 

 1. Chambers is committed to promoting equality and diversity in Chambers as well as in those areas in which it has influence. Members of Chambers will be informed of this policy and employees will be provided with equality and diversity training appropriate to their needs and responsibilities.

Anti-Harassment Policy

1. This policy covers all those working in Devon Chambers, visiting Devon Chambers and providing services to Devon Chambers. It covers, amongst others, tenants, pupils, members of staff and instructing solicitors.

2. Devon Chambers is committed to providing a work environment in which all individuals, clients and the public are treated with dignity and respect.  Devon Chambers is determined to promote a work environment in which everyone is treated equally and with dignity and can flourish. This Anti-Harassment Policy is a central plank of Chambers’ commitment and will be applied rigorously.

3. Harassment in any form will not be tolerated at Devon Chambers.

4. Harassment is any form of unwanted conduct, which has the aim, or effect of diminishing a person’s dignity or creating a humiliating or offensive environment for that person. The essence of all harassment is that it is unwelcome conduct, which is offensive to the recipient. The test is a subjective one and the fact that one person may be able to ignore or deal comfortably with certain behaviour does not mean that it is acceptable if directed at another.

5. Devon Chambers prohibits any behaviour which causes offence or distress to another and which is perceived by that person as relating to or arising from his/her race, religion, political belief, sexual orientation, gender, gender reassignment or disability and which constitutes less favourable treatment on such grounds. Harassment may take a variety of forms and includes behaviour:

  • Which is unwanted by the recipient and perceived as threatening;
  • Which causes a hostile or threatening working environment; or
  • Where rejection or submission is used as a basis for decisions concerning the recipient e.g. decision relating to award of pupillage, appointment of tenancy, promotion or other opportunities for career advancement.

6. The following are examples of types of behaviour, which may amount to harassment:

  • Physical or sexual assault;
  • Requests for sexual favours in return for career development;
  • Unnecessary physical contact;
  • Exclusion from social networks and activities or other forms of isolation;
  • Bullying;
  • Compromising suggestions or invitations;
  • Suggestive remarks or looks;
  • Display of offensive materials, including on a computer screen;
  • Tasteless jokes or verbal abuse, including any sent by email;
  • Offensive remarks or ridicule;
  • Dealing inappropriately or inadequately with complaints of harassment.

7. Complaints of harassment may be raised informally in the first instance with the Equality and Diversity officer Edward Bailey, the Head of Chambers or another senior member of chambers who will agree an appropriate response. Formal complaints should be made under the grievance procedure set out in this Manual.

8. Harassment is misconduct or gross misconduct for employees or a breach of the Bar Code of Conduct for barristers. Allegations of harassment will be dealt with under the Disciplinary procedure.

Allegations, which may amount to serious misconduct by a barrister, may be reported to the BSB under its reporting procedure.

Chambers is committed to ensuring that no one who makes an allegation of harassment in good faith should be subjected to any detriment as a result.

Chambers recognise that a recipient of harassment may find it difficult to come forward with a complaint and they understand that recipients and alleged harassers may be particularly concerned about confidentiality and the effect that a complaint may have on career advancement. To protect the interests of the complainant, the person complained against, and any others who may report or be witnesses to incidents of harassment, confidentiality will be maintained throughout any investigatory process to the extent that this is practical and appropriate under the circumstances. However, chambers has a duty to ensure that harassment does not re-occur. All records of complaints, including notes to meetings, interviews, results of investigations and other relevant material will be kept confidential by chambers except where disclosure is required for disciplinary or other remedial processes.

Any member, employee, pupil or mini-pupil in chambers has the right to bring to the attention of an appropriate person any behaviour, which they consider to be contrary to the harassment policy, irrespective of whether they are the recipients of the harassment. A member or employee of chambers who witnesses behaviour, which they consider contravenes the harassment policy, should take immediate action to indicate that such behaviour is unacceptable as failure to do so could be interpreted as condoning such behaviour.

A copy of this policy is provided to all those for whom chambers constitutes a working environment, including members of chambers, pupils, squatters, clerks and other employees, temporary workers, those who provide services to chambers such as contract cleaners, accountants and IT consultants, and mini-pupils and work experience students.

This policy was adopted on 5 August 2016 and will be reviewed at Chambers’ AGM in April of each year.