1.1 Any barrister member is entitled to up to 2 years’ leave of absence from Chambers for the purposes of parental leave. The period of parental leave (but not the total period of exemption) may be extended by the Head of Chambers on application.
1.2 Such leave is to be commenced within 12 months of birth of the child or the child entering a family (either as a result of, or with a view to, the adoption of that child).
1.3 During the period of any parental leave, a barrister member shall be entitled to a period of up to 12 months waiver of the Chambers’ service charge (‘rent’). The member may choose to exercise this waiver at any time within a period of 2 years from the birth of the said child.
1.4 Chambers recognises that there may be cashflow implications following a period of parental leave. For that reason, the waiver of rent shall be structured in the following way:-
1.4.1 If parental leave is taken for a period of less than 1 month, rent shall be charged in the usual way.
1.4.2 If parental leave is taken for more than 1 month but less than 6 months, the rent free period will be the same as parental leave period.
1.4.3 If parental leave is taken for 6 or 7 months, the rent free period will be the period of parental leave + 1 month
1.4.4 If parental leave is taken for 8 or 9 months, the rent free period will be the period of parental leave + 2 months
1.4.5 If parental leave is taken for more than 9 months, the rent free period will be for 12 months.
1.5 Full Chambers Expenses remain payable on fees received during any period of parental leave.
1.6 From time to time, Chambers will vary the rent of members for financial reasons. Any such action will not affect the application of this policy.
2.1 Any barrister member of Chambers intending to take time away from Chambers for the purpose of parental leave must give written notice to the Head of Chambers. Such notice shall be given at least 1 month prior to the expected date of birth or adoption of a child (or of a child joining the family with a view to adoption) although Chambers may exceptionally agree a shorter period of notice. Chambers recognises that there will be circumstances in which it will not be possible to give any notice (for example, a premature birth).
2.2 Chambers (and in particular Chambers’ clerks) will accommodate time-off for ante-natal care and related medical and other appointments.
2.3 Prior to the commencement of leave, the barrister should meet with the Senior Clerk to discuss and agree the following:
During Leave – Contact with Chambers
3.1 Chambers, through the Senior Clerk (or other appropriate person), will ensure that the barrister member is kept informed of chambers meetings, important chambers decisions, seminars or conferences to be held by chambers relevant to the barrister’s practice and, where possible seminars held by outside organisations.
3.2 Where possible and with the agreement of the barrister member concerned, seminar materials should be posted to the barrister.
3.3 Unless otherwise informed by the barrister member, it should be assumed that they cannot attend chambers and team meetings and apologies for absence should be reflected in the minutes of those meetings. Minutes should be e-mailed to the barrister member where appropriate.
4.1 The barrister member’s incoming should be monitored by the clerks on a regular basis. Where necessary the contents should be posted to the barrister at least weekly at no cost extra cost to the barrister.
4.2 Any cheques received during parental leave should be paid directly into the barrister member’s account unless other arrangements have been agreed.
Preparation for return to practice
5.1 The below measures are aimed at ensuring the member’s return to Chambers after leave of absence is properly managed and planned and that steps are taken to ensure work is available for the member upon their return and to assist in every way practical in rebuilding the member’s practice. This is the responsibility of both the barrister member and Chambers through the Senior Clerk.
5.2 Keeping in Touch (KiT) days can be used for any work related activity e.g. training or team events. The content, frequency and number of KiT days should be designed to make the return to work following leave easier for the barrister member. They are taken during leave.
5.3 Prior to the commencement of leave, the barrister member in consultation with the Senior Clerk should agree the number of KiT days to be used subject to a maximum of 10 days. Agreement should also be reached as to the dates of the KiT days, although this should remain flexible.
5.4 During the period of parental leave, the barrister member should be reminded by the Senior Clerk (or other appropriate clerk) by e-mail of the dates of KiT days. These days should not affect the calculation of chambers’ parental leave benefit.
5.5 Where possible the agenda for the KiT days should be planned in advance. There should be at least one meeting with the head of the relevant clerking team which would be similar in content to a practice review. Consideration should be given to arranging a meeting with one or more barrister members of the relevant practice team.
Pre-return to practice meeting
6.1 At least 3 months prior to the barrister member’s return to practice consideration must be given to the following:
Return from Leave
7.1 On return to work each barrister member may work part-time or flexible hours to enable them to manage their family responsibilities. Chambers recognises that some members may have a greater need for flexible working than others – for example, where a child has a disability or a medical condition.
7.2 The Head of Chambers shall grant the request for such approval to the extent that they consider that it is in accordance with the reasonable needs of Chambers taking into account the Chambers Equality Code and the applicable law.
7.3 The following adjustments should be made so as to accommodate the needs of barrister members returning from parental leave:
7.4 The timing of Chambers meetings, team meetings and practice reviews should take into consideration childcare needs of barristers, and attendance at evening/weekend meetings should not be expected. Chambers should make child care provision for Chambers’ meetings or any other meeting which take place over the weekend or in the evening and at which a member’s attendance is expected or required,
7.5 Conference call facilities should be made available to barrister members wishing to participate in meetings from home,
7.6 Monthly meetings during the first 6 months of the return to work should take place, at which the barrister members’ career and support needs are identified. Their ‘mentor’, the Senior Clerk (or other appropriate clerk) and where requested, the team convenor, should be present.
7.7 Barrister members are responsible for ensuring their practising certificates and insurance are current upon return.
Pupils & Prospective pupils
8.1 Upon application, Chambers may defer the commencement of pupillage of prospective pupils who become pregnant prior to the commencement of pupillage for a period of up to 12 months.
8.2 Prospective pupils with existing childcare commitments may discuss with the Pupillage Coordinator how their working hours during pupillage can accommodate such commitments and should be advised of their entitlement to flexible working hours in accordance with this policy.
9.1 This part of the policy applies to all first and second six pupils who are parents or guardians or carers of children, or their partners.
9.2 Pupils who become pregnant during pupillage may defer completion of the remainder of pupillage, subject to the requirements of Part V of the Bar. Training – in the event that an exemption from the Bar Training Regulations is required, the pupil’s supervisor shall be responsible for obtaining written permission from the Bar Standards Board.
9.3 Such a deferral shall not affect the overall pupillage award which shall be paid monthly during the period in which the pupil is undertaking pupillage. In the event of a rise in the pupillage award following deferral and prior to commencement of the deferred period the pupil shall be paid at the increased rate during the deferred period.
9.4 In the event of deferral and during the pupil’s ‘break’ period, the pupil’s supervisor shall be their point of contact with Chambers.
9.5 Chambers shall accommodate pupils’ requests for flexible working hours in order to allow for childcare commitments. Such working hours should be discussed with the pupil’s supervisor in order to ensure that the pupil is able to complete the work that is required of them.
9.6 The need to work flexible hours for this reason should not, as far as possible, affect the allocation of court work during the practising period of pupillage. Pupils should however be aware of the demands of the court schedule and the necessity for evening and last- minute briefs and should arrange childcare with this in mind wherever possible.
9.7 Pupils should be assured that any need to work flexible hours for reasons of childcare will not in any way affect their prospects of being recruited as a tenant pursuant to the Chambers’ policy on recruitment of tenants from pupils.
Review of this Policy
10.1 Chambers’ Equality and Diversity Officer will review annually the effectiveness of this policy, and where appropriate will make proposals for change to the Management Committee. In doing this, the Equality and Diversity Officer will strive to comply with the letter and spirit of the Western Circuit Women’s Forum publication “Back to the Bar: Best Practice Guide. Retention and Progression After Parental Leave”, a copy of which is annexed to this policy.