- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- Full Chambers Expenses remain payable on fees received during any period of parental leave.
- 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).
- Chambers (and in particular Chambers’ clerks) will accommodate time-off for ante-natal care and related medical and other appointments.
- Prior to the commencement of leave, the barrister should meet with the Senior Clerk to discuss and agree the following:-
- the level and type of contact s/he would like to have during parental leave
- any outstanding cases and appropriate cover
- any outstanding billing
- proposals as to how aged debt is to be handled and how income is to be maximised and regularised during the period of parental leave
- a proposed return date so that solicitors can be kept informed;
- arrangements for the forwarding of post and paying in of cheques;
- whether s/he should suspend her/his practising certificate. It should be borne in mind that while suspension means that the barrister member will be free from CPD obligations for the period of suspension, it also means that s/he will not be able to take on any work during the period of leave.
- proposals as to how email accounts are to be monitored, including the setting up and wording of ‘out-of-office’ messages and responsibility for monitoring cases on the Digital Case System
Contact with Chambers
- 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.
- Where possible and with the agreement of the barrister member concerned, seminar materials should be posted to the barrister.
- Unless otherwise informed by the barrister member, it should be assumed that s/he 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.
Management of pigeon hole
- The barrister member’s pigeon hole 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.
- 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
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.
Keeping in Touch (KiT) days
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
At least 3 months prior to the barrister member’s return to practice consideration must be given to the following:
- Identification and appointment of a mentor who will assist the barrister member in settling back into practice and generally,
- The likely working hours, the type, duration and location of any hearings that the barrister member may undertake. This should include any request for flexible or part-time working and whether the barrister in question wishes to change or limit the geographical area of his or her practice
- Any need for the barrister member to attend a “refresher” course in their relevant practice area,
- Review the barrister member’s website profile in conjunction with the Senior Clerk (or other appropriate clerk) and Chambers marketing director, and where necessary up date the profile,
- Announce the barrister member’s return to practice on chambers’ website,
- Identify a list of solicitors and write to each of them announcing the barrister member’s return to practice.
RETURN FROM LEAVE
- 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.
- The Head of Chambers shall grant the request for such approval to the extent that he considers that it is in accordance with the reasonable needs of Chambers taking into account the Chambers Equality Code and the applicable law.
- The following adjustments should be made so as to accommodate the needs of barrister members returning from parental leave:
- 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,
- Conference call facilities should be made available to barrister members wishing to participate in meetings from home,
- 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.
- Barrister members are responsible for ensuring their practising certificates and insurance are current upon return.
- Upon application, Chambers may defer the commencement of pupillage of prospective pupils who become pregnant prior the commencement of pupillage for a period of up to 12 months.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- In the event of deferral and during the pupil’s ‘break’ period, the pupil’s supervisor shall be their point of contact with Chambers.
- 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 him or her.
- 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.
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
The 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.