Well-being Policy

1. Chambers aspires to be both a good employer and create a safe environment for work and practice. We aim to encourage and facilitate working practices and services that support the health and well-being of all staff, pupils and barristers.

2. Work can have a positive impact on our health and well-being. Healthy and well-motivated barristers and staff members can have an equally positive impact on the productivity and effectiveness of Chambers. Fostering a working environment that protects the physical and mental well-being of its people is good for Chambers’ business.

3. Responsibility for health and well-being at work belongs to everyone in Chambers. Factors that can influence whether people will have a positive or negative relationship with work include:

a)  relationships between staff and barristers;

b)  whether staff and barristers feel involved in organisational issues and decisions;

c)  job design/barrister practice;

d)  income to meet more than just basic needs;

e)  availability and acceptability of flexible working;

f)  awareness of occupational health issues and whether they are taken seriously;

g)  whether the principles of fairness, equality and diversity are experienced in the workplace.

4. This policy provides a framework within which Chambers encourages and facilitates working practices and services that support well-being. It aims to draw upon good practice, recognising informal support arrangements particularly among barristers, and to be flexible rather than prescriptive.

5. Devon Chambers seeks to protect their employees and promote best practice in people management. It is our aim to ensure that all members of Chambers have some sense of autonomy and voice and feel supported by colleagues and more experienced barristers right to the Head of Chambers and management committee.

6. As part of this commitment Chambers has appointed a Well-being Lead, currently Victoria Hoyle and intends to provide training to support

a)  clerks with the skills to manage people, practice development, and Chambers as a whole;

b)  pupils and junior tenants with support and guidance from more senior members;

c)  skills training to utilise new systems and technologies;

d)  greater awareness of equality and diversity including disability and mental health issues;

e)  professional development for barristers relevant to their area of work;

f)  awareness of the signs of stress in ourselves and in others.

Work Life Balance

1. Chambers acknowledges and seeks to raise awareness that because barristers are self-employed there is an assumption that they have control of their work-life balance. However, the very fact of being self-employed adds pressures that are not experienced by employees. The desire to maintain a busy practice, to keep clerks, solicitors and other members of Chambers happy can result in taking on too much work. This can seriously upset work-life balance and may lead to unhealthy work-related stress.

2. Chambers operates a supportive referral scheme. When it is identified that pupils and barristers who display more than occasional cognitive, emotional, physical or behavioural symptoms of stress which give rise to concerns by colleagues or senior staff, he or she will be invited, in the first instance, to meet with the Well-being Lead, or a clerk of their choice, to discuss their workload and the management of their practice. The Chambers Well-being Lead reviews the efficacy of this scheme on a quarterly basis.

3. At any time, pupils and barristers can arrange to see the Well-being Lead, a mentor or senior clerk in their practice area if they feel a need to rebalance their practice for whatever reason.

4. Chambers operates flexible working and is supportive of providing adjustments, for short reviewable periods where the barrister feels that this is appropriate for them to manage their work life balance. Chambers recognises the importance of taking regular breaks from practise and encourages an open dialogue between barristers and clerks and between clerks and the Management Committee over this.

5. Pupils are not expected to average more than 40 hours of work per week and are expected to take 20 days holiday leave. Pupils should avoid falling into the trap of thinking that they will impress supervisors if they work very long hours. It is important that pupil supervisors are alert to the signs of stress and intervene at an early stage where possible.

6. Staff should inform the senior clerk at an early stage if they are finding their work commitments too demanding, even if the reasons for their difficulties are external to Chambers

7. There is substantial evidence that a flexible approach to working patterns can have significant organisational benefits, including reduced absenteeism, improved morale, loyalty and greater productivity. There are many different ways of structuring working patterns and Chambers will consider reasonable requests from staff members for part-time working; flexible working hours; compressed working hours; annualised hours; job sharing; working at or from home.

Mental well-being

1. Mental ill health and stress are associated with many of the leading causes of disease and disability in our society. Promoting and protecting the mental well-being of people in Chambers is important for individuals’ physical health, social well-being and productivity.

2. Mental well-being in the workplace is relevant to all and everyone has a responsibility to contribute to improved mental well-being at work. Addressing workplace mental well-being can help strengthen the positive, protective factors of employment, reduce risk factors for mental ill health and improve general health. It can also help promote the employment of people who have experienced mental health problems, and support them once they are at work.

3. Important aspects of mental health and well-being include providing information and raising awareness, management skills to deal with issues around mental health and stress effectively, providing a supportive work environment, offering assistance, advice and support to anyone experiencing a mental health problem or returning to Chambers after a period of absence due to mental health problems.

4. This policy is to be read in conjunction with the constitution and the management manual which includes Chambers parental leave policy.

5. Devon Chambers aims to develop a supportive culture, address factors that may negatively affect mental well-being, and to develop management skills. In order to develop this we will:

a)  reduce discrimination and stigma by increasing awareness and understanding of all forms of disability by ensuring that all members of Chambers undertake the Bar Council equality and diversity training;

b)  give employees information on, and increase their awareness of, mental well-being through access to training and Bar Council resources;

c)  give non-judgmental and proactive support to individual staff, pupils and barristers that experience mental health problems;

d)  include information about our mental health policy in induction sessions for new members of staff, pupils and tenants;

e)  provide opportunities for staff, pupils and barristers to look after their mental well-being, for example through physical activity, stress reducing activities and social events such as quiz nights and local charity events. Chambers will encourage participation in running events such as the Plymouth 10k and Chambers monthly social events;

f) offer staff flexible working arrangements and encourage barristers and pupils to have a good work-life balance by having available to them the opportunity for regular meetings with the Senior Clerk and Well-being Lead;

g)  set employees realistic targets that do not require them to work unreasonable hours;

h)  ensure all staff have clearly defined job descriptions, objectives and responsibilities and provide them with good management support appropriate training and adequate resources to do their job;

i)  manage conflict effectively and ensure the workplace is free from bullying and harassment, discrimination and racism;

j)  establish good two-way communication to ensure staff involvement, particularly during periods of organisational change.

6. To provide support for staff, pupils and barristers experiencing mental health difficulties, we will:

a)  ensure individuals suffering from mental health problems are treated fairly and consistently;

b)  where appropriate, when a barrister or staff member’s symptoms of stress become apparent, other barristers and staff will clearly communicate to colleagues who are able to provide support;

c)  ensure individuals are aware of the support that can be offered through occupational health (where appropriate), or their own GP;

d)  in cases of long term sickness absence, put in place, where possible, regular lines of communication and where possible, a graduated return to work or practice;

e)  make every effort to identify suitable alternative employment or practice, in consultation with the individual, where a return to the same role is not possible due to identified risks or other factors;

f)  treat all matters relating to individuals and their mental health problems in the strictest confidence and share on a ‘need to know’ basis only with consent from the individual concerned.

7. To demonstrate a positive and enabling attitude to employees and job applicants with mental health issues we will:

a)  have positive statements in recruitment adverts and literature;

b)  ensure that all staff and barristers involved in recruitment and selection are briefed on mental health issues, the Equality Act and have fulfilled the necessary Bar Council requirements for undertaking interviews, and are trained in appropriate interview skills;

c)  not make assumptions that a person with a mental health problem will be more vulnerable to workplace stress or take more time off than any other employee or job applicant;

d)  ensure all line managers have information and training about managing mental health in the workplace;

e)  recognise that workplace stress is a health and safety issue;

f)  ask about health and well-being in exit interviews to help identify factors that may cause stress.

8. Chambers arranges training events to support this policy for both new pupils, new practitioners, clerks and other staff joining Devon Chambers and seeks to review the effective implementation and support of this policy amongst its membership and employees.