Equality and diversity policy.
Adopted: 12 October 2020
1. Introduction and scope of the policy
1.1 Crucible Chambers seeks to ensure equality of opportunity between all members of Chambers, and between all employees of Chambers and between all pupils (including mini-pupils), in the way that they are selected for appointment, the way that work is allocated, and the opportunities that are available to them within Chambers.
1.2 This policy applies to all employees, tenants and pupils at Crucible Chambers.
1.3 All employees, tenants and pupils are required to read this policy, and to abide by it at all times. A breach of the policy may lead to disciplinary action being taken, and in the most serious cases could lead to termination of employment, pupillage or tenancy.
1.4 Chambers is bound by the Equality Act 2010 both as employers and in all aspects of its work as a barristers chambers including the recruitment of pupils and tenants and the arrangements made for distribution of work.
1.5 Chambers is further bound by the Employment Rights Act 1996 regarding employees.
1.6 However, chambers also recognises that individuals may suffer discrimination because of their colour, gender or gender identity/expression, sexuality, age, religious or political beliefs, membership of organisations or other factors.
1.7 Chambers will ensure as far as possible that no individual is discriminated against for any such reason. It is a core requirement of chambers membership, set out within our Constitution, that no one shall suffer discrimination or prejudice by reason of their personal protected characteristics.
2. Types of discrimination
2.1 Direct discrimination occurs when an individual is denied an opportunity, is treated less favourably than others or subjected to detriment because of their race, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship, sexual orientation, marital status, gender or gender identity/expression, disability, religion, age or political persuasion. Examples include; a constant failure to mention a particular tenant to an instructing solicitor, a refusal to work with another barrister or to return work to them, a failure to offer pupillage or tenancies, or to take a complaint of discrimination seriously. If the reason for the treatment is, inter alia, the individual's race, gender, disability, sexuality, political beliefs, or the fact that they are pregnant, it will be contrary to this policy and possibly unlawful.
2.2 Indirect discrimination occurs when. an organisation or group of individuals subject someone to a detriment, or deny opportunity by applying conditions or operating policies with which fewer people of particular groups can comply. An example would be a requirement that all employees are available to work full time. Such a requirement is likely to discriminate against members with childcare responsibilities.
2.3 In law, indirect discrimination may be justifiable, for objective reasons. Although Chambers will make every attempt to ensure that it does not indirectly discriminate, except for legitimate reasons, where there is a greater competing demand, it is recognised that it may do so.
3. Responsibility for the implementation of the policy
3.1 The responsibility for ensuring the implementation of this policy will lie with the Management Committee in liaison with chambers Equality and Diversity officers. Implementation will be monitored by regular reviews and updates from the Equality and Diversity officers.
4. Recruitment of pupils and members of chambers
4.1 Chambers is committed to ensuring that pupils and members of chambers are recruited in a fair way by reference to objective selection criteria.
4.2 Chambers only accepts applications for pupillage through a standardised application system. Each application form is marked by the pupillage committee against the same selection criteria. Chambers seek to ensure that each applicant invited for interview is given the same opportunity to demonstrate their ability by reference to the selection criteria.
4.3 Candidates for starter tenants are assessed according to an objective and transparent system of assessment. This includes the submission of written work and references and an interview with the Recruitment Committee. The Committee should consider any comments provided about a candidate against the agreed selection criteria and exclude from consideration subjective likes or dislikes based on personal prejudice, conscious or unwitting.
4.4 Vacancies for established practitioners will be advertised. On occasion, chambers will recruit without advertisement where established practitioners with particular experience or expertise apply to chambers. Chambers is aware that indirect discrimination can occur where recruitment is carried out in this way and will make conscious efforts to mitigate against this risk by reviewing its recruitment of new tenants, each year.
5. Equal access to work and opportunities within chambers
5.1 Chambers is committed to ensuring that work is distributed amongst members of chambers and pupils in a fair and equal way. We are committed to ensuring that there is no discrimination or bias in the way in which work is distributed.
5.2 Chambers has a system of monitoring work which is designed to ensure equal access to and fair allocation of work for all. Chambers designated monitors, including one QC, carry out reviews on a three-monthly basis. This involves reviewing the work diary for all junior members of chambers and pupils and reviewing the distribution of leading junior and led junior briefs. The Senior clerk has the responsibility for keeping a record of all leading junior briefs and led junior briefs that come into chambers. A record should be kept as to which member of chambers is instructed and a brief explanation as to why. The monitors also carry out periodic reviews of the income levels of junior members of chambers.
5.3 Chambers Clerks are provided with training on the importance of fair allocation of work including returns.
6. Reasonable adjustment to promote disability
6.1 Chambers is committed to ensuring the elimination of any disability discrimination, direct or indirect, towards pupils, members of chambers, staff or our clients. Chambers is committed to making reasonable adjustments in relation to the recruitment of members of chambers, staff and pupils and in the provision of legal services. Chambers sets out its objectives in its Reasonable Adjustments Policy.
7. Parental leave and flexible working policy
7.1 Members of chambers are entitled to up to six months parental leave at zero basic rent and a further three months at one half basic rent. This waiver/reduction in rent shall, however, not be available in any calendar month during which the member taking parental leave accepts and carries out work on 10 days or more in the month. Parental leave shall include leave for those who have adopted and/or fostered a child.
7.2 A member of chambers has the right to return to chambers as a tenant following the birth or adoption of their child. This right to return continues for 12 months. Before the termination of the 12 months parental leave, the member of chambers shall give notice in writing stating whether they will be returning to work, and, if so, when that will be.
7.3 In the months leading up to a member of chambers’ return from parental leave, the Senior Clerk should have a practice management meeting with the member of chambers to assist in the build-up of their practice.
7.4 Should any member have any grievance with the terms of this policy or the manner in which it is applied to them they should, in the first instance, bring that grievance to the attention of the Chambers Equality and Diversity Officer (EDO). Should the EDO be unable to resolve the grievance, the matter shall be referred to the Board of Management to determine.
7.5 Any member of chambers may take a career break of up to 6 months after completing seven years continuous membership (although this must entail a complete cessation of legal advisory and advocacy work in the United Kingdom). During this period, the member of chambers shall not be liable to pay rent.
8. Handling of complaints of discrimination and harassment
8.1 Chambers is committed to providing a working environment in which all individuals including members, pupils, mini-pupils, employees, clients and the public are treated with dignity and respect.
8.2 Harassment or bullying for any reason is unacceptable and chambers will take all necessary steps to ensure that it does not take place in accordance with chambers Harrasment Policy and Complaints and Discipline Policy.
9. Review of this policy
9.1 This policy and all aspects of it will be reviewed annually to ensure that it remains suitable and that it is being effectively implemented.