The Bar Council has backed proposals by the regulator to amend rules on shared parental leave, claiming this could encourage more women to stay at the bar.
In a consultation response submitted today, the representative body said the Bar Standards Board’s proposals should be welcomed and will help to improve diversity.
The BSB wants to ensure that self-employed barristers are covered by the same rights as those in employment with regard to shared leave.
Since April 2015, employed barristers and their partners have been able to share parental leave between both parents in the first year of a child’s life, or one year from adoption. However, there is no requirement for chambers to make shared parental leave arrangements for self-employed barristers.
A BSB consultation on changing the rules was published last November.
Although the Bar Council concedes there may be short-term challenges for chambers and costs implications, it said the proposals will place the bar at the ‘forefront of advocating full equality for all its members’.
‘This would probably act as a draw to recruitment of the best and most talented women, who would otherwise not consider a career in what is still a male-dominated profession, especially at the more senior levels,’ the body added.
The consultation gave three scenarios in which barristers would be able to share parental leave: if one carer is a self-employed barrister and the other is employed; if both carers are self-employed barristers at the same chambers; and if both carers are self-employed barristers at different chambers.
However, the council warned that the possible approach of giving all self-employed barristers who become the carer of a child full access to their chambers’ parental leave policy regardless of the work position of their partner, may be a potential financial burden for chambers.
As of 2013, 57% of women at the bar with children were their primary carers.