Bar Council efforts to stamp out bullying and improve mental health in the profession are not working, uptake figures suggest, as discontent at the organisation grows.
Just 12 reports of bullying and harassment have been filed on the widely publicised ‘Talk to Spot’ smartphone app, which allows barristers to talk through and record inappropriate behaviour at work. The app has been visited just 81 times since it was launched last September.
Meanwhile, the employee assistance scheme – which offers barristers confidential telephone support and counselling services - has resulted in just 10 referrals since its introduction in 2018. The anonymous hotline set up for barristers to report bullying and harassment receives an average of one or two calls a week, the Bar Council said.
The low uptake among barristers appears at odds with a 2019 survey by the International Bar Association which found that a third of women lawyers have been sexually harassed at work, while half of women and a third of men have faced bullying. UK respondents reported higher rates of sexual harassment and bullying than many other European countries, including France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
In a survey conducted last year by the Junior Lawyers Division, almost half of respondents said they had experienced mental ill health in the last month and one in 15 junior lawyers said they had experienced suicidal thoughts.
Questions are now being asked as to whether the Bar Standards Board, as opposed to the Bar Council, is better placed to improve wellbeing in the profession.