The Bar Council has turned its attention to flexible working in a drive to improve conditions at the bar for those with caring responsibilities.

Less than a week after announcing a maternity mentoring scheme, the council has designed a model flexible-working template for chambers.

The council’s latest initiative comes a week after the Bar Standards Board reported on areas, including flexible working, where women can face unfair treatment. 

The bar regulator found that the impact on income was the most common reason given by respondents for not working flexibly.

The council’s new flexible-working guide includes proposals for possible rent reductions for barristers seeking to work reduced hours or away from chambers because of care responsibilities, disability or long-term illness.

Chairman Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC said the self-employed bar should, in theory, have the flexibility to work as and when they wish, but that the reality is very different.

‘Many chambers, under financial pressure, require certainty over income generated through rent and expenses,’ she added.

The impact of flexible working on income also acts as a barrier where barristers are required to make a minimum or flat-rate contribution.

Doerries said the template was for chambers to use as a basis for designing their own policies.

‘However, it’s going to take more than filling in the gaps on a ready-made policy to make it work and our guide gives other advice and tips for chambers considering flexible working.’