Equality & Diversity


The Chambers of Andrew Mitchell QC is a modern set firmly committed to the active promotion of equal opportunities and to ensuring at all times an absence of direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, religion or political persuasion.

DIVERSITY DATA

In accordance with Bar Standards Board requirements, The Chambers of Andrew Mitchell QC publish below an anonymised summary of the Diversity Data collected in December 2015. All members of Chambers and staff were given the opportunity to provide Diversity Data so that an anonymous summary could be published on the Chambers website. Due to the number of staff being below 10, their results (from question two onwards) have been published together with members of chambers to minimise the risk of publicising data which may result in the identification of an individual.

Click here: to download 'Summary of Diversity Data
Click here: to download 'Diversity Data Policy'

POLICY

We recognise that such a commitment requires that positive steps be taken to identify and eliminate possible areas of discrimination so as to ensure equality of access to all applicants, equality of treatment to all barristers and members of staff and equality of service to both professional and lay clients. Our Equality and Diversity Officer is Martin Evans, to whom queries, initial concerns and complaints under this policy should be directed.

Every individual should be accorded equal dignity and respect and be judged on merit and ability alone, free from judgments or treatment based on prejudice or assumptions of collective characteristics. Our policy is a framework for the promotion of equal opportunities and the internal resolution of complaints involving members of Chambers, pupils, squatters or members of staff.

DEFINING DISCRIMINATION

A member of Chambers, whether tenant, pupil, squatter or member of staff must not act in relation to another member of Chambers, to a present or aspiring member of the Bar or to a lay or professional client in a manner which directly or indirectly is either discriminatory, consists of harassment or victimises that person on grounds of sex, race, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship, gender, sexual orientation, age, marital status, disability, religion or political persuasion.

DIRECT DISCRIMINATION

Direct discrimination consists of treating such a person less favourably than others are, or would be, treated in the same or similar circumstances.

INDIRECT DISCRIMINATION

Indirect discrimination occurs where four conditions are met: a) a requirement or condition is applied equally to all but a considerably smaller proportion of a relevant group, than of the other persons to whom it applies, can comply with it, b) the particular individual cannot comply with the requirement, c) it results in a detriment to them, and d) the requirement cannot be shown to be objectively justifiable in spite of its discriminatory effect.

DISABILITY EQUALITY

Chambers seeks to avoid disability discrimination by dealing with all individuals as equals and engaging a flexible approach to their needs. All reasonable steps and adjustments will be taken to accommodate individuals’ capabilities to make our services more accessible, whether relating to premises or working arrangements. We encourage members of Chambers, staff and clients to inform us of the nature and effects of any disability at the earliest opportunity in order that we may take steps to accommodate them.

Copies of all entries on our website and of our polices are available in large print upon request.

HARASSMENT

Statement of Policy

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. Chambers aims to promote a working environment, which is conducive to the professional growth of its members and employees and to the promotion of equality of opportunity.

Chambers will not tolerate any form of harassment and will take all necessary steps to ensure that its members and employees are not subject to harassment. Harassment constitutes professional misconduct and is prohibited by the Bar Council’s Code of Conduct. Harassment on the grounds of sex, race, disability, sexual orientation or religion is unlawful under the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 and the Employment (Religion and Belief) Regulations 2003.

The Scope of the Policy

This policy applies to all members and employees of Chambers, to pupils and to mini-pupils. The policy applies to:

  • all premises where Chambers’ business is conducted;
  • all Chambers’ related activities performed at any other site away from the Chambers;
  • any social, business or other function where conduct or comments may have an effect on Chambers or relationships within Chambers.

Definition of Harassment

Harassment is any form of unwanted conduct, which has the aim, or effect of diminishing a person’s dignity or creating a humiliating or offensive environment for that person. The essence of all harassment is that it is unwelcome conduct, which is offensive to the recipient. The test is a subjective one and the fact that one person may be able to ignore or deal comfortably with certain behaviour does not mean that it is acceptable if directed at another.

Chambers prohibits any behaviour which causes offence or distress to another and which is perceived by that person as relating to or arising from his/her race, religion political belief, sex, sexual orientation or disability and which constitutes less favourable treatment on such grounds. Harassment may take a variety of forms and includes behaviour:

  • which is unwanted by the recipient and perceived as threatening;
  • which causes a hostile or threatening working environment;
  • where rejection or submission is used as a basis for decisions concerning the recipient e.g., decision relating to award of pupillage, appointment of tenancy, promotion or other opportunities for career advancement.

The following are example of behaviour, which may amount to harassment:

  • physical assault, including sexual assault;
  • demands for sexual favours in return for career advancement;
  • unnecessary physical contact;
  • exclusion from social networks and activities;
  • isolation;
  • bullying;
  • compromising suggestions or invitations;
  • suggestive remarks or looks;
  • display of offensive materials, including on computer screen;
  • tasteless jokes or verbal abuse;
  • offensive remarks or ridicule;
  • dealing inappropriately with complaints of harassment.

Disciplinary action will be taken against any member or employee of Chambers found to have harassed a colleague or other person in the conduct of their work.

Communication of the Policy on Harassment

A copy of this policy will be provided to all members, employees, pupils and mini-pupils of the Chambers. If necessary, a briefing will be provided so that all members and employees are aware of behaviour, which is unacceptable within the working environment, and are aware of the harassment policy, procedures for making complaints against and assistance available.

Resolving Complaints of Harassment

Chambers is committed to providing a supportive environment in which to resolve problems of harassment, and has put in place a number of options of resolving problems. A non-adversarial approach will be adopted.

Informal Resolution Options

  1. When an incident of harassment occurs, the recipient should communicate their disapproval and objections immediately to the harasser, if they feel able to do so, and request the harasser to stop.
  2. If the harasser does not stop or if the recipient is uncomfortable about addressing the harasser directly, he or she should bring their concerns to the attention of the Chambers Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans). Chambers will provide advice or support as requested and will undertake any investigation necessary to resolve the matter, speedily and in confidence. Within one week of the receipt of the informal complaint an investigation will be made, if necessary.

Formal Complaints Resolution

  1. Where the person subject to harassment does not wish to pursue the informal resolution options or has exhausted such options, they may make a formal complaint to the Chambers Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans). In the event that the complaint relates to the Chambers Equality and Diversity Officer, it shall alternatively be raised with Martin Adams, the Practice Director. All such complaints will be promptly investigated.
  2. A formal complaint should be made in writing. Within one week of the receipt of the complaint an investigation of the allegation will be made and completed within 14 days, unless there are good reasons for delay.
  3. Investigations will be conducted in accordance with standards of natural justice. Where possible, two members of Chambers not directly involved in the complaint will undertake the investigation. All parties to the complaint will be permitted to be accompanied by a colleague or friend at any hearing. Where possible, two members of Chambers not directly involved in the complaint and the Head of Chambers will form the panel for any hearing.
  4. If the allegation of harassment is upheld, appropriate remedial actions will be taken.

This may include any of the following;

  • formal apology;
  • counselling;
  • written warning
  • change of work assignment
  • report to the relevant Inn recommending the removal of pupil supervisor status;
  • suspension of discharge of member or employee
  • referral to Professional Conduct Committee (PCC)

In addition, to the sanction that may be imposed on a member or an employee by Chambers as part of a complaint resolution, members of Chambers who engage in harassment may be liable for damages in the event of a civil lawsuit or may face further sanctions imposed by the Bar Council’s Professional Conduct and Complaints Committee, or, in a very serious case, criminal sanctions.

Raising A Complaint

A person experiencing harassment is encouraged to raise a complaint at an early stage, preferably through the informal procedure. Raising a complaint at an early stage is more likely to result in a satisfactorily resolution. If left unresolved, the harassment may escalate to the point where the situation becomes much more difficult to deal with effectively.

Any member, employee, pupil or mini-pupil in Chambers has the right to bring to the attention of an appropriate person any behaviour, which they consider to be contrary to the harassment policy, irrespective of whether they are the recipients of the harassment. A member or employee of Chambers who witnesses behaviour, which they consider contravenes the harassment policy, should take immediate action to indicate that such behaviour is unacceptable as failure to do so could be interpreted as condoning such behaviour.

Standard of Proof

It should be noted that the standard of proof applied may differ according to the complaints process involved. The PCCC apply the criminal standard, beyond reasonable doubt, to complaints alleging professional misconduct by a barrister. In employment tribunals or county courts the civil standard, balance of probabilities, applies.

Confidentiality

Chambers recognises that a recipient of harassment may find it difficult to come forward with a complaint and they understand that recipients and alleged harassers may be particularly concerned about confidentiality and the effect that a complaint may have on career advancement. To protect the interests of the complainant, the person complained against, and any others who may report or be witnesses to incidents of harassment, confidentiality will be maintained throughout any investigatory process to the extent that this is practical and appropriate under the circumstances. However, Chambers has a duty to ensure that harassment does not re-occur. All records of complaints, including notes to meetings, interviews, results of investigations and other relevant material will be kept confidential by Chambers except where disclosure is required for disciplinary or other remedial processes.

Victimisation

Chambers is committed to ensuring that no one who brings forward a harassment concern in good faith is subject to any form of reprisal. Any victimisation of a complainant, witness or anyone else involved in the investigation of a complaint will be viewed as a disciplinary matter. The raising of such a complaint will not have any adverse consequences for the complainant, particularly in relation to tenancy and promotion decisions.

Pupil Supervisors

Pupillage is a period of professional training and Chambers regards it as inappropriate for a sexual relationship to develop between a pupil supervisor, any other member or employee of Chambers and a pupil. No member of Chambers may participate in decisions concerning a pupil where they are or have been in a relationship with that pupil.

Further Avenues of Redress for an Individual Experiencing Harassment

In addition to the Chambers’ procedures there are a number of other avenues of redress. These include:

  • If a complaint is not resolved within Chambers a further avenue of appeal to an external independent individual may be considered. The individual will have experience in equal opportunities
  • raise a complaint with the relevant Inns Students’ Officer about a sponsor or pupil supervisor. The Inns’ complaints process will determine the outcome of such complaints;
  • complaint to the Bar Council’s Professional Conduct and Complaints Committee where the alleged harasser is a barrister;
  • take action in the county court or employment tribunal alleging harassment as a form of unlawful direct discrimination;
  • report this matter to the police where an act of harassment is a criminal offence e.g. assault or intentional harassment.
  • through the Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity Advisers seek the assistance of the Bar Council’s Mediation Panel members. Their role is to advise the complainant and, with his or her permission, seek to mediate between the complainant and the alleged harasser. The Panel can be approached in confidence and will aim to achieve an end to the conduct complained of without necessarily finding fault or blame and without the imposition of sanctions.

The Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity Advisers are available at the Bar Council to offer advice in confidence to any recipient of harassment or to any member of Chambers responding to a complaint of harassment. The confidential helpline number (a direct dial number) is 0207 611 1310

THE SELECTION OF PUPILS AND TENANTS

It is extremely important, given the nature of entry into the profession, that selection criteria for pupillage and tenancy should be free from discrimination. In pursuance of this aim Chambers undertakes that recruitment policy towards pupils and tenants should:

  • be transparent, set out in a document which is available to all upon request,
  • not be subject to change during the selection process,
  • be based on objective and explicit criteria which relate to the demands of the work,
  • Save in exceptional circumstances, be applied equally to all potential recruits,
  • be free, at all stages, from assumptions based on stereotypical views or expectations of the behaviour and characteristics of any particular group,
  • not be subject to the will or unexplained veto of one person alone, but instead reflect the views of a broad spectrum of people.

EQUALITY OF OPPORTUNITY IN CHAMBERS

Distribution of work to all members of Chambers, working pupils and squatters must be carried out in a manner that is fair to all and without discrimination. Selection of counsel shall be on the basis of the skills and experience required for the particular case. In particular, no applicant for pupillage or tenancy shall suffer discrimination:

  • in the arrangements which are made for the purpose of determining to whom it should be offered,
  • in respect of any terms on which it is offered, or by a refusal, or deliberate omission, to offer it to him/her.

Furthermore, no pupil or tenant shall suffer discrimination:

  • in respect of any terms applicable to him/her as a pupil or tenant,
  • in the opportunities for training, or gaining experience, which are afforded or denied to him/her,
  • in the benefits, facilities or services which are afforded or denied to him/her,
  • in the volume or type of work which is offered or denied to him/her,
  • by termination of his/her pupillage or by subjecting him/her to any pressure to leave the Chambers or other detriment.

MATERNITY/PATERNITY/SABBATICAL LEAVE

Chambers is committed to ensuring that its written policies permit members of Chambers (male or female) to take career breaks, work flexible hours, part-time or partly from home to enable them to manage their family responsibilities and remain in practice. Our systems such as telephone conferencing, telephone portability (permitting tenants to use their direct line telephone numbers at home), e-mail and remote access to the Chambers’ system may be used to best advantage to enable members of Chambers to conduct their practices from home and abroad when desired.

The following policies set out our endeavours to ensure that these aims can be fulfilled in particular in relation to maternity leave, paternity leave and sabbatical leave.

Other periods of extended leave from Chambers (and the terms relating thereunder) may be negotiated at the discretion of the Head of Chambers or an Extraordinary General Meeting of Chambers.

For women, primary carers and primary adoptive parents:

The following provisions apply to each pregnancy or adoption of a child not yet in full-time education. References to “woman tenant”, “tenant” or “tenant on maternity leave” should be read to include primary carers and primary adoptive parents irrespective of gender. A woman tenant's seat in Chambers will remain open initially for 12 months while she takes maternity leave. Maternity leave may be taken for a period of upto 12 months. Whilst a woman is away from Chambers on maternity leave, during that period she is offered such leave free of rent and Chambers’ expenses (save for personal expenditure such as mobile phones and Blackberries). For the avoidance of doubt, she will be required during maternity leave to pay 10% of receipts for work completed before she commenced her maternity leave. Every tenant on maternity leave is encouraged to maintain contact with Chambers and will be offered opportunities to do appropriate work if she so wishes. The tenant will receive assistance with re-establishing their practice on their return to work.

Before the termination of 12 months' maternity leave, the tenant shall give notice in writing stating whether she will be returning to work and, if so, when that will be. Provided notice has been given, there is no time limit as to how much further leave the tenant may take. The tenant must also ensure that she remains up-to-date with CPD as required by the Bar Standards Board from time to time.

If, at that time, the tenant intends not to return to work and therefore wishes to terminate her tenancy, she shall be liable to the notice period on Chambers' expenses and rent as required by the Chambers constitution.

Once the tenant wishes to terminate maternity leave, she may return to work on a part-time basis or on a full-time basis.

Members of Chambers who do any work during a period of leave covered by this policy must ensure that they have a current practising certificate.

Full-time: If she returns on a full-time basis, a tenant will need time to build up her practice again. For that reason she will pay an all inclusive 20% of receipts until such receipts in any one month are equal to the average(+/- 10%) of the last three months before she took maternity leave. Once this figure is reached, she shall then move on to the normal payment method of rent plus 10%. This payment method shall be subject to review 12 months after return, provided always that the payment of 20% is less than the sum that she would be required to pay were she a tenant paying full rent.

Part-time: If the tenant returns on a part-time basis, she shall be asked to elect a minimum number of days per month during which she shall be available for work. She shall then be liable to pay rent for this number of days plus 10% of receipts, such rent to be calculated as a fraction of a full month. She shall also be liable to pay for any extra days she actually works over and above the minimum to which she has committed; again, such rent to be calculated as a fraction of a full month.

This payment method will continue in force throughout the first 12 months following return, provided that monthly receipts in any one month do not exceed the average(+/- 10%) of the last three months before she took maternity leave. In the unlikely event that receipts do exceed such a figure, then the tenant shall move on to the normal payment method of rent plus 10%.

If the tenant wishes to continue working part-time after the 12 months have ended, she is asked to approach the Head of Chambers and discuss the matter on an individual basis.

For men and adoptive parents:

Members of Chambers (male and female) are offered one month’s leave free of Chambers rent and expenses (save for personal expenditure such as mobile phones and Blackberries) following the birth or adoption of a child not yet in full-time education, where they have or share responsibility for that child and so that they can discharge that responsibility. This is without prejudice to the above provisions relating to primary carers and primary adoptive parents. For the avoidance of doubt, the tenant will be required during this leave period to pay 10% of receipts for work completed before the tenant commenced the leave period. The date of the commencement of this one-month period may be taken at a time of the tenant’s choosing following the date of birth or adoption of the child, within a three-month period of the date of birth or adoption.

Members of Chambers who do any work during a period of leave covered by this policy must ensure that they have a current practising certificate.

SABBATICAL LEAVE

In addition to maternity or paternity leave, any tenant in Chambers may take sabbatical leave of up to six months after completing three years' continuous membership, during which time he/she shall not be liable for the fixed amount (i.e. rent) of Chambers' expenses. For the avoidance of doubt, the tenant will be required during sabbatical leave to pay 10% of receipts for work completed before the tenant commenced the sabbatical leave.

The member of Chambers must also ensure that they remain up-to-date with CPD as required by the Bar Standards Board from time to time.

Members of Chambers who do any work during a period of leave covered by this policy must ensure that they have a current practising certificate.

MONITORING

In seeking to identify and eliminate sources of unintended discrimination, Chambers shall monitor both the recruitment of applicants and staff at all stages and the allocation of work between barristers in Chambers. The monitoring data is analysed at least once per year and where under-representation of a particular group is identified, Chambers will seek to improve the position of the under-represented group. However, Chambers will not engage in positive discrimination or quotas as both these practices are unlawful in the UK.

INTERNAL COMPLAINTS PROCEDURE: FURTHER PROVISIONS

Scope of Procedure

This procedure covers: members of Chambers; pupils of Chambers; mini-pupils; Chambers’ employees and applicants for positions in Chambers. This procedure is applicable to any complaint, grievance or dispute including but not limited to complaints of unfair discrimination or harassment. Complaints from members of the public concerning barristers or the employees of barristers, will be dealt with in accordance with our published Chambers Complaints Procedure – a copy of which will be provided upon request.

Statement of Policy

These Chambers are committed to providing a working environment in which all individuals including members, pupils, mini-pupils, employees, clients and the public are treated with dignity, respect and fairness. No one will be victimised or suffer a detriment because they raise a complaint or grievance in good faith under this procedure.

Notification of Procedure

A copy of this procedure will be given to all members, staff, pupils and mini-pupils in Chambers and a copy kept in the Chambers’ administration manual. The Chambers Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans) is the appropriate individual for queries about this policy and notification of formal complaints.

Confidentiality

Confidentiality will be maintained as far as possible and appropriate in the circumstances.

Formal Complaints – Time Scales

Complaints will be dealt with promptly in accordance with this procedure. A formal complaint must be made as soon as reasonably possible and in any event within six months of the act being complained of, or within six months of the end of any informal action taken, save in exceptional circumstances. A formal complaint, which should be made in writing, will be acknowledged by the Chambers Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans) within seven days’ of receipt. Any investigation will be completed within 28 days of receipt, unless there are good reasons for delay. Investigations will be conducted in accordance with standards of natural justice. Where possible, two members of Chambers not directly involved in the complaint will undertake the investigation. All parties to the complaint will be permitted to be accompanied by a colleague or friend at any hearing.

Remedial Action

The complainant will receive a written response on the outcome of the complaint with a clear indication of the action Chambers will take if the complaint is upheld. Solutions which rely on changes to working arrangements which may unreasonably disadvantage the complainant should be avoided as this could amount to victimisation.

If the formal grievance or complaint is found to have substance appropriate steps in the circumstances will be taken to remedy the problem. A brief confidential report on all formal complaints and on the outcome will be made to the Head of Chambers/Equality and Diversity Officer and records will be retained for a period of one year from the conclusion of the case with a discretion to keep longer if necessary.

Informal Procedures

Complaints of grievances are more easily resolved if dealt with at an early stage. Individuals with complaints or grievances are recommended to seek the assistance of the Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans) who will, as far as possible, give confidential advice and assistance. [A list of nominated persons should be appended to this procedure].

Complaints or Grievances by Pupils

Pupils are encouraged to discuss any grievances which they may have during their pupillage with their pupil-supervisors.

In some cases this may not be possible or appropriate and the pupil should then approach the Head of the Pupillage Committee. If resolution of the complaint is not possible, the pupil should set out the complaint in writing to the Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans) for investigation.

Complaints or Grievances by Tenants

If a member of Chambers has a complaint about a clerking matter, in the first instance he/she should attempt to resolve it with the senior clerk or seek the assistance of the Head of Chambers or the Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans). Any other issue may be raised with the Head of Chambers. If resolution of the complaint is not possible through these informal channels, the complaint should be referred in writing to the Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans).

Complaints or Grievances by Chambers Staff

Chambers’ staff are encouraged to raise any matter about which they are unhappy in respect of their overall treatment within Chambers with the senior clerk in the first instance or the Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans), if this is appropriate. Where it is inappropriate to raise the matter with the senior clerk, the matter can be referred to the Head of Chambers/ the Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans). If informal resolution of the complaint or grievance is not possible or inappropriate, a formal complaint should be referred in writing to the senior clerk or, if not appropriate, the Head of Chambers for investigation. Employees have a statutory right to be accompanied at all grievance hearings.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995

Where a barrister, pupil or Chambers employee is disabled, Chambers is under a duty to consider a reasonable adjustment to this policy. A request for a reasonable adjustment should be made to the Equality and Diversity Officer (Martin Evans).

Every complainant has a right to consult with the Bar Council Equal Opportunities Officer for confidential advice and to lodge a formal complaint of professional misconduct with the Bar Council. The Bar Council Equal Opportunities Officer can be contacted on 0207 242 0082.

Complainants of unlawful discrimination have a legal right to apply, subject to time limits, to the County Court or, for Chambers' employees, to the Industrial Tribunal. The Commission for Racial Equality and the Equal Opportunities Commission are also available for consultation.