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Bar Council survey shows rising reports of harassment and discrimination in barristers’ profession

Bar Council

3 min read Partner content
  • Barristers welcome flexible working
  • Impact of Covid-19 still being felt by criminal Bar
  • Opposition to Extended Operating Hours remains high

Efforts to tackle bullying, harassment and discrimination in the barristers’ profession will continue to be a priority for the Bar Council following the results of a new survey of barristers’ working lives which shows a rise in reports of inappropriate behaviour since 2017.

Results published today from the Bar Council’s 2021 Working Lives Survey (attached) found that reports of bullying, harassment and discrimination have continued to increase since the previous survey of barristers’ working lives in 2017. In the most recent survey, nearly one in three respondents (30%) reported personal experience of bullying, harassment and/or discrimination within the previous two years, up from 21 per cent in 2017.

The survey, which captures the views of barristers’ about their working lives, also showed that nearly one third (63%) reported that the pandemic had a negative impact on their practice, with criminal barristers most likely to report negative impacts overall (79%).

There was a low level of support for Extended Operating Hours in courts, with only 9% of barristers surveyed in in favour of them.

On new ways of working post-Covid, the survey, revealed that 23% of barristers reported they were happy with their working arrangements and there was nothing they would like to change. Among those that did want to make changes, 60% wanted to move to more remote working, whilst 42% wanted more flexible working patterns.

Work is already underway on a Bar Council flexible working guide for the Bar, whilst the Bar Council’s Roadmap for Returning to Chambers Guide, designed to help chambers adapt to the lifting of Covid restrictions, is already proving popular with the Bar and chambers.

The Bar Council has been upping efforts to tackle inappropriate behaviour at the Bar through its anonymous reporting app Talk to Spot, working with the senior judiciary to stamp out judicial bullying of barristers and publishing a judicial bullying guide.

Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said: “Work has already begun in the last year or so to tackle the issue of bullying, harassment and discrimination at the Bar, and we are making the Bar a more accessible profession in terms of its working practices. The Bar Council’s Modernising the Bar programme lies at the heart of this effort.

“There’s more to be done across the Bar, and these survey findings give the Bar Council a clear insight into the needs of the Bar.  They will help shape the way the Bar Council supports members of the profession now and in future.”

The survey, which saw 3,479 barristers respond, also looked at barristers’ experiences of working hours and patterns, as well as mentoring, international instructions and pro bono work. Perceptions of Bar Council services were also captured by the survey.

The Bar Council intends to produce an action plan in response to the survey.

The Bar Council will be publishing separate reports later in the year based on the survey findings which focus more on wellbeing at the Bar as well as the young Bar.

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