At its meeting last night, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) agreed to change the equality rules to enable all self-employed barristers in chambers to take parental leave, regardless of whether their spouse or partner takes parental leave.
The proposed rule changes, which were the subject of a BSB consultation that closed in February and are yet to be approved by the Legal Services Board, would mean that:
- Parental leave would be made available to every member of chambers who becomes a parent or a carer of a child preceding or following birth or adoption;
- A parental leave entitlement should constitute, as a minimum, a period of one year away from practice (though a barrister would not be obliged to take the full entitlement);
- The rule should apply to all mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents, as well as the married, civil, and de facto partners of biological or adoptive parents;
- Chambers’ parental leave policies should allow parental leave to be taken flexibly, to enable barristers to maintain their practice and support their income while on leave; and
- The BSB would not prescribe what form this flexibility takes, however suggestions will be included in guidance.
BSB Director of Strategy and Policy Ewen MacLeod said: “Our consultation paper asked whether self-employed barristers should be able to share their parental leave entitlements, as employed barristers can, or whether each parent should have their own parental leave rights regardless of their partner’s employment status or parental leave rights. The majority of respondents favoured a rule change and most of those who wanted a change chose the latter option as being fairer and less bureaucratic. Having considered the issues carefully with our expert advisers, we agree.
“The rule change will allow barristers to share parenting, by allowing them to take whatever leave they want up to a whole year, without having to compromise the other parent’s ability to also take a whole year of parental leave. We think this could help the Bar to retain those with parental responsibilities by making it easier for self-employed barristers to combine work and family life. This could help with efforts to encourage more gender diversity within the profession, especially at the senior end.”