No5 introduces staff training to support barristers during the menopause

A forward-thinking barristers’ chambers have introduced a new policy of providing menopause awareness training for clerks and staff amid fears that menopause is fuelling low retention of women at the Bar.

No5 Barristers’ Chambers, which has offices in Birmingham, London, Bristol and Leicester, has introduced the training to help tackle the taboo subject and provide more support for women who are juggling work and an array of menopausal symptoms.

Women enter the legal profession in high numbers, and since 2000, there has generally been a 50:50 gender split of people called to the Bar. However, after 15 years, only 30 per cent of barristers are female, with around 15 per cent of all silks being women last year.

No5 barrister Louise Corfield instigated the awareness training, saying: “There is a lot of discussion about the impact of having children on women at the Bar, and the realities of trying to work part-time or flexibly.

“However, there is very little discussion about the possible impact of the menopause. In my view this is both unsurprising and incredibly shocking. It is unsurprising, because menopause is still, sadly, a taboo subject in our society. However, with increasing HR pressure on employers to have menopause at work policies, perhaps times are changing, and I am pleased to be leading on No5’s progressive decision to provide awareness training.

“Symptoms of the menopause can be significant and can include loss of confidence, loss of concentration, difficulties sleeping, mood changes, including anxiety, and physical symptoms such as tiredness, headaches and joint stiffness.

“It seems that just as women are reaching a point in their careers where they might be thinking about a silk application, or applying for a senior judicial appointment, they may also be experiencing a tangible dip in their usual performance due to the menopause and a huge crisis of confidence.

“In the current drive to encourage more women to apply for senior positions, it seems obvious that we should be thinking about whether the menopause might in some cases be impacting on those low application rates.

“At No5, we hope that by making menopause awareness training mandatory for all clerks, we will be able to break down the taboo, start conversations about what women have been secretly going through for generations, and what clerks and chambers might now be able to do to take some of the pressure off and provide support.”

Tony McDaid, CEO and Director of Clerking at No5 Barristers’ Chambers, said: “We are an inclusive chambers, that takes equality and diversity seriously. We believe that if our clerks and staff understand the menopause more, they can offer support, provide greater understanding and be more approachable in the hope that more women will remain at the Bar and enjoy lengthy careers.”

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