Guide To Support Barristers On Parental Leave And Future Progression 

The Western Circuit Women’s Forum (WCWF) has made a number of recommendations to chambers in a best practice guide, Back to the Bar, a practical guide to help parents return to and thrive at the Bar. 

Produced to help Chambers ‘support barristers who take parental leave’ before, during and after, with the belief that fewer barristers will feel compelled to leave the profession.  The guide suggests ‘practical, achievable goals and ideas’ that support barristers taking leave. 

Research carried out by WCWF in 2017 found that many women leaving the industry were doing so due to the difficulty balancing work and family commitments.  With two thirds of people leaving the industry being women, this was a worrying find.   

60% of women surveyed also stated that they found it difficult to return to work following parental leave, but many would be able to return if achievable modifications were to be made to working patterns as well as financial and cultural support. 

Current requirements set by the Bar Standards Board give members the rights to one year’s parental leave as well as six month free of Chamber’s flat rate fee.  

However, WCWF recommends that Chamber’s ‘respond imaginatively’ to the minimum requirements with suggestions that the right to parental leave be between 2 to 3 years as well as increasing the free flat rate chamber fee to 12 months.   

This would allow those returning to the Bar help at the most difficult financial time; when aged debt is decreasing and the introduction of childcare in order to return to work. 

Other recommendations include limiting the geographical area of work and mentoring and well-being policies put in place. 

Including a step-by-step plan to help support a member through their paternal leave and their return, the guide offers a valuable and extensive list of questions to ask the member as well as considerations.   

The aim is to both progress Chambers in their support for members, so as to encourage the member to return to work after leave, as well as to help members progress without the worry of trying to balance work and family life.   

If Chambers can be more progressive and adaptable to their members’ needs, they will be less likely to lose members as well as entice members that may feel dissatisfied by their current Chambers’ policies. 

With a focus on well-being in the industry, allowing a more balanced work-life balance through parental leave policies and support can only help keep legal professionals.  Family law especially benefits from empathy and a common knowledge with their clients, not only to the client but the professional themselves.   

What policies do you feel could help produce a more balanced work-life balance within the industry? 

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