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BSB approves shared parental leave scheme for self-employed barristers

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Regulator hopes the move will encourage more gender diversity within the profession

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has thrown its support behind a new policy that will allow self-employed barristers to take a career break following the birth or adoption of a child.

Approved at a meeting last week, the proposals allow members of chambers to have a minimum of one year off work “regardless of whether their spouse or partner takes parental leave.” However, the BSB stressed that barristers would not be obliged to take the full entitlement.

As things currently stand, employed barristers — who usually work in an organisation or business as opposed to a chambers — do have the option to share parental leave. However, chambers are under no obligation to do the same for their members, who are self-employed.

The scheme — which was the subject of a BSB consultation that concluded in February — would be available to “all mothers, fathers, and adoptive parents, as well as the married, civil, and de facto partners of biological or adoptive parents.” The policy still requires overall approval from the Legal Services Board before it can be officially rolled out.

Commenting on the proposed changes, BSB director of strategy and policy Ewen MacLeod said:

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.

The BSB’s parental leave plans come at the same time the regulator hunts for a new chairperson. Current chair Sir Andrew Burns has held the top spot since 2015 and will step down in December. Keen to hear from worthy replacements, the BSB confirmed that a job advertisement will be listed on its site next month.

Paying tribute to the outgoing chair, the director general of the BSB, Dr Vanessa Davies, said:

It has been a great privilege to work with an excellent chair like Sir Andrew Burns. After a very distinguished career in HM Diplomatic Service, Sir Andrew has served the BSB with great dedication and considerable ability. It will be a challenge to find a worthy successor who can contribute as much to the Board as Sir Andrew has done.

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