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Policy and practice

It is easy to be overwhelmed and not know where to start when introducing wellbeing to chambers (or broaching the subject with your employer).

This area provides guidance packs and promotional media for barristers’ chambers, barristers, clerks & chambers’ staff and external agencies.

vision-play

 

Robin Allen QC, Head of Chambers at Cloisters, shares experience of supporting barristers with poor wellbeing and explains the benefits of early intervention and of being proactive on the wellbeing agenda.

 

It can be difficult to manage and support an individual member or staff with a wellbeing problem. Here we set out simple steps that we recommend you consider before introducing wellbeing to your organisation. We also provide advice and guidance in dealing with a wellbeing issue at work for those in a management role.

Promoting wellbeing in your chambers or organisation

  • Do some research – there are some really good frameworks which will inform you and help you to work out the appropriate priorities and actions for your chambers/organisation
  • Consider signing up to a recognised wellbeing initiative – local/national wellbeing programmes designed for workplaces will help you structure your activity and provide lots of free resources
  • Create a Wellbeing policy or statement of intent for chambers
  • Think about establishing a Wellbeing Committee, or adding wellbeing as a new responsibility to an existing committee and/or nominate someone to report on wellbeing issues to your Management Executive
  • Start small – try out a range of ideas, events, programmes – take a look at what other Chambers, Specialist Bar Associations, Inns of Court and Circuits have done
  • Mentoring – our wellbeing research identified those who were mentored (have social support) are much more resilient than those who are not mentored

If you are doing something interesting on wellbeing and are willing to share, please tell us about it. Your experience will help others.

Frameworks to explore

Psychological Wellbeing: Best practice guidelines for the legal profession

The Tristan Jepson Memorial Foundation (TJMF) Mental Health Guidelines document provides a voluntary framework for legal organisations to utilise, identifying 13 psychological factors that support wellbeing in the workplace.
These are:

  • Organisational culture
  • Psychological and social support
  • Clear leadership and expectations
  • Civility and respect
  • Psychological competencies and requirements
  • Growth and development
  • Recognition and reward
  • Good involvement and influence by staff
  • Workload management
  • Engagement
  • Balance
  • Psychological Protection
  • Protection and physical safety

The advantage of this type of framework (and others like it) is that they enable you to audit your current working environment and working conditions with respect to members and staff wellbeing, and on this basis to identify gaps and priorities for action.

The TJMF Framework suggests actions ranging from basic compliance through to standard, advanced and best practice.

On first reading it may seem too complex for any chambers but if you simplify and adapt the framework it will support you in developing a more considered approach to wellbeing and to wellbeing initiatives.

Creating mentally healthy workplaces

A report on what works in regards to mental health in the workplace complements the TJMF model and suggests six success factors for a mentally healthy workplace:

  1. Smarter work design – e.g. enhancing flexibility around working hours and encouraging employee involvement.
  2. Building better work cultures (organisational resilience) – e.g. encouraging a culture of flexibility, building a safe and positive work climate, implementing anti-bullying policies, enhancing organisational justice, promoting team based interventions such as employee participation and providing group support, providing manager training and managing change effectively.
  3. Building individual resilience – e.g. providing resilience training, coaching and mentoring, and physical activity programs.
  4. Promoting and facilitating early help-seeking – e.g. conducting well-being checks once appropriate support and resources are in place, providing stress management for workers with reported stress, using of Employee Assistance Programs which utilise experienced staff and evidence-based methods and peer support schemes.
  5. Supporting recovery – e.g. providing a supportive environment, providing supervisor support and training, facilitating flexible sick leave arrangements, providing return-to-work programs, encourages individual placement support for those with severe mental illness.
  6. Increasing awareness – e.g. providing mental health education and training.

This research also suggests that creating a mentally healthy workplace requires an ongoing, staged approach with five key steps:

  1. Establishing commitment, leadership and support
  2. Conducting a situational analysis – looking at what is working and what isn’t;
  3. Identifying and implementing a workplace mental health strategy;
  4. Reviewing outcomes; and
  5. Adjusting intervention strategies.

This is a sensible approach to developing any policy.

If you come across another piece of research or framework which you have found useful in your organisation or chambers, please do let us know and we will provide the link to others interested in this agenda.

Local and national wellbeing programmes

Wellbeing Standards, Charters, Pledges or Indices are a useful way to access:

  • Guidance to developing a strategy
  • Wellbeing materials; and
  • Support, in the form of seminars and shared experience from other organisations.

A number of local authorities have established Workplace Wellbeing Charters you can go onto the main national website and key in your area to find out whether your local authority participates.

You can read about how St John’s Chambers in Bristol has got involved with their local Bristol Workplace Wellbeing Charter initiative below.

MIND promote a workplace based ‘Employer Pledge’. Signing it helps organisations demonstrate their commitment to mental health in the workplace.

MIND are also developing a Workplace Wellbeing Index at the moment. This will provide a benchmark for best policy and practice. It is designed for employers so all aspects may not be relevant for chambers but we will provide a review when we know more.

Other indices to consider

A healthy workplace charter – mostly public sector and London based.

https://www.businesshealthy.org/ – this is part of a City of London initiative and produces some useful blogs about mental wellbeing.

http://citymha.org.uk/ – this is designed for professional services and mental health, but is worth looking at – it includes big professional services names.

Mental Health Toolkit for Employers

BITC Workwell model

Mind Employers Guide

HSE stress standards

http://www.cipd.co.uk/binaries/managing-and-supporting-mental-health-at-work-disclosure-tools-for-managers_2011.pdf

Mental Health First Aid England – managers’ resource

https://mhfa.com.au/sites/default/files/GUIDELINES-for-workplace-prevention-of-mental-health-problems.pdf Australia

Other pledges, awards and standards to sign up for

Create a chambers policy

A good wellbeing policy should:

  • Provide context and set out your vision/the aim of the wellbeing policy
  • Clarify expected behaviours within chambers/your organisation including e.g. work life balance (for members, staff and pupils) [linked to your constitution if appropriate]
  • Outline what is available to support wellbeing e.g. mentoring, awareness training, Employee Assistance Programmes etc.
  • Confirm links to other policies e.g. harassment, equality & diversity, flexible working/career breaks
  • Explain what chambers will do to support wellbeing and mental health
  • Summarise how the policy will be communicated and reviewed

A number of chambers have been kind enough to share their policies:

Outer Temple Wellbeing Policy

3 Pump Court Chambers Wellbeing Policy

Or take a look at our case studies of various chambers and how they have benefited from taking part in a wellbeing initiative: Case studies

Mentoring

The most significant finding in our recent wellbeing research was that those who are mentored (i.e. have social support) are much more resilient than those who are not mentored. In fact studies suggest mentoring is good for the wellbeing of both mentor and mentee. Many Inns, Circuits, SBAs and chambers are recognising the value of mentoring and not only during the early years of practice or in the run up to applying for silk or judicial appointment. Bar Council has set up its own Mentoring Service and will endeavour to find a mentor to those who apply asking for assistance but it is worth considering the introduction of a mentoring scheme in your own chambers or organisation

Starting small: Ideas others have tried

Right across the Bar, and in organisations where barristers work, wellbeing policies and initiatives are being introduced. Policies that work in larger organisations can be successfully adapted to a chambers context. Learn more about what others are doing, the benefits they have gained and the tips they now offer to others. View some examples of wellbeing initiatives in chambers.

Find out more

Take a look at our FAQ page.

Tip: We recommend signing up to a larger initiative if you are looking to take wellbeing forward in chambers. Linking your activity to a recognised initiative will help you to frame your strategy, access resources and get recognition for your work.

“The role of a barrister is a very lonely one and we have learnt it is very important to give opportunities to talk to members. I felt we needed to be more proactive than reactive and I therefore do a weekly walk through chambers picking up any issues”.

Fiona Fitzgerald, CEO, Radcliffe Chambers

As a chambers / entity you need to comply with both the BSB Handbook and with the law (e.g. employment and health & safety law).

There are four main areas of the BSB Handbook that you will need to be aware of in relation to managing your own or a chambers’ wellbeing issue:

Serious misconduct

Where a barrister may have committed misconduct linked, either directly or indirectly, to their physical/mental health condition

Serious misconduct guidance

Fitness to practice

Where a barrister’s ability to practise may be impaired by a physical or mental health condition

Fitness to practice guidance

Discrimination and harassment

Where chambers or your entity may be treating a barrister unfairly as a result of their physical or mental health condition.

Harassment and victimisation may amount to serious misconduct: see gC96.2 and the BSB’s separate Guidance on Reporting Serious Misconduct of Others (at paragraphs 11 to 18).

The BSB have also stated, in that separate Guidance (paragraph 8), that: “Depending on the severity and impact of the discriminatory behaviour, discrimination can constitute serious misconduct”.

The wide meaning in law of ‘discrimination’ is explained in paragraph 10 of that separate Guidance.

Other duties relevant to both Individuals and Chambers (e.g. Chambers Administration)

Where a barrister may be failing to run their practice appropriately, or to perform their role (or act towards others) appropriately within chambers, as a result of a physical or mental health condition.
The following BSB Handbook provisions might have a bearing on, or be relevant to, situations which raise a wellbeing issue. None deals directly or meaningfully with wellbeing issues.

Other Core Duties

CD10 You must take reasonable steps to manage your practice, or carry out your role within your practice, competently and in such a way as to achieve compliance with your legal and regulatory obligations.

Equality and Diversity

rC110.3 You must take reasonable steps to ensure that in relation to your chambers or BSB authorised body, … the following requirements are complied with:

i. If you are a self-employed barrister, the affairs of your chambers are conducted in a manner which is fair and equitable for all members of chambers, pupils and/or employees (as appropriate).  This includes, but is not limited to, the fair distribution of work opportunities among pupils and members of chambers;

Where mental or physical health is concerned, wider equality and diversity obligations may also be triggered.

Chambers Management

rC89 Taking into account the provisions of Rule C90, you must take reasonable steps to ensure that:

.1    your chambers is [sic] administered competently and efficiently;

.8    appropriate risk management procedures are in place and are being complied with;

The focus of those provisions is likely to be seen as being risks to clients, but wellbeing issues may in some situations give rise to such risks. The management of such risks, and any policies in that regard, are a matter for each set of chambers.

Other Chambers’ Policies

Chambers may have their own policies in place specifically to deal with wellbeing issues which go beyond, or are separate from, strict equality and diversity issues, but there is no requirement to have such policies. For guidance on complaints see the FAQs.

FAQs

FAQs have been developed to support you in managing a wellbeing issue. They provide guidance on the circumstances when the Regulator may need to be involved and what you should be doing to best support an individual who becomes unwell.

Click here to view the FAQs to support those managing a wellbeing issue

Advice for chambers supporting colleagues following a death by suicide

It is important to react swiftly, compassionately and wisely to a suicide for all concerned.
These resources have been developed by experts in this area. Valuable contributions have been made by chambers and other organisations that have had to manage the aftermath of the suicide of a barrister member, clerk or member of staff.
They have kindly shared their experiences to assist others.

Click here to view advice for chambers supporting colleagues following a death by suicide.

Developing a Health Care Plan (with prior consents)

This document supports chambers in developing a Health Care plan with prior consents for colleagues with a diagnosed condition. It may be used in managing a return to work process.

Click here to view guidance on developing a Health Care plan.

Dealing with a wellbeing / mental health issue in a chambers or entity

In dealing with any wellbeing/wellbeing related issue in chambers (or an entity), you need to be clear on the following:

  • What should be of legal or regulatory concern to you?
  • What will be of concern to the BSB?
  • What is your wider responsibility as a chambers or entity?

This might seem daunting but Andrew Walker QC, Chairman Ethics Committee (2016) has pointed out ““In general, we anticipate that the BSB is likely to take a proportionate approach, and be content for chambers to go as far as they sensibly and reasonably can and wish to go to manage a wellbeing issue internally, up to the point at which (1) this raises a risk to any duties under the Handbook, (2) the public interest is compromised, or (3) a significant risk of adverse consequences arises for clients, the public, the profession or members of chambers”

Related to this, in managing a member of chambers, you need to consider:

  • The effects of their wellbeing issue on their clients and practice
  • Their fitness to practice
  • Potential misconduct by the barrister

In managing a member of staff, you need to consider:

  • Your duty as an employer, including your duty to train and to support staff, to anticipate problems, and to avoid unjustified stress at work

The information and resource packs on this website are designed to help you and your colleagues to work as a community for better wellbeing and professional resilience. If you want to provide feedback on these resources, or to get involved in promoting wellbeing please get in touch.


Get in touch

It can be difficult to make a living from law and it can be pressurised and demanding. Competition and an adversarial approach to everything can make collegiate relationships difficult. This website aims to provide you with the knowledge to manage these stressors, make emotionally informed, wise professional decisions and thrive in your chosen profession.

A simple expression that sums up wellbeing is ‘travelling well’

Psychological wellbeing within the profession is rarely spoken about