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Advice for my dad please.

(9 Posts)
JustContemplating Sat 04-Nov-17 18:03:27

My dad is the head of a large set of chambers and over the years he has had people come to him with harassment complaints. We were discussing all the recent news and he had a question. I said I’d ask you lot what you thought.

Some of the women who have put in complaints have wanted to remain anonymous and don’t really want him to do anything about. This means that my dad’s hands are tied. He has sometimes managed to arrange mediation but more often than not, nothing happens. This bothers my dad as he thinks that the men need to be held accountable for their actions.

Is there anything he can do?

Thanks if you’ve read this far and I hope it makes sense.

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 04-Nov-17 18:13:57

He cannot challenge specific men over specific incidents if they are not given the details of what they are being accused of and by whom.

He can arrange general diversity and equality and anti- bullying training for all staff. He can emphasise that breaches can have serious repercussions for the employee and him as the employer. He should be doing this as routine with regular refreshers.

He should have a clear code of conduct for all employees which all employees are asked to read and know where it is accessed.

If I were your father I would be worried that I was being weak and ineffectual in allowing a hostile work environment to be established and potentially laying myself open to being taken to an industrial tribunal because I am doing nothing about it.

I am an employer.

Caspiana Sat 04-Nov-17 18:17:21

I work from a big set of chambers, and I can confirm sadly that harassment is rife at the bar (minority of people who engage in it of course, but most junior female barristers I know have been affected). The main reason for not complaining is fear of the effect it will have on our careers. Has your dad spoken to them about why they want to stay anonymous? And if it is fear of repercussions could he reassure them or put in place any practical safeguards eg ensuring clerks are trained to look out for a drop in work etc in someone who has complained, and how to action it?

norahnamechange Sat 04-Nov-17 18:50:01

Those who are senior managers in all careers / workplaces are very influential in setting a standard for the workplace.
If women are scared of repercussions then he CAN maintain their confidentiality. He doesn't have to out them. But he can ensure that there are clear codes of conduct for workplace behaviour as well as out of work contact that is related to the work place. In fact, men like him are incredibly important because they are the role models for younger men. That is not to disempower women, but it is not a woman's responsibility to police a man's behaviour.
This is the moment for him to strike. In the light of all the publicity, establish guidelines for the chambers - not just in relation to colleagues but also for relationships with clients. Be clear about the issues (keep your hands and thoughts to yourself, treat everyone with respect (just like a primary classroom really grin and remember that out of work behaviour / relationships which connect to the workplace must be managed in the same way.
He needs to be brave and go for it - NOW

JustContemplating Sat 04-Nov-17 18:53:12

Thank you.

LassWiTheDelicateAir he doesn’t employ them. Barristers are self employed and office staff are employed by the chambers as a whole and not my dad.

He has regularly arranged allowing sorts of training and they all know where to access a code of conduct. His problem is not being able to do anything when victims wish to remain anonymous.

Caspiana, thank you. Reassuring them that the clerks would look for a drop in work may be a good idea.

norahnamechange Sat 04-Nov-17 18:56:22

Presumably his chambers commissions / allocates work to these barristers ? Work drying up because you are an abusive sexist sleazebag is presumably an option?
(no idea how this all works)

LassWiTheDelicateAir Sat 04-Nov-17 18:58:02

The Chambers can still set a code of conduct for diversity, equality and anti- bullying and he can set the tone for that.

JustContemplating Sat 04-Nov-17 19:02:25

norahnamechange he’s done everything he can to set up the correct protocols. Since he became head of chambers about 20yrs ago. He does not tolerate any form of abuse or harassment and deals with it swiftly when he is given the go ahead by victims.

His frustration is when he can’t act.

norahnamechange Sat 04-Nov-17 19:15:23

I understand that JustContemplating.
It's very hard to stand by and see a 'victim' not want to pursue an issue.
As a teacher I learnt that when dealing with bullying one of the most effective ways was to find the eyewitness who had spotted the bullying
-andsometimesImadeupthewitness- . I know that adults (and especially lawyers) can't be 'conned'. But I still maintain that senior staff need to be alert and to actively call out / censor every single inappropriate comment, attitude, incident. Any 'all men together' sexist remark. That can and will make a significant difference.
Don't stand back but actually challenge the joke, the throw away remark. That's how you create an ethos of mutual respect and safety. And if a senior male hesitates to do that, just imagine how the young woman, an admin assistant in her first years in a chamber must feel. I'm not saying that he's not doing this, but sometimes, when you reflect on things, you realise that you haven't stood up to something that needed standing up to!

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