PNBA – Equality and Diversity Policy
In accordance with the Objects set out in Article II of the Constitution, and the rules on membership set out in Article III of the Constitution, the Association is committed to treating individuals fairly and with respect regardless of race, ethnic or national origin, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, age, disability, religion or belief, pregnancy or maternity. Diversity is valued.
In line with the Association’s pursuit of fostering and maintaining standards of professional excellence, the Association is committed to recruiting, retaining and developing members of the Bar (for membership, the Committee, and those involved with the Association’s events) entirely on merit and from the widest pool of talent. That is both right, and consistent with the Association’s desire to offer its members the best professional education and development and also representation of their interests.
The Association is committed to ensuring that, individually and collectively, we do not practise or permit any form of discrimination, whether direct, indirect, or by way of victimisation, against any person, or any harassment of any person.
In order to promote equality and diversity there is an Equality and Diversity Officer (“EDO”). The functions of the EDO will include being a member of the Complaints Committee appointed under the Complaints Handling Policy to hear any complaint, where the complaint raises issues of equality or diversity.
PNBA – Complaints Handling Policy
1. Whilst we strive to maintain high standards of service there may be occasions when a member is dissatisfied with the service provided by or on behalf of the Association. In the event of a complaint we will invite the member to bring the matter to the attention of the Association as soon as possible, and the member is to be given a copy of this policy.
2. The Association will have a standing complaints panel (known as the Complaints Committee – “CC”) whose members will deal with complaints. This document sets out the Association’s policy on how complaints will be handled and resolved. For the avoidance of doubt, this policy does not cover complaints which relate to the provision of legal services by a member of the Association in any capacity whatsoever.
3. Where a complainant is dissatisfied with some aspect of the service provided by or on behalf of the Association and makes an informal complaint s/he will be invited to first raise it with a member of the Executive Committee, or to telephone the administration team (Naomi Ralph, 0844 822 1736). If the complaint is about a member of the administration team, or if the complainant would rather not speak to a member of the Executive Committee, the complainant will be asked to telephone the Honorary Secretary (Victoria Woodbridge, 020 7797 8100) or the named chair (“the Chair”) of the CC. The complainant will also be told that if s/he prefers s/he may make a formal complaint in writing
4. Where a complaint is made or dealt with by telephone, a note of the complaint shall be made. It shall record:
i) the name and address of the complainant;
ii) against whom the complaint is made;
iii) the detail of the complaint;
iv) what the complainant believes should be done about her/his complaint.
5. The complaint may be resolved over the telephone during the first call. When that occurs the person dealing with the complaint shall record the outcome on the note of complaint referred to in paragraph 4 above. The complainant will be asked whether s/he is content with the outcome. If s/he is, that fact will be recorded. The person dealing with the complaint should suggest that the complainant may wish to make her/his own note. If the complainant is not content with the outcome s/he will be invited to put the complaint formally in writing within 14 days so that it may be investigated by the CC. The complainant shall also be informed that s/he may complain to the Bar Standards Board (if applicable) instead of the CC.
6. The CC shall be made up of members of the Executive Committee, to include the Chair, one Queen’s Counsel, two junior practitioners, and the Association’s Equality and Diversity Officer (“EDO”). Where a written complaint is made:
i) It will be considered by Chair, who shall then appoint two other members of the CC to consider the complaint alongside him/her.
ii) The Chair will consider whether the complaint raises issues of equality or diversity. If it does, or may do, the Chair shall appoint the EDO as one of the members of the CC which will consider the complaint.
iii) If the complaint relates to a member of the CC, that person may not be appointed to hear the complaint.
iv) The CC shall have power to co-opt other members as required.
7. All formal written complaints (other than those resolved at the first stage) shall be put before the Chair or, in her/his absence, the Queen’s Counsel who is a member of the CC, as soon as they are received.
8. Such complaints will be dealt with as follows:
i) The CC will aim, within 14 days of receipt by the Association, to send written acknowledgment of receipt, and inform the complainant that the Association’s Complaints procedure is being followed.
ii) The CC will aim, within 21 days thereafter, to meet to determine how to investigate and report within, if possible, a further 21 days and if that is not possible, to set a realistic short timetable for the investigation of the complaint.
iii) The CC will aim, promptly thereafter, to send a letter is to the complainant saying that the CC will complete its investigation and prepare its report within 21 days or such other period as has been set by the CC.
iv) The CC will then investigate the complaint adhering to the timetable. The investigation is to include speaking to any member of the Executive Committee or Association complained against, and any other people identified as having something to contribute, reviewing all relevant documents and if necessary reverting to the complainant for further information and clarification. If adherence to the timetable is impossible then the complainant shall be informed accordingly together with the new anticipated date for completing the report. An extension of the timetable shall be avoided wherever possible.
v) The CC shall prepare a report to the complainant (with a copy to any member of the Executive Committee or Association complained against). The report shall set out all the matters referred to at paragraph 4 above, the nature and scope of the investigations carried out in respect of each complaint, the conclusions reached and the reasons for those conclusions. Where a complaint is found to be justified, proposals for resolution will be included. Where appropriate reference to the Bar Standards Board’s complaints procedures shall also be included. The report will be sent to the complainant and copied to any member of the Executive Committee or Association complained against promptly after it has been approved by the CC.
9. All conversations and documents relating to a complaint shall be treated as confidential save to the extent that disclosure is necessary for the proper investigation and resolution of the complaint, or is required by law. Disclosure may therefore, if necessary, be made to the Officers of the Association, the members of the Committee, anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation (including the CC, the member of the Executive Committee complained about, the member and any other individual of whom enquiries need to be made for the purpose of the investigation). Disclosure may also be made to the Officers of the Association and members of the Executive Committee, if appropriate on an anonymised basis, for the purposes of considering and improving governance.
10. Where the procedure ends after the first stage the person responsible for recording the outcome on the note of complaint shall ensure that the note of complaint is placed on the Association’s complaints file.
11. Where the procedure ends after the second stage the CC shall ensure that the following documents are placed on the Association’s complaints file:-
i) note/letter of complaint.
ii) the CC report.
iii) all records of communications to and from the member.
REVIEW OF RECORDS
12. The Association’s complaints file shall be inspected and reviewed annually by the Chair with a view to maintaining a high standard of service to members.
BAR STANDARDS BOARD
13. Complaints about conduct may be made to the Bar Standards Board. Further details can be found at www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/complaintsandhearings. The telephone number is: 020 7611 1445.