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‘Concerning’ workplace data spurs SA working group

The Law Society of South Australia has formed a working group it says will develop strategies and recommendations to address problems in the legal profession, following its receipt of “concerning” preliminary results from a survey on bullying, discrimination and harassment sent out to members.

user iconGrace Ormsby 24 October 2018 Big Law
‘Concerning’ workplace data spurs SA working group
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The working group will “review the statistical results of the Society’s survey and make recommendations to the council as to initiatives the Society should undertake to address the issues of bullying, discrimination and harassment in the legal profession.”

The survey was sent out “to identify the extent to which bullying, discrimination and harassment is an issue in the legal profession.

Raw data from the survey “indicates a concerning level of bullying and harassment in the legal workplace.”

 
 

The society concedes its data “appears to align with the Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into workplace sexual harassment laws, which revealed a significant problem of workplace harassment across all industries.”

It also acknowledged that data seemingly reflects preliminary findings in the International Bar Association’s global survey into bullying and harassment.

Comprising two members of the Law Society Council, plus one nominee from each of the following committees: ethics and practice; young lawyers; women lawyers; equality, diversity and inclusion; and wellbeing and resilience, the working group will develop resources and guidelines for the profession.

As an “initial step towards developing tailored strategies to address the specific types of unacceptable behaviour,” according to the society, the aim is to provide preventative strategies to promote respectful workplace culture, while improving support for people mistreated in the workplace.

The Law Society’s president Tim Mellor said the society is “deeply concerned” by respondent reports of “inappropriate and intimidating behaviour within the legal profession.”

The society condemns any form of harassment, and expects practitioners “to uphold the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the workplace,” he continued.

He said that “lawyers, as defenders of people’s rights, should be leading the way in protecting the rights of employees to work in safe and respectful environments.”

“It is completely unacceptable for anyone to make uninvited and inappropriate sexual advances towards colleagues”.

“All workplaces should have policies and procedures in place that promote respectful behaviour and provide support for those who have been victims of harassment, intimidation or sexual assault.”

He noted the South Australian Law Society’s adoption of the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules, and recent submission to the current review of the rules.

“The Law Society required that sexual harassment continue to be specifically referred to in the antidiscrimination provision of the rules, in order to reflect the seriousness of this form of harassment.”

The society has also embraced the Law Council’s equality and diversity charter, “formalising a commitment to equality and diversity in the legal profession,” Mr Mellor explained.

“The Society strongly encourages law practices to sign up to this Charter,” he explained, concluding that “sexual harassment has absolutely no place in society, and members of the legal profession, particularly senior members, must take the lead in calling it out and stamping it out.”

It comes as the Victorian Bar Association released results from its first ever Quality of Working Life Survey that highlighted how  nearly 60 percent of Victorian barristers have experienced judicial bullying in the course of their working lives.