Fair Work Ombudsman leads by example with equitable briefing
The Fair Work Ombudsman has announced that it allocated more than half of its legal work to female barristers in FY2016-17.
This was the fourth consecutive year that the government body achieved this feat, according to a recent statement.
Over the last financial year, the Fair Work Ombudsman briefed female counsel 59 times and male counsel 35 times. Female barristers received 58 per cent of its total spend on barristers.
Fair Work Ombudsman chief counsel Janine Webster said the numbers were a result of the agency’s strong commitment to equitable briefing.
“It took several years for the agency to be in a position to achieve these results, but now we consistently meet and exceed our targets in relation to equitable briefing,” she said.
“We urge other agencies to follow our lead and set targets to achieve equity in their briefing practices.”
The organisation is a signatory to the Law Council of Australia’s equitable briefing policy, which aims to see women briefed in 30 per cent of matters and paid 30 per cent of the value of all briefs by 2020.
Ms Webster urged other organisations to commit to the equitable briefing target.
“The Fair Work Ombudsman actively seeks out barristers of both genders to make themselves available to accept briefs from the agency,” she said.
“We are pleased that our efforts go some way towards tackling the issue of inequitable briefing in Australia, but recognise that more needs to be done.
“We encourage all people and entities to adopt the National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy when selecting counsel and actively monitor their performance in briefing equitably.”
She added that supportive and flexible working environments are crucial in retaining female lawyers.
Approximately 20 per cent of the Fair Work Ombudsman’s in-house team have part-time working arrangements. The team comprises 43 female and 12 male lawyers.
“Adopting flexible working arrangements means we can retain valuable employees and enhance our internal capability to keep legal matters in-house, resulting in substantial savings for the agency,” Ms Webster said.
“As a result of our effective workforce planning, we have created a highly talented and engaged practice that achieves consistently good results.”