Law Society forms working group to address workplace bullying, discrimination & harassment in response to survey
18 October 2018
Following the preliminary results of a Law Society survey into bullying, discrimination and harassment, the Society has formed a Working Group to develop strategies and recommendations to address these problems in the legal profession.
The Law Society’s survey was sent out to identify the extent to which bullying, discrimination and harassment is an issue in the legal profession, and as an initial step towards developing tailored strategies to address the specific types of unacceptable behaviour.
The raw data from the survey indicates a concerning level of bullying and harassment in the legal workplace. This 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. The Law Society survey results also seem to reflect the International Bar Association’s global survey into bullying and harassment, which is ongoing, but initial results suggest a problem confronting legal workplaces around the world.
The Working Group will comprise two members of the Law Society Council, plus one nominee of the following committees:
- Ethics and Practice;
- Young Lawyers;
- Women Lawyers;
- Equality, Diversity and Inclusion;
- Wellbeing and Resilience.
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.
This will lead to the development of resources and guidelines for the profession with regards to preventative strategies that promote a respectful workplace culture. It will also lead to greater support for people who are mistreated in the workplace.
“The Society remains deeply concerned by respondents’ reports of inappropriate and intimidating behaviour within the legal profession.”
“The Society condemns any form of harassment and expects legal practitioners to uphold the highest standards of ethics and integrity in the workplace,” said Law Society President Tim Mellor.
“The only acceptable level of harassment, bullying and discrimination is zero,” Mr Mellor said. “This should be our target.”
“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.”
“The Society has taken, and will continue to take, steps to raise awareness of, and educate the profession about issues relating to harassment in the workplace.”
“The Society is particularly concerned about reports of sexual harassment in the workplace. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to make uninvited and inappropriate sexual advances towards colleagues”.
“The Law Society has adopted the Australian Solicitors Conduct Rules, which set standards for legal practitioners. In a recent submission to the current review of the Rules, the Law Society required that sexual harassment continue to be specifically referred to in the anti-discrimination provision of the Rules, in order to reflect the seriousness of this form of harassment.”
“The Law Society has embraced the Law Council’s Equality and Diversity Charter, formalising a commitment to equality and diversity in the legal profession. The Society strongly encourages law practices to sign up to this Charter.”
“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.”
“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.”