Bar Council makes anti-ageism move

The Bar Council has approved an amendment to its code of conduct to ensure that age discrimination in pupillage and tenancy selection does not take place.

However, the amendment contains a crucial clause which states discrimination can take place if it can be shown to be objectively and reasonably justified.
This is a clear compromise with the Commercial Bar Association's (Combar) response to a bar consultation paper. That said that the bar's proposal for a blanket ban failed to allow discrimination on the grounds of age when such a move was “objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate aim”. (The Lawyer,7 May).
Combar's paper added there is little evidence supporting the claim that chambers exclude applicants aged over 35.
The association claims the Bar's existing guidelines on age discrimination state that pupils under 30 are more likely to produce greater financial return.
The move by the Bar Council follows complaints from pupils who allege they were denied a pupillage because of ageism at the Bar.
As reported earlier, a recent analysis of Pupillage Application Clearing House figures illustrates that a man in his early 20s is five times more likely to get a pupillage than a man in his 40s.
The Bar said it is one of the first professions to ban age discrimination. It is spurred by a European Union directive of December 2000 which aims to outlaw age discrimination in the workplace by 2006.
The amendment to the Bar's code of conduct reads: “A barrister must not in relation to any offer of a pupillage of tenancy discriminate directly or indirectly.”