Law Soc secretly halves maternity practising fee

The Law Society has halved the practising certificate fee for women on maternity leave – without telling its women members.

Judith Willis, chair of the Association of Women Solicitors (AWS), said she welcomed the reform, which was approved by the council this July, but added: “I am disappointed that the Law Society has not seen fit to give [the move] the appropriate publicity – I would like to know why.”

Willis, who is on the board of the Equal Opportunities Commission, said she felt she had to “push them into telling us about it”. The AWS has long been campaigning for reduced fees for women on maternity leave, a sensitive area for the profession.

Georgina Keane, employment partner at Richards Butler, said the Law Society could have been held liable for indirect discrimination as a “qualifying body” under section 13 of the Sex Discrimination Act if it had not made the amendment.

It is believed the society took legal advice before changing the fees. Law Society press officer David McNeil said his office had not been informed, but that now it knew, it would be going public this week.

Barbara Cahalane, director of communications at the Law Society, said that there was no “conscious decision not to publicise”.