The FreeBar Charter

Introduction & Instructions

Welcome to the FreeBar Charter.

FreeBar is a group of barristers and people who work with barristers. Following wide consultation and discussion, we have produced the FreeBar Charter set out below.

The Charter aims to guide organisations in implementing best practice with regards to LGBT+ inclusion, allowing them to demonstrate to potential applicants and clients that they are (or are working towards becoming) an LGBT+ inclusive organisation.

The Charter is a checklist of basic steps which we believe are practical and meaningful. By publicising that they have taken those steps, organisations will send out an important message that they are welcoming to LGBT+ people.

The eleven sections of the Charter are designed so that organisations can sign up even if they have not yet completed all the elements of the checklist. For example, the commitment to challenge LGBT+ phobic language is one that can have immediate effect going forward. On the other hand, it might (for example) take a while to modify your website and all your marketing materials to use gender neutral pronouns (as the Charter requires). So the Charter allows you to sign up straight away while committing to make those changes by a specified date (which we hope would not be more than a year away from your initial sign up to the Charter).

To sign up to the Charter, please email info@freebar.co.uk with the subject “Charter Commitment”. In the email, you should:

  • Explain who (or what body) in your organisation has agreed to make the commitment
  • Confirm that person or body has the authority to do so on behalf of the organisation as a whole
  • Request a Word copy of the Charter

You will then need to complete the Charter as appropriate (e.g. including your timeframes etc.) and an authorised signatory should return the completed Charter to us. We will then review the document and send you the Charter Mark for 2021, which you can display on your website, appropriate marketing and recruitment materials, and in email footers if you wish. We can also provide hardcopy versions for display in a reception area, or similar. Please note that if you wish to display the Charter Mark anywhere else, you must have FreeBar’s permission first. By sending the completed Charter to us, you agree to allow us to include you on a published list of signatory organisations.

In addition to publicising the fact that you have signed up, the Charter also requires signatories annually to review their ongoing compliance with the Charter. We suggest you do so towards the end of the calendar year so that we can then provide the Charter Mark for the next year. We may make adjustments to the Charter as best practice evolves, so as part of your annual review, please check that you are using the most up to date version.

We will not formally be checking compliance. The Charter relies on self-certification and public scrutiny from within each organisation and beyond.

Of course, there can be no obligation on anyone to sign up to the Charter. That is a matter for each organisation through its internal decision-making processes. Some may choose to show their commitment to welcoming LGBT+ people in other ways.

If you have any queries about the Charter or how to sign up, please email info@freebar.co.uk with the subject “Charter Enquiry”.

The Charter

This Charter has been designed by FreeBar to guide organisations at the Bar in implementing best practice with regards to LGBT+ inclusion and to allow organisations to demonstrate to potential applicants and clients that they are (or are working towards becoming) an LGBT+ inclusive organisation.

FreeBar, and signatories to this Charter, recognise the importance of creating a welcoming atmosphere for people of all backgrounds, including by being inclusive of those with multiple or intersecting identities. As such, signatories are encouraged to consider how their actions in relation to this Charter reflect and respect diversity within the LGBT+ community and beyond.

As a signatory to this Charter, [NAME OF ORGANISATION] has made the following 11 commitments:

  1. We are an LGBT+ inclusive and welcoming organisation. We welcome all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  2. We always challenge LGBT+ phobic language or behaviour, whether from anyone in our organisation, or directed at anyone in our organisation from anyone dealing with our organisation.
  3. [We will ensure that by DATE our]/[Our] (delete as appropriate) recruitment materials, website and other marketing materials are LGBT+ inclusive including allowing everyone individually identified in those materials to choose their own pronouns, while using only gender-neutral language to refer to people generally.
  4. [We will ensure that by DATE our]/[Our] (delete as appropriate) internal policies and governing rules and procedures use only gender-neutral language, do not discriminate on LGBT+ grounds and are explicitly inclusive of those who identify as LGBT+.
  5. We have a policy on transitioning at work applicable and available to everyone in the organisation.
  6. [We will ensure that by DATE there]/[There] (delete as appropriate) is a gender-neutral option for all toilet and other facilities we offer (including for people with impaired mobility), for which all the signage is gender-neutral.
  7. [We will ensure that by DATE our]/[Our] (delete as appropriate) IT and other systems allow for non-binary pronouns and we respect everyone’s choice of their own pronouns.
  8. Our recruitment and selection processes are designed to encourage LGBT+ applicants and to reduce the risk of bias and discrimination against LGBT+ candidates. When placing and drafting recruitment adverts, we take particular care that they will come to the attention of talented LGBT+ applicants and we encourage LGBT+ applicants. We will not use recruitment agencies who do not share our values.
  9. [We will ensure that by DATE everyone]/[Everyone] (delete as appropriate) involved in managing or overseeing our selection processes has had recruitment equality training which included LGBT+ issues.
  10. We have in our organisation people who publicly identify as LGBT+ and/or LGBT+ allies. We encourage LGBT+ people in our organisation to apply for judicial and similar career-advancing appointments. We have designated members of staff and/or barristers for LGBT+ people to go to with any concerns. We bring to the attention of everyone in our organisation and joining our organisation the LGBT+ networks that exist more widely for barristers and all who work with them. We have/we would welcome the establishment of an LGBT+ network in our organisation.
  11. We welcome scrutiny of our compliance with this FreeBar Charter. We check, report publicly on, and monitor that at least annually. We are proud of and promote our compliance including on our website, including by displaying this charter and the FreeBar Charter Mark.

Accompanying Guidance

Point 2: All LGBT+ phobic language or behaviour should be challenged, unless that conflicts with professional obligations (e.g. it should include challenging solicitors, but not necessarily vulnerable lay clients).

Points 3 and 4: InterLaw have kindly produced a Guide to Gender-Neutral Drafting which signatories may find useful. Click here to access the guide.

Points 3, 4, 6, 7 & 9: Delete as applicable. The first option allows you to sign up to the Charter before you have fully made all the changes it might require of you, while setting a clear target date, ideally no more than a year away. The second option is for when you have got the specified things in place.

Point 5: FreeBar can provide you with an example Transitioning at Work Policy if you would like it.

Point 7: Where your existing diary management/client management systems do not allow for non-binary pronouns and titles (e.g. Mx), you should put pressure on the provider to make changes or consider changing provider. Note that this does not apply where legal or regulatory obligations restrict the use of non-binary pronouns/titles, for example, HMRC obligations in accountancy systems and BSB requirements.

Point 8: Examples of LGBT+ vacancy advertising platforms include Stonewall’s Proud Employers platform (more information here) and myGwork (more information here).

Point 9: Training should include specific examples/case studies relating to LGBT+ issues, preferably covering multiple areas of LGBT+ phobia (e.g. biphobia and transphobia).

Point 11: There will be a different FreeBar Charter Mark each year. You will need to publish your review report to claim your FreeBar Charter Mark for that year.