Report highlights equal pay issues for barristers

A report from the Bar Standards Board shows a significant pay gap for women and ethnic minority barristers which cannot be explained by seniority, area of work or location.

Women in Law

 

Female barristers earn on average just over half [52%] of what male barristers take home and those from minority ethnic backgrounds earn 68% of the incomes of their white peers, regardless of area of law, location and seniority, according to a report from the Bar Standards Board.

The report also shows differences in the income of barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds once ethnicity is looked at in more detail, with Black and Black British barristers earning less than Asian and Asian British barristers overall.

As it did in a previous BSB report published in November 2020, it shows that income differences are particularly marked when looking at gender and ethnicity together, with female barristers from minority ethnic backgrounds being the lowest earning group and white male barristers being the highest earning group.

The BSB collects data on income as part of the annual process by which barristers renew their practising certificates. This report examines the gross income of barristers. Around one fifth of barristers are employed and for them by “income” the report refers to their gross income before tax and national insurance etc. For the four fifths of barristers who are self-employed their “income” is their total fee income (excluding VAT) before they pay the costs of their chambers, which is estimated typically to take between 20 and 40 per cent of their income.

The report also shows that barristers in all groups analysed have faced falls in income during the pandemic. The largest falls in income have been for male barristers from ethnic minority backgrounds, and barristers based outside London. Female barristers seem to have seen smaller falls in income overall than male barristers and ethnic minority barristers have seen larger falls than White barristers.

The proportion of barristers in the lowest two income bands has increased, often markedly, for most groups of barristers. However, for many groups there has been almost no change in the proportion in the highest income bands – indeed, for some groups (female barristers from White or ethnic minority backgrounds) the proportion in the highest income bands increased from 2019 to 2020.

Falls in income have been larger for certain areas of practice than others. Criminal law saw the largest fall in incomes, while family and personal injury law saw smaller decreases. In commercial and financial law, incomes increased.

 



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