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Equality and Diversity Policy

2. EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY POLICY

2.1  INTRODUCTION

2.1.1  This firm is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity in its own policies, practices and procedures and in those areas in which it has influence.  This applies to the firm’s professional dealings with employees and directors, other solicitors, barristers, clients and third parties.

2.1.2  The firm intends to treat everyone equally and with same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of their disability, gender (including marital status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity), race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or philosophical belief (“belief”), part time status and perceived or actual sexual orientation (including civil  partnership status) or age.

2.1.3  The firm will make reasonable adjustments to remove substantial disadvantages faced by disabled persons, whether as job applicants, employees, candidates for promotion or clients.

2.1.4  The firm is committed to a policy of non-discrimination in respect of the services it provides. Employees are therefore aware that it is the firm’s policy to avoid discrimination in the context of:-

  1. accepting instructions from Clients
  2. using experts and counsel
  3. provision of services to clients.

2.2  LEGISLATIVE BACKGROUND AND PROFESSIONAL GUIDANCE

2.2.1  It is unlawful to discriminate against individuals either directly or indirectly in respect of their race ethnic or national origin, perceived or actual sexual orientation, religion or beliefs, disability or part-time status, marital status or age.

2.2.2  The firm is required to comply with Rule 2 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct (Version 21: published 6th December 2018.  Guidance can be sought from the Solicitors Regulation Authority – see https://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/code/part2/rule2/content.page.

2.2.3  It is the responsibility of the firm’s Directors, supported by the Practice Manager to ensure that (a) the firm’s policies and procedures are non-discriminatory and up to date and (b) to identify any need for training in relation to this code and ensure that it is provided where necessary. 

2.2.4  The legislative framework is subject to continuous change.  The firm’s policies and procedures have to be read in the context of  the following:-

  • The Race Relations Act 1976
  • The Disability Discrimination Act 1995
  • The Sex Discrimination Act 1975
  • The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003
  • The Equal Pay Act 1970
  • The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations 2006.
  • The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003.
  • Employment Rights Act 1996.

and any relevant amendments or re-enactments of such legislation, (including  but not limited to)

i. The Commission for Racial Equality code of practice for the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity in employment (1983).

ii. The Equal Opportunities Commission code of practice on sex discrimination, equal opportunities policies, procedures and practices in employment (1985)

iii. The Equal Opportunities Commission code of practice on equal pay (2003)

iv. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 codes of practice in relation to rights of access to facilities, services and premises in employment

v. The European Community code of practice on the protection of the dignity of men and women at work,

and any relevant amendments to such codes or further codes of practice.

2.3  FORMS OF DISCRIMINATION

2.3.1  The following are kinds of discrimination which are against the Firm’s policy.

iDirect discrimination: a person should be no less favourably treated because of race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, marital status, part-time status, perceived or actual sexual orientation, religion or religious beliefs, age or disability. An example is if someone is refused promotion on the grounds that he or she is black or disabled or pregnant.

iiIndirect discrimination: where a requirement or condition which cannot be justified is applied equally to all groups but has a disproportionately adverse effect on one particular group.  For example a requirement which is non-essential to the job description which may exclude a disabled person (such as the requirement for a driving licence for a job which is mainly office based).

iiiVictimisation: where someone is treated less favourably than others because he or she has taken action against the Firm  under one of the

relevant acts(or has supported another employee in their action against the Firm), whether or not such victimisation is unlawful.

ivHarassment: when unwanted conduct related to any of the grounds referred to above takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.  Harassment may involve physical acts or verbal and non-verbal communications and gestures.  This will include physical, verbal and non-verbal acts.

2.4  EMPLOYMENT AND TRAINING

2.4.1  General Statement

As an employer, the firm will treat all employees and job applicants equally and fairly and not discriminate unjustifiably against them.  This will, for example, include arrangements for recruitment and selection, terms and conditions of employment, access to training opportunities, and access to promotion and transfers, grievance and disciplinary processes, demotions, selection for redundancies, dress code, references, bonus schemes, work allocation and any other employment related activities.

As an Employer, the firm collects and processes personal data relating to its employees to manage the employment relationship. The firm is committed to being transparent about how it collects and uses that data and to meeting its data protection obligations.

All employees have been provided with an employee privacy notice, and can refer to this at any point to understand what information we as a firm collect, why data is processed, how the data is protected, how long the data is kept and employees rights.

2.4.2  Recruitment and Selection

This firm recognises the benefits of having a diverse workforce and will take steps to ensure that:

(a) It endeavours to recruit from the widest pool of qualified candidates practicable.

(b) Employment opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of their individual qualities and personal merit.

(c) Selection criteria and processes do not discriminate unjustifiably on the grounds of disability, gender, marital status, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age, other than in those instances where the firm is exercising permitted positive action.

2.4.3  Conditions of Service

(a)  The firm will treat all employees equally and create a working environment which is free from discrimination and harassment and which respects, where appropriate, the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of employees.

(b) Terms and conditions of service for employees will comply with anti-discrimination legislation.  The provision of benefits such as working hours, maternity and other leave arrangements, performance appraisal systems, dress code, bonus schemes and any other conditions of employment will not unjustifiably discriminate against any employee on the grounds of their gender, marital status, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age, or on the grounds of their disability.

(c)  Where appropriate and necessary, the firm will endeavour to provide appropriate facilities and conditions of service which take into account the specific needs of employees which arise from their ethnic or cultural background, gender, responsibilities as carers, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age.

2.4.4 Promotion and Career Development

(a)  Promotion within the firm (including to partnership) will be made without reference to any of the forbidden grounds and will be based solely on merit.

(b)  The selection criteria and processes for recruitment and promotion will be kept under review to ensure that there is no unjustifiably discriminatory impact on any particular group.  Whilst positive action measures may be taken in accordance with the relevant anti-discrimination legislation to encourage under-represented group to apply for promotion opportunities, recruitment or promotion to all jobs will be based solely on merit.

(c)  All employees will have equal access to training and other career development opportunities appropriate to their experience and abilities.  However, the firm may take appropriate positive action measures (as permitted by the anti-discrimination legislation) to provide special training and support for groups which are underrepresented in the workforce and encourage them to take up training and career development opportunities.

2.5  BARRISTERS AND THIRD PARTIES

2.5.1 Barristers

(a)  Barristers should be instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability.  The firm will not, on any of the forbidden grounds, avoid briefing a barrister and will not request barristers’ clerks to do so.

(b)  Clients’ requests for a named barrister should be complied with, subject to the firm’s duty to discuss with the client the suitability of the barrister and to advise appropriately.

(c)  The firm will discuss with the client any request by the client that only a barrister who is not disabled or who is of a particular gender, marital status, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief, sexual orientation or age group will be instructed.  In the absence of a valid reason for this request, which must be within the exemptions permitted by the anti-discrimination legislation, the firm will endeavour to persuade the client to modify their instructions in so far as they are given on discriminatory grounds.  Should the client refuse to modify such instructions, the firm will cease to act.

2.5.2 Suppliers

All lists of approved suppliers and databases of contractors, agents and other third parties who, or which, are regarded as suitable to be instructed by those within the firm have been compiled only on the basis of the ability of those persons or organisations to undertake work of a particular type and contain no discriminatory exclusion, restriction or preference.

2.6  CLIENTS

2.6.1 (a)  The firm is generally free to decide whether to accept instructions from any particular client, but any refusal to act will not be based upon any of the forbidden grounds.

(b)  The firm will take steps to meet the different needs of particular clients arising from its obligations under the anti-discrimination legislation (such as the Disability Discrimination Act) and the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2011, Rule 2 – Equality and Diversity.

(c) In addition, where necessary and where it is permitted by the relevant anti-discrimination legislation (for example, provisions relating to positive action or exemptions) the firm will seek to provide services which meet the specific needs and requests arising from client’s ethnic or cultural background, gender, responsibilities as carers, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or other relevant factors.

2.7 PROMOTING EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY

2.7.1 (a)  This firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity in the firm as well as in those areas in which it has influence.

(b)  Employees and Directors will be informed of this Equality and Diversity Policy.

(c)  All those who act on the firm’s behalf will be informed of this Equality and Diversity policy and will be expected to pay due regard to it when conducting business on the firm’s behalf.

(d) In all its dealings, including those with suppliers, contractors and recruitment agencies, the firm will seek to promote the principles of equality and diversity.

(e)  The firm will make every effort to reflect its commitment to equality and diversity in its marketing and communication activities.

2.8 IMPLEMENTING THE POLICY

2.8.1 Responsibility

(a)  Ultimate responsbility for this policy rests with the directors of the firm.  The Managing Director is to have operational responsibility for implementing, communicating, monitoring, evaluating and updating this policy.

(b)  All employees and directors of the firm are expected to pay due regard to the provisions of this policy and are responsible for ensuring compliance with it when undertaking their jobs or representing the firm.

(c)  Acts of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds by employees or directors of the firm will result in disciplinary action.  Failure to comply with this policy will be treated in a similar fashion.  The policy applies to all who are employed in the firm as to all the directors.

(d)  Acts of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds by those acting on behalf of the firm will lead to appropriate action including termination of service where appropriate.

2.8.2 Complaints of Discrimination

The firm will treat seriously, and will take action where appropriate concerning, all complaints of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds made by employees, directors, clients, barristers or other third parties.  All complaints will be investigated in accordance with the firm’s grievance or complaints procedure and the complainant will be informed of the outcome

2.8.3 Monitoring and Review

There will be an annual written review of the firm’s Equality and Diversity Policy,  The review will include consideration regarding whether the policy should be amended In relation to the following:

(a)  The gender and ethnic and racial composition of the workforce and directors as well as the number of disabled employees and directors at different levels of the organisation.

(b)  The ethnicity, race, gender and disability of all applicants, short-listed applicants and successful applicants for jobs and training contracts.

(c)  The ethnicity, race, gender and disability of all applicants for promotion (including to partnership, to the role of a member of a limited liability partnership or direction of a recognised body) and training opportunities and details of whether they were successful.

(d)  Where it is possible to do so, and where doing so will not cause offence or discomfort to those whom it is intended to protect, the sexual orientation and religion or belief of all directors and employees will be monitored so as to ensure that they are not being discriminated against in terms of opportunities or benefits available to them.  Those responsible should, however, be aware that directors and employees may not choose to disclose their sexual orientation or religion or belief and that care should be taken to avoid inadvertent discrimination in such cases.

(e)  The number and outcome of complaints of discrimination made by employees, directors, barristers, clients and other third parties.

(f)  The disciplinary action (if any) taken against employees by race, gender and disability.

This information will be used to review the progress and impact of the Equality and Diversity Policy.  Any changes required will be made and implemented.

2.9 COMPLIANCE WITH THE POLICY

2.9.1 The firm will take any breach of this policy extremely seriously.  The firm’s employee policies are set out fully in Section 5 of this manual.  The firm’s employee policies have been considered carefully to see whether they comply with the above provisions and any changes to employee policies will be examined very carefully in the context of the non-discrimination policy.

2.9.2 All members of the firm should be aware that the risk attaching to any breach of these provisions are extremely serious.   For that reason any breach of this policy will be regarded as a serious disciplinary offence.

2.9.3 If anyone is concerned that a breach of the code may be occurring or has a complaint that they have been the victim of a breach, they should immediately report this, either through their team leader or direct to the Practice Manager.   In the event that the complaint relates to the Practice Manager then the person concerned should report the breach to the Managing Director.

2.10 ANNUAL REVIEW

2.10.1 The Managing Director will be responsible for conducting a review of the firm’s systems and procedures against this code on an annual basis.   In addition the Managing Director will be responsible for ensuring that any developments of the firm strategic and business planning will be examined to avoid any inadvertent breach of the code.

2.10.2 It is the responsibility of the Practice Manager to monitor legislation and inform the Partnership of any changes which impact on this policy.


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