The firm is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity in its policies, practices and procedures. The firm endeavors to avoid discrimination in its dealings with clients, employees, and all other third parties that are in dealings with the firm. The firm is committed to promoting diversity in its professional activities in order to provide the best service attainable.
Everyone at the firm is expected and required to treat all others equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect regardless. We encourage equality of opportunity and respect for diversity in our relationships with staff, shareholders, other solicitors, barristers, clients, and all other third parties. The firm and its entire staff must treat everyone equally regardless of age, disability, gender, gender reassignment, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, civil partnership, pregnancy, maternity, race, racial group, colour, ethnic origin, nationality, political opinion, religion or other belief.
It is imperative that everyone adheres to this policy, by treating everyone fairly and with respect, by embedding such values in the workplace and by challenging inappropriate behaviour and processes. As a matter of law, we must comply with the requirements set out in legislation, including the Equality Act 2010, as well as the conduct duties contained in the Code of Conduct.
In light of this we have an equality and diversity procedure. The firm has appointed the COFA to be responsible for the administration of the policy and procedure. The policy and procedure is reviewed annually to ensure it is in effective operation.
Introduction and Scope
The firm operates a strict procedure in relation to discrimination, equality and diversity, and it is imperative that every individual is treated with respect and dignity and is given equal opportunities. The policy and this procedure apply to everyone within the practice, in terms of recruitment, training and promotion, and in the course of professional dealings with clients, other solicitors, barristers and third parties. All personnel must comply with the professional requirements of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) in addition to all legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010. This procedure is designed to ensure that, as an absolute minimum, the firm complies with and fulfills anti-discrimination legislation, and we are passionately committed to preventing any and all forms of discrimination from taking place.
This procedure covers:
- receiving instructions from clients; using experts and Counsel;
- the provision of services to clients; dealings with those representing others; all aspects of working within the firm;
- those involved with the provision of services by the firm.
Forms of Discrimination
- The firm covers discrimination of complex identities on the grounds of:
- race or racial group (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins);
gender (including gender reassignment);
- sexual orientation; marital status (including civil partnership);
- pregnancy and maternity; religion or belief;
- political opinion;
- disability (e.g. mental or physical impairment);
- All the areas of discrimination set out in section above are collectively referred to as ‘the above grounds’ in the rest of this
- The following types of action are against the firm’s procedure:
Direct discrimination: takes place where, in the same circumstances, a person is treated less favorably on any of the stated forms of discrimination above;
Indirect discrimination: takes place where an unjustifiable requirement or condition disadvantages and affects one group by reason of the above grounds;
Victimisation: takes place where a particular individual is treated less favorably than others because they have, or have attempted to, assert their rights, by undertaking action against the firm or complained about unlawful discrimination on one of the above grounds;
Harassment/bullying: takes place in the firm, or a firm-related setting, where persistent unwanted conduct on one of the above grounds has the effect of interfering with an individual’s dignity, or creating an uncomfortable (e.g. hostile, degrading, intimidating, humiliating, or offensive) environment for that individual.
Further to the firm’s obligations not to discriminate, victimize or harass those with a disability, whether mental or physical, the firm is subject to a duty to make reasonable adjustments in order to ensure that those employees (partners, members, directors) and clients are not left at a disadvantage in comparison to those who are not disabled
Any breach of this procedure entails a potential great risk to the practice in the absence of insurance carried by the firm against the consequences of a breach, and any claims in this regard are also likely to take up significant amounts of managerial time. Liability may not only attach the individual but also the owners of the firm. Any suspicions or experiences of a breach must be immediately reported to the Complaints Manager.
- Although the firm is at choice in deciding whether to accept instructions from a particular client, no client may be refused the provision of services from the firm if based on one of the above grounds. 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 1995 (amended by the DDA 2005), the Equality Act 2010, and the Solicitors’ Anti-Discrimination Rules 2004.
- 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 clients’ ethnic or cultural background, gender, responsibilities as carers, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or other relevant factors.
Barristers and Other Experts
- Barristers and other experts should be instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability. The firm will not discriminate in the instruction of barristers and/or experts on any of the above grounds.
- A client’s request for a particular barrister or expert should be complied with, subject to the firm’s duty to discuss with the client the suitability of the barrister or expert and to advise appropriately. If the client has been provided with instructions on discriminatory grounds, unless the client is appropriately advised and asked to modify such instructions, the firm will cease to act, unless the preference can be justified under the permitted statutory exceptions referred to as ‘genuine occupational requirements’ or ‘genuine occupational qualifications’.
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.
Employment, Training, Promotion and Partnership Opportunities
- The firm’s commitment extends to all job applicants, employees, partners, members and directors in providing equal opportunities in employment and has an obligation not to discriminate on the above grounds.
- 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.
- All employees have equal access to training and other career development opportunities appropriate to their experience and abilities. However, the company will 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.
Although it is unlawful to discriminate in favour of certain groups on the grounds of race or sex, positive action to enable greater representation of under-represented groups is permitted by law and the appropriateness of such action will be kept under review.
The practice will take steps to ensure that applications are attracted from people without regard to the above grounds and will ensure that there are equal opportunities in all stages of the recruitment process. Since recruitment to the firm is mainly achieved through a small number of agencies, steps will be taken to ensure that these agencies support the firm’s general approach to the subject.
We must consider equality and diversity requirements when we enter into outsourcing arrangements. Outsourcing providers do not have to adhere to our equality and diversity principles, but we should make our outsourcing providers aware of their equality and diversity obligations. In some cases it may be advisable to provide a copy of our policy to outsourcing providers.
Our Outsourcing Procedure is set out in P12-1.
Complaints of Discrimination
- The firm will treat seriously, and will take action where appropriate, all complaints of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds made by employees, Members, 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.
Monitoring and Review
Monitoring of this policy by the firm will be on a periodic basis to evaluate its effectiveness. The firm has appointed the COFA to be responsible for the operation of the procedure. In particular, the firm will monitor the ethnic and gender composition of existing staff and of applicants for jobs (including promotion), and the number of people with disabilities within these groups, and will review its equal opportunities policy and workforce diversity in accordance with the results shown by the monitoring. If changes are required, the firm will implement them. Any developments of the firm’s
strategic and business plans, or changes in this manual, will similarly be examined in order to ensure that no inadvertent breach of the procedure occurs.
A report will be produced on an annual basis and circulated to all employees to demonstrate the firm’s adherence to this procedure.