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Equality and Diversity Policy

Introduction

This document sets out our policy on equality and diversity. This policy confirms our commitment to ensuring equality and diversity and prevent discrimination. We are particularly concerned that equality and diversity is maintained in the work place, when providing services to clients and in our dealings with third parties such as barristers, experts and suppliers.

This policy also explains how we will deal with complaints, the potential consequences of failure to comply and our monitoring and training procedures.

We may amend this policy at any time when appropriate.

If you are in any doubt or have any concerns about this policy or if a particular situation arises, please speak to the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice as soon as possible.

Statement of principle

Our statement of principle of equality and diversity is:

“We are committed to a policy of treating all our employees, workers and job applicants equally. No employee or potential employee will receive less favourable treatment because of any “protected characteristic”, namely age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage or civil partnership status, race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation, part time or full time status.

No employee or potential employee will be disadvantaged by any conditions of employment that cannot be justified as necessary on operational grounds.

We aim to encourage, value and manage diversity and are committed to equality for our entire staff. We wish to attain a workforce that is representative of the communities from which it is drawn. These principles of equality and diversity also apply to the manner in which we treat clients, our business partners and visitors”.

This equality policy is available to all staff on the intranet.

Application of this policy

The principles set out in this policy apply in the workplace and outside the workplace in a work related context such as on business trips, client or supplier events or work related social events.

Who is responsible for equality and diversity?

All of us have a part to play in promoting equality and diversity. The Directors are committed to achieving effective equality and diversity and will ensure adequate resources are available to meet equality and diversity needs. The Compliance Officer for Legal Practice is responsible for creating and updating this policy in consultation with the Directors, monitoring and reviewing our equality and diversity arrangements, helping to build a culture of equality and diversity awareness, providing assistance to individuals as required and reporting to the Directors on equality and diversity issues.

Special responsibility for the practical application of our equality policy falls on those involved with recruitment, appraisals, promotion, supervision and training of employees.

All employees have personal responsibility for the practical application of the company’s equality policy which includes the treatment of job applicants, employees including former employees, clients and visitors.

Discrimination, victimisation and harassment

There should be no discrimination, whether direct or indirect, because of any of the protected characteristics set out in the company’s Statement of Principle on equality and diversity (see above).

The types of discrimination that are prohibited are direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, victimisation or harassment.

Direct discrimination is treating someone less favourably because of a protected characteristic. An example of this is paying someone less because of their sex or because they belong to a particular racial group. It also includes less favourable treatment because someone is associated with another person who has a protected characteristic.

Indirect discrimination is treating people in the same way but in a way which adversely affects those with a protected characteristic. For example, telling all employees that they have to work late at night, although applied to everyone, it will adversely affect those with childcare responsibilities and these tend to be women.

Victimisation is treating someone less favourably because they have asserted their right not to be discriminated against because of a protected characteristic. For example, an employee claiming they had been discriminated on the grounds of their disability and then their supervisor deciding when they left not to give them a reference because they had claimed disability discrimination.

Harassment is unwanted conduct, related to a protected characteristic, which has the purpose or affect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone or violating their dignity. Harassment may also be of a sexual nature or may occur because someone has harassed the victim and the victim either rejects or submits to it and, because of that rejection or submission, that person treats the victim less favourably.

Equality and diversity in the workplace

We will appoint, train, develop, reward and promote on the basis of merit and ability.

Recruitment and selection

The following principles will apply whenever recruitment or selection for positions takes place, whether externally or internally.

  • Individuals will be assessed according to their personal capability to carry out a given job.
  • Assumptions that only certain types of person will be able to perform certain types of work must not be made.
  • Any qualifications or requirements applied to a job which have or may have the effect of inhibiting applications from certain types of person will be retained only if they can be justified in terms of the job to be done.
  • The use of years of experience as a criteria for a particular role will need to be objectively justified.
  • Applications from different types of people will be processed in the same way and the same questions asked at interview.
  • Written records of interviews and reasons for appointment and non appointment will be kept.
  • Questions at interview will relate to the requirements of the job.
  • Where any provision, criterion or practice for recruitment and selection puts disabled people at a substantial disadvantage due to a reason connected with their disability, reasonable adjustments will be made to eliminate or if that is not reasonably practicable, reduce the disadvantage. For example, this could include making different interview arrangements for an applicant with mobility problems or arranging for facilities for applicants with sight or hearing impairments.
  • Decisions regarding the method of recruitment or selection or who is recruited or selected will be made only by a person who has read and understood this policy.

Promotion, transfer and training

The following principles will apply to appointments for promotion, transfer and training.

  • Assessment criteria and appraisals will be carefully examined to ensure they are not discriminatory, whether directly or indirectly.
  • Where any provision, criterion or practice relating to promotion, appraisal, transfer or training puts disabled workers at a substantial disadvantage for a reason connected with their disability, reasonable adjustments will be made to eliminate or, if that is not reasonably practicable, reduce the disadvantage. For example, this could be making training available for a disabled worker in a different way, in a different location or at a different time.

Terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services

The following principles apply to terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services

  • The terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services will be reviewed regularly to ensure they are provided in a way which is free from unlawful discrimination.
  • Part time workers will receive pay, benefits, facilities and services on a pro-rata basis to their full time comparator unless otherwise objectively justified.
  • Where any provision, criterion or practice relating to terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services puts disabled workers at a substantial disadvantage due to a reason connected to their disability, reasonable adjustments will be made to eliminate or, if that is not reasonably practicable, reduce the disadvantage.

Grievances, disciplinary procedures, dismissals and redundancies

  • Employees who, in good faith, bring a grievance (or assist another to do so) either under this policy or another in relation to an equality and diversity matter will not be disciplined or dismissed or otherwise suffer any adverse treatment for having done so.
  • No member of a particular group of workers will be disciplined or dismissed for performance or behaviour which would be overlooked or condoned in another group, unless there is genuine and lawful justification for different treatment.
  • Redundancy criteria and procedures will be carefully examined to ensure they are not applied and do not operate in an unlawful discriminatory manner.
  • The provision of any voluntary redundancy benefits will be equally available to all employees unless there is a genuine and lawful justification for doing otherwise.

Disability policy 

It is our policy that disabled people, including job applicants and employees, should be able to participate in all of our activities fully, on an equal basis with people who are not disabled.

Due to the wide variety of potential disabilities and the likelihood of a disability affecting different people in different ways, it would be inappropriate to have rigid rules on how issues concerning disabled people should be dealt with. What is essential; however is that all Directors and supervisors take all reasonably practical steps to ensure that disabled people are not less favourably treated or disadvantaged by comparison to people who are not disabled in relation to their work or working environment or by any provision criterion or practice used by the company.

We are particularly concerned that disabled workers are treated equally in the following areas. Recruitment and selection, promotion, transfer and training, terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services, dismissals, resignations and redundancies.

For the purpose of this policy, disabilities are either physical or mental impairments that have a substantial and long term affect upon a persons ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Particular conditions such as HIV and some forms of cancer are covered from the point of diagnosis and do not have to already be long term.

Some disabilities are immediately obvious, for example use of a wheelchair while other disabilities may not be apparent at all for example, cancer. Certain conditions are not considered to be disabilities, for example poor eyesight that is corrected simply by wearing prescription spectacles or addiction to alcohol or other substances. If you would like further information about whether a particular condition is a disability you should contact the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice (Julie Granger) or the Director for staff (Daniel Crook).

We will take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that disabled people are able to participate in our business and activities on an equal basis with people who are not disabled.

We will not, for a reason relating to a person’s disability, treat disabled people less favourably than we treat others to whom the same reason does not apply unless that treatment would be justified.

If anything we do or if anything about the premises we occupy, puts disabled people at a substantial disadvantage compared to people who are not disabled, we will take such reasonably practicable steps we can to prevent this disadvantage. This is known as the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

We will consider these general steps when there are issues concerning disabilities.

  • Be flexible- there could be many ways to avoid or minimise discrimination, a small adjustment may be all that is needed.
  • Consider performance or attendance problems in the context of the persons disability and its effect on their ability to meet performance and attendance targets.
  • Do not make assumptions- whenever possible talk to the disabled person to find out how their disability affects them and what steps they think might help.
  • Do not discipline or dismiss a disabled employee for performance or attendance-based reasons without first establishing whether the employee’s performance or attendance is affected by the disability and that appropriate adjustments to accommodate the disability have been made.
  • Seek expert advice- disability issues can be complex and we may need expert medical advice about a person’s disability, or expert technical advice about adjustments to technology or premises that might help the disabled person.
  • Think ahead- try to anticipate the effects that practices, policies and procedures may have on disabled people, even if there are no disabled employees at the time, to prevent problems occurring in the future.

Complaints procedure

Our grievance procedure is available to any employee who believes that they may have been unfairly discriminated against. Please look on the intranet for the grievance procedure, if not contact the Compliance Officer for Legal Practice or the Staff Director for a copy. The harassment and bullying policy is also available to any employee who believes they may have been harassed or bullied. Employees will not be victimised in any way for making such a complaint in good faith. Complaints of this nature will be dealt with promptly, fairly, openly, effectively, seriously and in confidence.

Equality and diversity in our relations with our clients

 

Any reference in this policy to clients includes current, past and potential clients.

 

We will treat our clients fairly and equally at all times.

 

We will not unlawfully discriminate against our clients.

 

We are generally free to decide whether to accept instructions from any particular client. Where we decide not to accept instructions, this will not be based on any protected characteristics.

We will take steps to ensure that we meet the diverse needs of our clients. Where necessary, we will devise procedures to deliver services that meet specific needs arising from a client’s ethnic or cultural background, gender, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disabilities, age or other relevant factors. We will do so only where this is permitted by the relevant antidiscrimination legislation.

We will take seriously any complaint of discrimination by or on behalf of a client and act promptly to investigate.

This policy will be made available to any person or organisation that requests it.

We will not unlawfully discriminate in our dealings with third parties.

We will instruct barristers on the basis of their skills, experience and ability, taking into account factors such as specialist expertise and cost. We will not accept instructions from a client to select a barrister wholly or partly on the presence or absence of a protected characteristic. If necessary, we will cease to act. Where a client requests a specific barrister is instructed, we will discuss the suitability of the barrister with the client and advise appropriately. We will take the same approach when instructing other experts or third parties on the client’s behalf.

Any reference in this policy to our suppliers includes suppliers of good and services to the firm or our clients, regardless of the geographical location of the supplier. It also includes any outsourcing providers and other third parties involved in the provision of goods or services to the firm or our clients.

Our suppliers will be selected solely on the basis of their suitability. We will not unlawfully discriminate when selecting suppliers.

We maintain a database of approved counsel and experts. This database has been compiled solely on the basis of skills, experience and ability, taking into account factors such as specialist expertise and cost. This database contains no discriminatory exclusion, restriction or preference.

We will take seriously any complaint of discrimination by or on behalf of a third party and act promptly to investigate.

Failure to comply

All staff must be aware of and adhere to this policy. You may be liable to disciplinary action if you fail to comply with its provisions or related policies and procedures.

Disciplinary action will be taken against any employee who is found to have committed an act of unlawful discrimination. Serious breaches of this policy and serious incidents of harassment and bullying will be treated as gross misconduct. Unwarranted allegations that are not made in good faith may also be considered as a disciplinary matter.

Monitoring and review

The Compliance Officer for Legal Practice is responsible for this policy.

We regularly monitor the effectiveness of this policy to ensure it is working in practice and we will review and update this policy as and when necessary, at least annually.

Our monitoring will include ongoing checks and analysis in the following areas:

  • Recruitment and promotion
  • Pay and remuneration
  • Training
  • Appraisals
  • Grievances
  • Disciplinary action
  • Dismissals and other reasons for leaving
  • Any client complaints
  • Our database of approved counsel and experts.

Periodically we monitor and survey the diversity of our work force.

  • All law firms are required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to collect, report (to the SRA) and, where appropriate, publish workforce diversity data.
  • We are interested in your opinions as to whether we can do more to build an inclusive culture that works for everybody-this helps us make sure activities and future plans represent the interests of everyone in the firm.

We use the Riliance Programme to carry out periodical surveys.

Equality and diversity within our workforce is considered at each Directors meeting to ensure that we continue to monitor and review our commitment to this policy.  

Training

All staff will receive appropriate training on our equality and diversity policy including:

  • Regular training for existing staff
  • Training for new staff at induction
  • Updates following any changes to the policy that affect staff

This policy will be reviewed annually.

2 March 2017

 

For more information please call one of our experts on  01233 624545