Equality & Diversity Policy
1.5 Equality, Diversity, and Anti-Discrimination Policy
1.5.1. 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.
1.5.2. This applies to the firm’s professional dealings with other solicitors, barristers, clients and third parties.
1.5.3. The firm intends to treat everyone equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.
Discrimination is prohibited on the grounds of the following:
· Race or ethnic origin – including colour, nationality or ethnic/nation origins
· Age – including perceived age and spouse’s age
· Marriage and Civil Partnership
· Pregnancy and maternity
· Gender reassignment – someone who is proposing to undergo, is undergoing and has undergone a process or part of a process for the purpose of reassigning a person’s sex
· Sexual orientation – heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian
· Religion or belief
· Disability – a person has a disability if they have a physical or mental impairment and the impairment has a substantial and long term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities.
These are “protected characteristics” under the Equality Act 2010.
1.5.4 In developing and implementing its equality, diversity and anti-discrimination policy, the firm is committed to complying with Chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 equality and diversity, and with all current and any future equality, diversity and anti-discrimination legislation and associated codes of practice including, but not limited to:
· The Equality Act 2010 and statutory instruments and regulations issued there under
· Relevant Practice Notes issued from time to time by The Law Society, including the Practice Note entitled “Equality Act 2010”. (Appendix 5)
· Guidance notes and Directives issued by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
· Relevant directives, legislation and regulations issued by the European Court of Justice and/or the European Court of Human Rights
· and any relevant modifications amendments and additions to the foregoing
1.5.5 As a firm we are regulated by the SRA and required to collect, report and publish workforce diversity data annuallyevery two years. The diversity questionnaire is at Appendix 6. The data is collected by completion of the questionnaire which remains secure with only partners, Practice Director, Office Manager and Compliance Administrator having access. The data is processed, and when reported to the SRA, is in aggregate format to preserve anonymity and in accordance with the data protection legislation. The SRA will publish the data aggregated for all firms in England and Wales – they will not publish the aggregated data of our individual firm. The SRA requires firms to publish a summary of their workforce diversity data. The firm’s annual workforce diversity data is published every two years in line with the SRA reporting date. The data is published in a way that allows no individual to be identified. A copy of the workforce diversity data is available at Appendix 6.
1.5.6 What follows is in particular a summary of the Equality Act 2010; for further information (e.g. exceptions, where positive action is permitted, dual discrimination, adjustments for disabled persons, definitions etc.) please refer to the Equality Act 2010 and The Law Society Practice Note mentioned above.
1.5.7 Discrimination can take a variety of forms.The following are the kinds of discrimination that are against the firm’s policy:
· Direct Discrimination – Where a person is treated less than another becausethey have a protected characteristic, they are thought to have a protected characteristic or they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic.
This applies to all protected characteristics except age where direct discrimination can be justified if it is a proportionate means for achieving a legitimate aim.
· Dual Discrimination – This allows claims to be brought in relation to a combination of two protected characteristics. It only applies to direct discrimination and only applies to age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
· Indirect Discrimination – This occurs where a requirement or condition is applied equally to all groups but has a disproportionately adverse effect on people who have a protected characteristic and it cannot be shown to be a proportionate means for achieving a legitimate aim. It does not apply to pregnancy or maternity.
· Discrimination arising from disability – Discrimination occurs when a person with a disability is treated unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability and this treatment cannot be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. Unlike direct or indirect discrimination this does not need us of a comparator to establish less favourable treatment.
There is a duty to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that a staff member/ client/third party with a disability, are not put at a substantial disadvantage when compared with a staff member / client/ third party without that disability. This is a legal responsibility under anti-discrimination legislation. This requirement applies to premises, goods and services and employment.
· Duty to make adjustments – Where a provision, criterion or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter or physical feature, or where a disabled person would, but for the provision of an auxiliary aid, be at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled, the person to whom the duty applies must take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage and provide auxiliary aid. Where the above provision, criterion or practice or auxiliary aid required relates to the provisions of information, ‘reasonable steps’ include making sure that the information is in an accessible format.
· Harassment – When ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that individual’. Harassment applies to all protected characteristics except for pregnancy and maternity, and marriage and civil partnership. The Act specifically prohibits three types of harassment: harassment related to a ‘relevant protected characteristic’, sexual harassment; and less favourable treatment of a service user because they submit to or reject sexual harassment related to sex or gender reassignment.
Harassment can occur where it has the defined effect upon the victim, notwithstanding the harasser’s intention e.g. remarks made humorously can still constitute harassment if that is the effect which they had upon the person being harassed. A series of minor acts or comments or a one-off act of sufficient severity can amount to harassment.
Sexual harassment will not be allowed or condoned. Sexual harassment means unwanted conduct of a sexual nature, or other conduct based on sex, affecting the dignity of women and men at work.
Harassment of our employees by non-employee third parties, for example, clients, contractors etc. will not be tolerated and any such occurrences should be reported to the Managing Partner. The firm will take all necessary and reasonable steps to ensure that such harassment is prevented.
Everyone in the firm is expected and required to treat all other equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect.
· Victimisation – Occurs where an employer or service provider subjects a person to a detriment because that person has carried out (or is believed to have carried out or may carry out) a “protected act” (namely any of the following: bringing proceedings under the Equality Act 2010, give evidence or information in proceedings brought under the Equality Act, doing anything that is related to the provisions under the Equality Act, or make an allegation that another person has done something in breach of the Equality Act). A person need not have protected characteristic to be protected from victimisation.
1.5.8 In line with the SRA Code of Conduct 2011, in the course of its professional dealings the firm will not discriminate, victimise, or harass groups of people on the grounds set out in 1.5.3above, and will make reasonable adjustments to prevent those of the firm’s employees, clients or third parties who are disabled from being disadvantaged in comparison with those who are not disabled.
1.5.9 Employment and training: As an employer, the firm will treat all employees and job applicants equally and fairly and not discriminate unjustifiably against them. This will include, for example, arrangements for recruitment and selection, terms and conditions of employment, access to training opportunities, 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.
1.5.10 Recruitment and selection: This firm recognises the benefits of having a diverse workforce. When recruiting, the firm will take steps to ensure that applications are attracted from people without discrimination and will ensure that there are equal opportunities at all stages of the recruitment process. The firm will take steps to ensure that:
· it endeavours to recruit from the widest possible pool of qualified candidates
· employment opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of candidates’ individual qualities and personal merits
· where appropriate, positive action measures are taken to attract applications from all sections of society and especially from those groups which are under-represented in the workforce
· selection criteria and processes do not discriminate unjustifiably on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation other than in those instances where the firm is exercising permitted positive action
· wherever appropriate and necessary, lawful exemptions (genuine occupational requirements) will be used to recruit suitable staff to meet the special needs of particular groups
· all recruitment agencies acting for the firm are aware of its requirement not to discriminate and to act accordingly
1.5.11 Pre-employment Checks – Will be made prior to offering a job to a candidate. Health related questions will only relate to the need to make reasonable adjustments for individuals for the selection process, the ability to carry out a function that is essential to the job, the need to monitor diversity in the range of applicants and ensure the candidate has a disability where the position genuinely requires it.
1.5.12 Conditions of service
· 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
· terms and conditions of service for employees will comply with equality and 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 di