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Equality & Diversity Policy

Equality and Diversity Policy

We are committed to eliminating unlawful discrimination and to promoting equality and diversity within our policies, practices and procedures.   We aim to encourage, value and manage diversity and are committed to equality for all our staff members including potential staff members.  These principles of equality of opportunity and non-discrimination also apply to our professional dealings with clients and others.

We treat everyone equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of:

  • sex (including pregnancy, maternity and paternity)
  • marital or civil partnership status
  • gender reassignment
  • sexual orientation
  • race or racial group (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins)
  • religion or belief
  • age (or perceived age)
  • caring responsibility or
  • disability (past or present).

We take all reasonable steps to ensure that the firm and its staff do not unlawfully discriminate under:

  • the Equality Act 2010
  • the Employment Rights Act 1996
  • the Human Rights Act 1998
  • the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000
  • the Fixed-Term Employees (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000
  • the Work and Families Act 2006
  • the Civil Partnership Act 2004, and

any other relevant legislation in force from time to time relating to discrimination in employment and the provision of goods, facilities or services.

Our firm is particularly concerned that the principles of equality of opportunity and non-discrimination are maintained in the following areas:

  • existing staff members
    • progression including promotion and transfers
    • performance management, learning and development including appraisals and training opportunities
    • terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services
    • grievance and disciplinary
    • dismissals, resignations and redundancies
  • job applicants
    • recruitment and selection
  • clients and access to our services
  • engagement with third parties including suppliers and experts

All staff are expected to pay due regard to the provisions of this policy and their obligations in the SRA’s Standards and Regulations and have personal responsibility for ensuring compliance with them when undertaking their jobs or representing our firm and which extends to their treatment of job applicants, existing or former employees, clients, external suppliers and/or visitors.

Discrimination

Discrimination may occur in a number of forms.  The more common forms of discrimination are as follows:

  • Direct discrimination: where someone is treated less favourably than another person because they are thought to have a protected characteristic (discrimination by perception) or because they associate with someone with who has a protected characteristic (discrimination by association)
  • Dual discrimination: where someone is treated less favourably because of more than one protected characteristic
  • Discrimination arising from a disability: where a person with a disability is treated unfairly because of something arising in consequence of a disability and that this treatment cannot be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim
  • Indirect discrimination: where the same rule is imposed on everyone but which has the effect of excluding one group of people or putting them at a disadvantage because they cannot comply with the rule or only a proportion of the group could comply
  • Victimisation: where a person is subjected to a detriment because they have asserted their right not to be discriminated against because of a protected characteristic
  • Harassment: where there is 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

Staff members & Job applicants

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

We treat all job applicants equally and fairly and do not unlawfully discriminate against them. We do this by ensuring that we operate an open and fair recruitment process, using selection criteria which does not discriminate, and making fair and lawful decisions.  In particular:

  • assumptions that only certain types of person will be able to perform certain roles will not be made
  • individual job applicants will be assessed according to their individual qualities and personal merit
  • qualifications or criteria including the requirement for the use of years of experience which may have the effect of inhibiting applicants will only be retained where they can be objectively justified
  • age limits which may have the effect of inhibiting applicants will generally not be permitted unless there is a particular objective justification for their requirement
  • where any criteria for recruitment and selection may have the effect of putting a person with a disability at a substantial disadvantage due to their disability, reasonable adjustments may need to be made to eliminate or reduce the disadvantage

Our procedures for recruitment and selection and the interview process are set out in Section 5.

We consider all staff members to be equal and aim to create a working environment which is free from unlawful discrimination. This applies equally to voluntary positions and anyone undertaking work experience with us. This will, for example, include arrangements for employment, recruitment and selection, terms and conditions of employment, progression, access to training opportunities, conditions of service, access to promotion and transfers, grievance and disciplinary processes, dress code, work allocation and any other employment related activities. In particular:

  • our policies and procedures for performance management, learning and development are developed and reviewed so as to ensure that they are not discriminatory and do not normally result in an imbalance in treatment between staff members
  • terms of employment, pay, benefits, facilities and services available to staff members are reviewed regularly so as to ensure that they are provided in a way which is not discriminatory
  • qualifications or criteria for promotion, appraisal, transfer and training, such as length of service or years of experience which may discriminate against certain staff members will only be permitted where they can be objectively justified
  • where any criteria for promotion, appraisal, transfer or training or the provision of terms of employment, pay, benefits, facilities and services may have the effect of putting a person with a disability at a substantial disadvantage due to their disability, reasonable adjustments may need to be made to eliminate or reduce the disadvantage.

Clients and access to services

 Wherever possible, we take steps to promote equal opportunity and non-discrimination in relation to access to the legal services that we provide, taking account of the diversity of the communities that we serve, in order to ensure that, subject to funding or other reasonable constraints, our services are accessible to all clients.

We are committed to meeting the diverse needs of clients. We take steps to identify the needs of clients in the community and we document in our Business Plan and within our quality procedures how we will meet clients’ needs and how we will ensure the services which we provide are accessible to all.  We take into account, in particular, the needs of clients with a disability and clients who are unable to communicate effectively in English.  In particular, we consider the need to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that clients with a disability, vulnerability or particular need are not placed at a substantial disadvantage and do not pass on the costs of adjustments to these clients.  We consider whether particular groups are predominant within our client base and, where possible, ensure that their needs are met.

Experts & Third parties

 We do not unlawfully discriminate in dealings with experts and third parties. All experts and third parties are instructed from a register of experts and have been assessed by the firm as being capable of meeting both our firm’s and our clients’ requirements.  Experts and third parties are instructed because they satisfy our selection criteria in accordance with our Use of External Suppliers Procedure.

 Monitoring Diversity & Collating Equality Data

 We monitor and record, at least annually, equality & diversity information about job applicants on the basis of gender, marital status, age, disability, religion and ethnic groups.  We ask job applicants if they would be willing to complete our Equality & Diversity Monitoring Form, a copy of which is at Appendix Sixteen, noting that they have the right to refuse to do so or to choose only to answer selected questions at their own discretion.

 We monitor and record equality & diversity information about existing staff members including key personnel on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, ethnic groups as well as other questions based upon the staff member’s social and educational background as requested by the SRA.  We ask staff members to complete the SRA’s diversity monitoring form as recommended and updated by the SRA from time to time, noting that staff members have the right to refuse to do so or to choose only to answer selected questions at their own discretion.  The data is collated and submitted to the SRA as and when required, usually bi-annually.

 In addition to the monitoring undertaken as set out above, we also annually monitor the number of staff members from different gender, disability, age, ethnic groups by grade when:

  • already employed in a particular post
  • applying for a post
  • taking up training and development opportunities
  • promoted
  • transferred
  • disciplined and dismissed; and leaving employment.

All monitoring data will be reviewed by Beverley Beale and she will be responsible for consideration of whether any remedial action should be implemented in particular where any equality and diversity issues including any under-representation of any of the groups above is identified. In such cases, the firm may seek professional advice from an employment specialist and/or the Equalities and Human Rights Commission in relation to the appropriate remedial action to be taken. It is recognised that such remedial action could include the identification of specific training needs and/or the taking of positive action to increase employee diversity

Implementation and Review

Beverley Beale is responsible for implementing and monitoring our Equality & Diversity Policy.  In particular, she is responsible for:

  • ensuring that adequate resources are available to meet equality and diversity needs
  • providing equality & diversity information to the Legal Aid Agency as required in relation to staff and clients under the terms of the LAA Contracts
  • reporting to the Partners on compliance
  • collating and reporting diversity data to the Solicitors Regulation Authority as and when required and, where applicable, overseeing the publication of such data
  • promoting a culture of equality and diversity awareness and compliance by means of education and training and overseeing arrangements for the sharing of information on equality and diversity. This may include informing staff of any new updates on equality and diversity including bulletins or articles published by regulators and/or in the legal press
  • providing assistance to any individual staff members who have been assigned responsibility for any specific equality and diversity actions
  • considering whether clients have any vulnerabilities which may, in accordance with our Vulnerable Clients Policy, require us to take additional care and/or make reasonable adjustments to ensure that we meet their needs and provide our services in a manner in which facilitates their ability to make informed decisions
  • ensuring that appropriate action is taken in relation to any non-compliance identified under this policy or barriers to equal opportunities and
  • reviewing this policy annually to verify it is in effective operation.

Equality & Diversity Training

 Our equality & diversity training and communication objectives are reviewed at least annually and detailed in our Equality and Diversity Training and Communication Plan.

All staff members are informed of this policy as part of their induction.

We ensure that all managers and supervisors with responsibility for any of the areas of particular concern as set out above are provided with appropriate equality and diversity training and/or written instructions where necessary, which may be updated as required.

Other staff members may also be required to attend training on compliance with equality & diversity requirements.  We identify additional equality and diversity training needs as and when appropriate and address them as part of staff members’ training plans.

Non-compliance

We treat seriously all complaints of unlawful discrimination made by any of our staff, clients, barristers, experts or other third parties and will take action where appropriate.

Any staff member who believes that they may have been unfairly discriminated against are invited to raise a grievance in accordance with our Grievance Procedure.  Staff members will not be victimised for raising a grievance in good faith.  Grievances will be dealt with seriously in accordance with our Grievance Procedure and the complainant will be informed of the outcome.

Other complainants of unlawful discrimination including job applicants, clients and other third parties are invited to raise a formal complaint which will be handled in accordance with our Complaints Handling Procedure.

Where acts of unlawful discrimination, harassment or victimisation and/or failure to comply with this policy by any member of staff are identified, Beverley Beale will ensure that our Disciplinary Procedure is followed and this may result in disciplinary proceedings being instigated.

She also monitors the number and outcome of complaints of discrimination.