NON-DISCRIMINATION, DIVERSITY AND EQUALITY POLICY
- PROMOTION OF EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY
The firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity within the firm as well as in those areas in which we have influence.
The firm expects employees to support this commitment and to assist in its realisation in all possible ways.
The firm has, and implements, a staff training plan to promote knowledge of and understanding of this policy including periodic reinforcement thereof and as part of its induction process for new staff.
We are committed to eliminating unlawful discrimination and to promoting equality and diversity within our policies, practices and procedures.
This applies to our professional dealings with clients, staff and members/directors, other solicitors, barristers and third parties.
We treat everyone equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of:
- sex (including marital status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity);
- sexual orientation (including civil partnership status);
- race or racial group (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins);
- religion or belief;
- caring responsibility; or
We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that we and our staff do not unlawfully discriminate under any current legislation and the Solicitors Rule of Conduct overseen by our regulator the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
- MEETING CLIENTS’ NEEDS
(a) General statement
As a provider of legal services, the firm will treat all clients equally and fairly and not unlawfully discriminate against them. It will also, wherever possible, take steps to promote equal opportunity in relation to access to the legal services that we provide, taking account of the diversity of the communities that we serve.
(b) Identifying clients needs
The firm is committed to meeting the diverse needs of clients. We will take steps to identify the needs of clients and develop policies and procedures setting out how we will meet clients’ needs and for ensuring the services we provide are accessible to all. We will take account, in particular, of the needs of clients with a disability and clients who are unable to communicate effectively in English. We will consider whether particular groups are predominant within our client base and devise appropriate policies to meet their needs: including men and women; carers; children; the elderly; members of religious groups; ethnic groups or nationalities and lesbian, gay or transgender people.
As a commercial business, needing to make profit to sustain the firm, meet our overheads and pay people for their efforts. We provide only privately paid for services in certain specified fields of law and our provision of services is not community based. We have little scope to provide services for underprivileged members of society and those of limited means. However we do have and will continue to consider ways of offering affordable ways for clients to pay our fees and, in so far as is possible without eroding our viability, consider other forms of assistance such as pro bono work in limited and deserving cases.
(c) Communication of Policies and Procedures
The firm will devise methods to promote and raise awareness of our inclusion policies and procedures for ensuring that our services are accessible to a diverse range of clients. Our communications plan sets out what steps we have taken and/or will take to put in place customer service policies and procedures to make our services accessible to clients. It contains a list of policies and procedures; information about what steps we will take to put them in place; who is responsible for them and how we will make our policies and procedures openly available for the public.
Employees and members/directors will be informed of the Communications Plan and training provided where appropriate to ensure that it is effectively implemented.
- DEALINGS WITH THIRD PARTIES
(a) General statement
The firm will not unlawfully discriminate in dealings with third parties. This applies to dealings with other legal service providers and general procurement.
(b) Dealings with Barristers/Experts
The firm will instruct barristers on the basis of their skill, experience and ability. It will not unlawfully discriminate or encourage barristers’ clerks to unlawfully discriminate on the grounds of their age, gender, marital status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or on the grounds of disability. The same is true in respect of our dealings with experts – save for the reference to barrister’s clerks.
(a) General statement
As an employer, the firm will treat all employees and job applicants equally and fairly and not unlawfully discriminate against them. This applies equally to voluntary positions and anyone undertaking work experience with us. For example, this will include 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.
(b) Recruitment and selection
The firm recognises the benefits of having a diverse workforce and will take steps to ensure that:
(i) we endeavour to recruit from the widest pool of qualified candidates practicable;
(ii) employment opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of their individual qualities and personal merit;
(iii) 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;
(iv) selection criteria and processes do not discriminate unjustifiably on the grounds of sex (including marital status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity), sexual orientation (including civil partnership status) religion or belief, age or disability; other than in those instances where the practice is exercising permitted positive action or a permitted exemption;
(v) wherever appropriate and necessary, lawful exemptions (genuine occupational requirements) will be used to recruit suitable staff to meet the special needs of particular groups;
(vi) all recruitment agencies acting for the firm are aware of requirements not to discriminate and to act accordingly.
(c) Conditions of service
The firm will treat all employees equally and create a working environment which is free from unlawful discrimination and which respects, where appropriate, the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of employees. Terms and conditions of service for employees will comply with anti-discrimination legislation. The provision of benefits such as flexible working hours, maternity and other leave arrangements, performance appraisal systems, dress code, bonus schemes and any other conditions of employment will not unlawfully discriminate against any employee on the grounds of their age, gender, marital status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or on the grounds of disability.
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 or sexual orientation.
(d) Promotion and career development
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. 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.
While positive action measures may be taken in accordance with relevant anti-discrimination legislation to encourage applications from under-represented groups, appointments to all jobs will be based solely on merit. All employees will have equal access to training and other career development opportunities appropriate to their experience and abilities. However, the firm will take appropriate positive measures (as permitted by the anti-discrimination legislation) to provide special training and support for groups which are under-represented in the workforce and encourage them to take up training and career development opportunities.
Chris Else is responsible for the policy for the avoidance of discrimination and the promotion of equality and diversity.
(e) Training Plan
The firm will identify equality and diversity training needs and draw up a plan to address these as appropriate to their responsibilities. The plan will include details of the sort of training that will be provided, who will be trained, when training will be provided and who is responsible in the practice for ensuring that training is delivered. Employees and members/directors will be informed of this equality and diversity policy and training plan.
(f) Working with other organisations
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 our behalf. In all its dealings, including those with partners, suppliers, sub-contractors and recruitment agencies, the firm will seek to promote the principles of equality and diversity.
- IMPLEMENTING THE POLICY
The person with overall responsibility of the policy is Chris Else, who will review the policy annually to ensure that it is effective across the firm. All employees and members/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.
Acts of discrimination or harassment by employees of the firm will result in disciplinary action. Failure to comply with this policy will be treated in a similar fashion.
(b) Dealing with complaints/accusations of unlawful discrimination and harassment
The firm will treat seriously and will take action where appropriate, in response to all complaints of discrimination and harassment on any of the forbidden grounds made by employees, clients, customers, suppliers, contractors or third parties.
All complaints will be investigated in accordance with the firm’s grievance or complaints procedure, as appropriate and the complainant will be informed of the outcome.
Discrimination and harassment are often complex matters and there is no single way of dealing with every suspected or alleged instance. In some cases, employees may be able to deal satisfactorily with an issue by raising it with their immediate line manager.
If an employee wishes to make a formal complaint or feel that they have been harassed by a third party he or she should use the firm’s grievance procedures.
The firm will treat seriously all allegations of unlawful discrimination or harassment.
If an employee is accused of unlawful discrimination or harassment, the firm will investigate the matter fully.
In the course of the investigation the employee will be given the opportunity to respond to the allegation and provide an explanation of his or her actions.
If the firm concludes that no unlawful discrimination or harassment has occurred, this will be the end of the matter.
If the firm concludes that the claim is false or malicious the complainant may be subject to disciplinary action.
If on the other hand the firm concludes that the employee’s actions amount to unlawful discrimination or harassment he or she may be subject to disciplinary action,up to and including summary dismissal for gross misconduct. Any finding may also lead to investigation by and sanction against the individual and/or the firm by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal.
The firm will not tolerate unlawful discrimination or harassment of any kind in the working environment and will take positive action to prevent its occurrence.
The firm will monitor its policies and will implement changes in order to improve them as social attitudes and legislation change. This commitment applies to all the firm’s employment policies and procedures, not just those specifically concerned with equal opportunities and diversity.
The firm will monitor and record equal opportunities information about staff and partners on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity, and disability.
The firm will store equal opportunities data as confidential personal data and restrict access to this information. Equal opportunities information is used exclusively for the purposes of equal opportunities monitoring and has no bearing on opportunities or benefits.
The firm will also monitor the number and outcome of any complaints of discrimination that may be made by staff, clients, partners, barristers or other third parties.
The firm will review the operation of this policy not less than twice a year (or more regularly if we identify any non-compliance or problem concerning equality and diversity issues with clients or personnel). We will take remedial action if we discover non-compliance under this policy or barriers to equal opportunities. When reviewing the policy we will consider the outcome of monitoring and review actions under our communications and training plans.
RESULTS FOR ELSE SOLICITORS LLP – EQUALITY & DIVERSITY QUESTIONNAIRE 2015