A. The firm’s commitment
(1) General commitment
The 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. This applies to the firm’s dealings with members of the firm (which in this policy shall include the firm’s employees and partners) and other solicitors, barristers, clients and third parties.
The firm shall ensure that it complies with Rule 6.01 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007, which provides:
“(1) You (i.e. solicitors) must not in your professional dealings with employees, partners, members, directors, barristers, other lawyers, clients or third parties discriminate, without lawful cause, against any person, nor victimise or harass them on the grounds of:
(a) race or racial group (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins);
(b) sex (including martial status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity);
(c) sexual orientation (including civil partnership status);
(d) religion or belief;
(e) age; or
(2) You must take such steps, and make such adjustments, as are reasonable in the circumstances in order to prevent any of your employees, partners, members, directors or clients who are disabled from being placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison to those who are not disabled.”
The firm will take such steps as are appropriate in all the circumstances in order to prevent any members of the firm and clients from being placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled.
(2) Regulation and legislation
In implementing its equality and diversity policy, the firm will comply with the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007 and with current and any future anti-discrimination legislation and associated codes of practice and any relevant amendments or re-enactments of such legislation and any relevant amendment to such codes or further codes of practice.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct can be found on the SRA website –http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/handbook/code/content.page
B. The firm as an employer
(1) As an employer, the firm will treat all members of the firm and job applicants equally and fairly and not discriminate unlawfully against them. This will, for example, 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 matters.
(2) Recruitment and selection
This firm recognises the benefits of having a diverse workforce and will take steps to ensure that:
(i) it endeavours to recruit from the widest pool of qualified candidates possible;
(ii) employment opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of their individual qualities and personal merits;
(iii) selection criteria and processes do not discriminate on any of the prohibited grounds referred to above; and
(iv) all recruitment agencies acting for the firm are aware of its requirement not to discriminate and to act accordingly.
(3) Conditions of service
The firm will create a working environment which is free from discrimination, victimisation, harassment and which respects the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of members of the firm.
Terms and conditions of service for members of the firm will comply with 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 discriminate against any member of the firm on any of the prohibited grounds referred to above. Where appropriate and necessary, the firm will endeavour to provide appropriate facilities and conditions of service which take into account the specific needs of members of the firm.
(4) Promotion and career development
Promotion within the firm will be made without reference to any of the prohibited grounds referred to above 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. Whilst positive action measures may, where lawful, be taken in accordance with relevant anti-discrimination legislation to encourage members of under-represented groups to apply for promotion opportunities, recruitment or promotion 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.
C. Barristers and other third parties
Barristers should only be instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability. The firm will not, on any of the prohibited grounds referred to above, avoid briefing a barrister and will not request barristers’ clerks to do so. Clients’ requests for a named barrister should be complied with, subject to the firm’s duty to discuss with the client the suitability of the barrister and to advise appropriately. Where a client’s instructions as to the choice of barrister are based on any of the grounds in Rule 6.01, the firm will encourage the client to modify their instructions. Should the client refuse to modify such instructions, the firm will cease to act.
All lists, if any, 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 or will be compiled only on the basis of the ability of those persons or organisations to undertake work of a particular type and do not or will not contain discriminatory exclusion, restriction or preference.
The firm is generally free to decide whether to accept instructions from any particular client, but any refusal to act will not be based upon any of the prohibited grounds referred to above. The firm will take steps to meet the different needs of particular clients arising from its obligations under anti-discrimination legislation.
E. Promoting equality and diversity
This firm is committed to promoting equality and diversity in the firm as well as in those areas in which it has influence. Members of the firm will be informed of this policy and will be provided with equality and diversity training appropriate to their needs and responsibilities. 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 the firm’s behalf. In all its dealings, including those with suppliers, contractors and recruitment agencies, the firm will seek to promote the principles of equality and diversity.
F. Implementing the Policy
Ultimate responsibility for implementing the policy rests with the partners of the firm. The firm has appointed the Managing Partner to be responsible for the operation of the policy. All members 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. Any breach of this policy by members of the firm will result in disciplinary action, including termination of services where appropriate.
(2) Complaints of discrimination
The firm will treat seriously and will take action where appropriate concerning all complaints of breaches of this policy made by members of the firm, clients, barristers or other third parties. All complaints will be investigated in accordance with the firm’s grievance, disciplinary and/or complaints procedures and the complainant will be informed of the outcome. A copy of the firm’s complaints policy is available to clients on request.
(3) Monitoring and review
This policy will be monitored and reviewed in a manner proportionate to the size and nature of the firm on a regular basis to measure its progress and judge its effectiveness. In particular, the firm will, as appropriate (but without requiring any member of the firm to provide information should they not wish to do so), monitor:
(a) The gender and ethnic composition of members of the firm as well as the number of disabled staff, at different levels of the firm.
(b) The ethnicity, gender and disability of all applicants, short-listed applicants and successful applicants for jobs and training contracts.
(c) The ethnicity, gender and disability of all applicants for promotion (including to partnership) and training opportunities and details of whether they were successful.
(d) Where it is possible to do so, and where doing so will not cause offence or discomfort to those whom it is intended to protect, the sexual orientation and religion or belief of all members of the firm will be monitored so as to ensure that they are not being discriminated against in terms of the opportunities or benefits available to them.
(e) The number and outcome of complaints of discrimination made by members of the firm, barristers, clients and other third parties.
(f) The disciplinary action (if any) taken against members of the firm by race, gender and disability.
This information will be used to review the progress and impact of the equality and diversity policy. Any changes required will be made and implemented.
G. Application and status of this policy
(1) This policy is not part of any contract of employment or partnership agreement and may be changed at any time.
(2) Notwithstanding the above, it is a requirement of the firm that all members of the firm comply with this policy and with the provisions of Rule 6.01 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007.
H. Publication of this policy
Every member of the firm will receive a copy of this policy and it will be available on request to any client and to the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority. A copy of the policy will be included on the firm’s website.