1 Policy statement
1.1 This policy is intended to ensure that we meet our fundamental ethical and professional obligations to ensure that neither the firm nor any of its partners and employees advertently or inadvertently discriminate unlawfully, or victimise or harass anyone, in the course of professional dealings.
1.2 We are 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.
1.3 This applies to the firm’s professional dealing with staff, partners, other solicitors, barristers, clients and third parties.
1.4 We intend to treat everyone equally and with same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation (protected characteristics).
1.5 In developing and implementing our equal opportunity policy, we are committed to complying with Principle 9 and Chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and with all current and any future anti-discrimination legislation (once in force) associated codes of practice.
1.6 This policy does not form part of any employee’s contract of employment and may be amended at any time.
2 Forms of Discrimination
2.1 Discrimination is against our policy unless there is a specific legal exemption. Discrimination may be direct or indirect and it may occur intentionally or unintentionally.
2.2 Direct discrimination occurs where someone is treated less favourably because of one or more of the protected characteristics set out above. For example, rejecting an applicant on the grounds of their race because they would not “fit in” would be direct discrimination.
2.3 Indirect discrimination occurs where someone is disadvantaged by an unjustified provision, criterion or practice that also puts other people with the same protected characteristic at a particular disadvantage. For example, a requirement to work full time puts women at a particular disadvantage because they generally have greater childcare commitments than men. Such a requirement will need to be objectively justified.
2.4 Harassment related to any of the protected characteristics is prohibited. Harassment is unwanted conduct that has the purpose or effect of violating someone’s dignity, or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for them.
2.5 Victimisation is also prohibited. This is less favourable treatment of someone who has complained or given information about discrimination or harassment, or supported someone else’s complaint.
3 Reasonable adjustments
3.1 We are committed to making reasonable adjustment to ensure that regardless of their age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partner status, pregnancy or maternity, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation, clients, employees and partners are not placed at a substantial disadvantage. We will ensure that we do not pass on the costs of any such reasonable adjustments.
4.1 We are 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 protected characteristics.
4.2 We will take steps to meet the different needs of particular clients arising from our obligations under the anti-discrimination legislation (such as the Equality Act) and Chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
4.3 In addition, where appropriate and where it is permitted by the relevant anti-discrimination legislation, we will seek to provide services which meet the specific needs and requests arising from client’s protected characteristics.
5 Barristers and Third Parties
5.1 Barristers will be instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability. We will not, on any of the protected characteristics, avoid briefing a barrister and will not request barristers’ clerks to do so.
5.2 Clients’ requests for a named barrister should be complied with, subject to our duty to discuss with the client the suitability of the barrister/third party and to advise accordingly.
5.3 We will discuss with the client any request by the client that only a barrister who is not of the protected characteristics be instructed. In the absence of a valid reason for this request, which must be within the exemptions permitted by the anti-discrimination legislation, we will endeavour to persuade the client to modify their instructions so far as they are given on discriminatory grounds. Should the client refuse to modify such instructions, we will cease to act.
6.1 A list of approved suppliers and databases of contractors, agents and other third parties who are regarded as suitable to be instructed by those within the firm have been compiled only on the basis of those persons or organisation to undertake work of a particular type and contain no discriminatory exclusion, restriction or preference.
7 Promoting Equality and Diversity
7.1 We are committed to promoting equality and diversity in the firm as well as in those areas in which we have influence.
7.2 Employees and partners will be informed of our Equal Opportunities policy and will be provided with equality and diversity training appropriate to their needs and responsibilities.
7.3 In all our dealings, including those with suppliers, contractors and recruitment agencies, we will seek to promote the principles of equality and diversity.
7.4 We will make every effort to reflect our commitment to equality and diversity in our marketing and communication activities.
8 Who is responsible for this policy?
8.1 Ultimate responsibility for implementing the policy rests with Andrew Cochrane, Senior Partner and Ian Beardmore, COLP.
8.2 All employees and partners of the firm are expected to pay due regard to the provisions of its equality and diversity policy and are responsible for ensuring compliance with it when undertaking their jobs or representing the firm.
8.3 Acts of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds by employees or partners of the firm will result in disciplinary action. Failure to comply with this policy will be treated in a similar fashion. The policy applies to all who are employed in the firm and to all partners.
8.4 Acts of discrimination or harassment regarding any of the protected characteristics by those acting on behalf of the firm will lead to appropriate action including termination of services where appropriate.
9 Monitoring and review of the policy
9.1 This policy is reviewed yearly by the Rob Tice, Head of Employment and Angie Whittingham, Head of HR and Compliance. Recommendations for change should be reported to the Head of HR and Compliance.
9.2 We will continue to review the effectiveness of this policy to ensure it is achieving its objectives.