Equal Opportunities & Diversity Policy

General statement
The Firm is committed to provide equal opportunities in employment. This means that all job applicants and employees will receive equal treatment regardless of age, sex, marital status, civil partner status, sexual orientation, gender reassignment, pregnancy, exercise of the right to take maternity leave, race, colour, nationality, political belief, religion or belief, ethnic or national origins, or disability. It is good business sense for the Firm’s personnel to be diverse and drawn from all sections of society and to ensure that its most important resource, its employees, are treated in a fair and effective way.

The Firm is committed to preventing harassment (as defined under ‘Harassment’) by colleagues within the workplace and to taking reasonable steps to prevent its employees being subjected to harassment by third parties. Employees are encouraged to bring any such harassment to the Firm’s attention without delay.

It is unlawful to discriminate against individuals either directly or indirectly in respect of their race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin (collectively “race”), sex, pregnancy, exercise of the right to take maternity leave, marital status, civil partner status, gender reassignment, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or because they are disabled.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission has published Codes of Practice on Employment, Equal Pay and Services, Public Functions and Associations. These Codes supplement the Equality Act and the Firm has due regard to them. The Firm will comply with the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Code of Conduct 2011, Chapter 2, which has replaced the 2007 Code of Conduct. A copy of this Chapter is available from the Firm’s Equal Opportunities/Diversity Officer or the Managing Partner. This policy takes into account the Firm’s legal obligations and matters of good employment practice.

Forms of discrimination
The following are the kinds of discrimination that are all against the Firm’s policy.

Direct Discrimination is where a person is less favourably treated because of their actual or perceived or someone else’s (with whom they are associated) sex, sexual orientation, race, religion or belief, disability or age or because of their marital or civil partnership status or due to their pregnancy or their exercise of the right to take maternity leave and, in the case of age only, such treatment is not justified. Examples are if someone is refused promotion on the grounds that he or she is black or white, disabled, a woman or a man, Christian or Muslim, heterosexual or homosexual.

Indirect discrimination is where a provision, criterion or practice puts a particular sex, race, religious group, age range, disability, or those of a particular sexual orientation or those proposing to undergo, undergoing or having undergone gender reassignment at a disadvantage and is not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim. An example is of a job description, which would make it difficult for women with young children to satisfy the criteria because of an unnecessary requirement with regard to hours of work.

Other examples are: restricting recruitment to areas where there are few ethnic minorities, or a requirement which is non-essential to the job description which may exclude a disabled person (such as the requirement for a driving licence for a job which is mainly office-based).

Victimisation is where someone is subjected to a detriment because he or she has raised an allegation of discrimination, taken action against the Firm or has assisted another to take action against the Firm not to be discriminated against or has participated in a conversation with a colleague to obtain pay information when they think they have been discriminated against where such actions were taken in good faith.

Harassment is:
  • unwelcome sexual attention including touching and invading personal space;
  • subjecting someone to insults or ridicule because of their sexual orientation;
  • “outing” or threatening to “out” someone as gay or lesbian (whether or not they are heterosexual or homosexual);
  • suggesting that sexual favours may in some way further someone’s career or refusing sexual favours may damage it;
  • lewd, suggestive or over-familiar behaviour;
  • display of pornographic or sexually suggestive pictures or written material;
  • display of material advocating against religious beliefs or sexual life-styles;
  • “making fun” of someone who wears a hearing aid;
  • racial name calling;
  • sending “joke” cards which are at the expense of someone’s age;
  • making sexist remarks about an employee or another individual

Disability Discrimination is slightly different to other forms of discrimination as the law attempts to level the uneven playing field caused by disabilities. It is unlawful to treat an employee less favourably because of their disability or because of something arising as a consequence of their disability. It is also unlawful indirectly to discriminate against a disabled employee. There is also a positive duty to make reasonable adjustments to prevent practices, criteria or provisions putting disabled employees at a disadvantage.

Examples include:
  • unwanted conduct related to sex, gender reassignment, marital/civil partnership status, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability or age which has the purpose or effect of violating an employee’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for an employee;
  • unwanted sexual conduct which has the purpose or effect described above;
  • less favourable treatment due to the submission or rejection of unwanted sexual conduct or conduct related to gender reassignment.

Please note a member of staff could be harassed even if s/he is not the direct recipient of the behaviour.

Harassment can also occur when a member of staff is repeatedly subjected to such treatment by a client or other third party.

Please refer to the Anti-Harassment and Bullying Policy for further details as to how to address any harassment.
If you are or become disabled while working for the Firm, you are encouraged to discuss your condition with a Director so that the Firm is best placed to help and support you. If you consider that the Firm could help you by making adjustments to your working hours, workplace or working conditions please make these suggestions to the Director. In appropriate circumstances we will need to consult with your medical advisers and you as to how to best accommodate your needs and those of the Firm.

Recruitment and promotion
The Firm will take steps to ensure that applications are attracted from all people regardless of their sex, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, age, marital or civil partnership status or whether they are pregnant or have taken maternity leave or propose to undergo, have undergone or are undergoing gender reassignment or are disabled. The Firm will also ensure that there are equal opportunities in all stages of the recruitment process. Where appropriate, employees responsible for recruitment will receive training in equal opportunities and guidance will be available to all employees.

Promotion within this Firm is based solely on merit and without regard to sex, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability, age, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or the exercise of the right to take maternity leave or gender reassignment.

Terms and conditions
All of the Firm’s employees are treated fairly and non-discriminatorily. Terms and conditions of employment, including pay and benefits, are offered by reference to the role fulfilled by the employee. No regard is paid to sex, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability, age, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy or the exercise of the right to take maternity leave or gender reassignment when decisions regarding terms and conditions of employment are made, except where the law and/or matters of good practice permit and/or encourage the Firm to provide additional assistance to employees on any of these grounds.

Fixed term employees will usually enjoy the same terms and conditions of employment and access to training, promotion and permanent employment opportunities as permanent staff, except in circumstances where dissimilar treatment is justifiable.

Part-time employees will enjoy the same terms and conditions applied on a pro rata basis as full-time staff. Part-time staff will have access to training as required by their role. They will have the same access to promotion as full-time staff.

Maternity rights available to equity partners are no less favourable than the statutory maternity rights enjoyed by employees.

All employees are trained on this policy and how to ensure their dealings with each other, clients and third parties are consistent with the Firm’s equal opportunities and diversity obligations.

Disciplinary action will always be considered and, if appropriate, undertaken in a non-discriminatory fashion based solely on the alleged misconduct, poor performance or incapacity as applicable.

In the event that an employee’s employment has to be terminated by the Firm, any such termination will be non-discriminatory.

If the Firm has to consider redundancies, it will ensure that any selection criteria are fair and objective and not directly or indirectly discriminatory.

Monitoring and review
This Policy will be monitored by the Firm to judge its effectiveness. In particular, the Firm asks job applicants and current staff to complete a monitoring form. The Firm will review this policy in accordance with the results shown by the monitoring. The Firm will keep under regular review the salaries paid to all members of the firm to ensure that there is no inadvertent discrimination in this respect. If changes are required, the Firm will implement them. The Firm will also keep under review the composition of partners and staff to ensure that this policy is being complied with.

The Firm will treat seriously and sensitively any complaint by an employee who believes he/she has been discriminated against or harassed on any of the grounds set out in this policy under the heading ‘Forms of Discrimination’. If an employee has such a complaint, he/she is advised to raise it under the Firm’s grievance procedure.

Anyone raising an allegation of discrimination in good faith will not be victimised or subject to any form of detriment. False allegations, however, or those made in bad faith will be treated as a disciplinary matter under the Disciplinary Policy and may result in disciplinary action up to summary dismissal.

Breach of this policy
All employees must comply with this policy. The Firm will treat breaches of this policy as gross misconduct. Any such breaches are likely to result in action under the disciplinary procedure up to and including summary dismissal being taken. Employees should be aware that claims may be made against them personally as well as against the Firm for breach of this policy. Compensation may be payable in such circumstances by the employee in question as well as by the Firm.

Responsibility for this policy
Ultimate responsibility for implementing this policy rests with the Partners. The policy is kept under regular review and those reviews are properly documented.

Claudine Boast is the Firm’s Equal Opportunity/Diversity Officer

However, it is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that they comply with this policy. If any employee considers that this policy has been breached, s/he is encouraged to raise this with the Equality Opportunity/Diversity Officer.

Equal opportunities – clients and service providers
The Firm is generally free to decide whether to accept instructions from any particular client. However, no client will be refused our assistance on the grounds of his/her race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability, age, marital status, civil partnership status, pregnancy or gender reassignment.

The Firm will assist clients and potential clients as required under the Equality Act 2010 and take any further lawful positive action to assist clients and potential clients where it seems such action is appropriate.

Equally, the Firm expects clients to treat members of this Firm with respect and not to harass them or treat them differently on the grounds of their race, sex, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability, age, marital status, civil partnership status, pregnancy or gender reassignment. Barristers will be instructed on the basis of their experience, skills and cost. The Firm will not choose to or decline to instruct any barrister on the basis of his/her sex, race, sexual orientation, religion or belief, disability, age, marital status, civil partnership status, pregnancy or gender reassignment. If a client requests that a barrister be chosen on any of the above grounds, the fee earner with conduct of the case or the Relationship Manager (as appropriate) will explain that this is not possible (unless a lawful exemption/positive action applies) and will ensure that non-discriminatory instructions are obtained from the client.

All suppliers, agents, contractors and other third parties engaged by the Firm are chosen on merit and suitability for the relevant task. Such decisions are untarnished by discrimination on any of the above grounds.

The Firm provides a copy of this policy to providers to whom we have outsourced services central to the delivery of the Firm’s legal activities.