Equality & Diversity Policy

10.1 The Firm’s Commitment

10.1.1 General commitment
This 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 professional dealings with staff and members directors, other solicitors, barristers, clients and third parties.

The firm intends to treat everyone equally and with same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of their disability, gender, marital status, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief or sexual orientation.

10.1.2 Regulation and legislation
In developing and implementing its anti-discrimination policy, the firm is committed to complying with all current and any future anti-discrimination legislation and associated codes of practice.

10.2 Forms of Discrimination

The following are the kinds of discrimination, which are against the firm’s policy:

10.2.1 Direct discrimination, where a person is treated less favourably on the grounds of race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, pregnancy, marital status, disability or sexual orientation or religion or belief.

10.2.2 Indirect discrimination, where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put a substantially higher proportion of the members of one sex, or persons having a racial or ethnic origin, or a particular religion or belief, or a particular disability or a particular sexual orientation at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary.

10.2.3 Victimisation, where someone is treated less favourably than others because he or she has taken action against the firm.

10.2.4 Harassment, when unwanted conduct related to any of the grounds referred to above takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment may involve physical acts or verbal and non-verbal communications and gestures. This will include physical, verbal and non-verbal acts.

10.3. Employment and Training

10.3.1 General Statement
As an employer, the firm will treat all employees and job applicants equally and fairly and not discriminate unjustifiably 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, work allocation and any other employment related activities.

10.3.2 Recruitment and selection
This firm recognises the benefits of having a diverse workforce and will take steps to ensure that:

(a) it endeavours to recruit from the widest pool of qualified candidates possible;

(b) employment opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of their individual qualities and personal merit;

(c) where appropriate, positive action measures are taken to attract applications from all sections of society and especially from those groups which are underrepresented in the workforce;

(d) selection criteria and processes do not discriminate unjustifiably on the grounds of disability; gender; marital status; race; racial group; colour; ethnic or national origin; nationality; religion or belief; or sexual orientation; other than in those instances where the firm is exercising permitted positive action;

(e) all recruitment agencies acting for the firm will be made aware of the requirement not to discriminate and to act accordingly.

10.3.3 Conditions of service
The firm will treat all employees equally and create a working environment which is free from discrimination and harassment and which respects, where appropriate, the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of employees.

Terms and conditions of service for employees will comply with antidiscrimination legislation. The provision of benefits such as working hours, maternity and other leave arrangements, performance appraisal systems, dress code and any other conditions of employment will not discriminate against any employee on the grounds of their gender; marital status; race; racial group; colour; ethnic or national origin; nationality; religion or belief; or sexual orientation; or unreasonably on the grounds of their disability requirements.

10.3.4 Promotion and Career development
Promotion within the firm (including members) 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. All employees will have equal access to training and other career development opportunities appropriate to their experience and abilities.

10.4 Partners/Members
Arrangements and procedures for selecting partners/members, their terms and conditions of partnership/membership, access to benefits, facilities or services and termination arrangements will be reviewed and amended where necessary to prevent discrimination on any of the forbidden grounds.

Maternity rights available to partners/members shall be no less favourable than those required by legislation for employees.

10.5 Barristers

10.5.1 Barristers
Barristers should be instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability. The firm will not, on any of the forbidden grounds, 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. The firm will discuss with the client any request by the client that only a barrister who is not disabled or who is of a particular gender; marital status; race; racial group; colour; ethnic or national origin; nationality; religion or belief; or sexual orientation be instructed. In the absence of a valid reason for this request, which must be within the exemptions permitted by the anti-discrimination legislation, the firm will endeavour to persuade the client to modify their instructions in so far as they are given on discriminatory grounds. Should the client refuse to modify such instructions, the firm will cease to act.

Our suppliers, contractors, agents and other third parties who, or which, are regarded as suitable to be instructed by those within the firm have been compiled only on the basis of the ability of those persons or organisations to undertake work of a particular type and contain no discriminatory exclusion, restriction or preference.

10.6 Clients
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 forbidden grounds.

10.7 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. Employees and partners/members will be informed of this antidiscrimination policy and will be provided with equality and diversity training appropriate to their needs responsibilities.

10.8 Implementing the Policy

10.8.1 Responsibility
Ultimate responsibility for implementing the policy rests with the members of the firm. The firm will appoint a senior person within it to be responsible for the operation of the policy. All employees and members of the firm are expected to pay due regard to the provisions of its anti-discrimination policy and are responsible for ensuring compliance with it when undertaking their jobs or representing the firm. Acts of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds by employees or members 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 members.

10.8.2 Complaints of discrimination
The firm will treat seriously, and will take action where appropriate concerning, all complaints of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds made by employees, members, clients, barristers or other third parties. All complaints will be investigated in accordance with the firm’s grievance or complaints procedure.

10.8.3 Monitoring and review
The policy will be monitored and reviewed in a manner proportionate to the size and nature of the firm on a regular basis (and in any event at least annually) to judge its effectiveness. Any shortcomings or other changes identified will be made and implemented.

6 February 2008