1 EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY POLICY & PROCEDURE MICHAEL W HALSALL (SOLICITORS) JANUARY 2010
2 Michael W Halsall Anti-Discrimination Policy Introduction Michael W. Halsall Solicitors serves a diverse client base. We seek to provide access to justice for all sections of the diverse communities that make up our society today, following Road Traffic Accidents and Personal Injuries and we employ staff from many different backgrounds. Michael W. Halsall Solicitors value and respect this diversity and will strive in all of its activities to take account of and reflect the interests of the wide range of people it serves. Our Equality and Diversity policy and strategy is influenced by a number of factors including our statutory obligations under the anti-discrimination legislation and changes in the demographic profile of the population, the profession itself and the client base. We want to promote best practice in our profession and be sensitive to the specific needs of the different communities to which we provide a legal service. We want to promote our organisation as one whose members are required to treat each other, clients and others in a fair, equal and non-discriminatory manner. Investing in equality and diversity also provides a number of business benefits, for example, improving staff retention rates, widening markets and improving services. Michael W. Halsall Solicitors intend to make the most of such opportunities. We recognise that many groups are discriminated against on grounds such as disability, gender, race, age, religion, sexual orientation and social, economic and educational background. This discrimination has led to disadvantage for the people discriminated against and can affect our business as a Firm of Solicitors, (for example, if there were barriers in access to and progression within the Firm.) We aim to prevent such inequalities arising. Alongside addressing the impact discrimination has on some groups, Michael W. Halsall policies are designed to respect, value and celebrate the strengths of a diverse workforce. We aim to cultivate policies and environments within our business which are inclusive of the different needs, aspirations and contribution of each individual, whether or not they are protected by the formal anti-discrimination legislation. The aim of the Equality and Diversity policy and strategy is to provide a framework that will help us to make progress towards achieving our goals.
3 A breach of the provisions set out below would be viewed as a disciplinary offence. An annual written review is prepared as to the effectiveness of the Firm s equality and diversity policy, including whether any changes should be made to the Policy. A. Our Commitment 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 Partners, 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. To define, our commitment includes the creation of an environment and culture in which individual differences and the contributions of all our staff are recognised and valued. Every employee is entitled to a working environment that promotes dignity and respect to all. No form of intimidation, bullying or harassment will be tolerated. (1) Regulation and legislation In developing and implementing its Anti-Discrimination Policy, the firm is committed to complying with the Solicitors Anti-Discrimination Rule 2004, and Rule 6 of the Code of Conduct 2007 and with all current and any future anti-discrimination legislation and associated codes of practice including, but not limited to: (a) the Equal Pay Act 1970, (b) the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, (c) Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 (d) the Race Relations Act 1976, (e) Race Relations Amendment Act 2000 (f) Race Relations Act 1976 (Amendment) Regulations 2002
4 (g) the Disability Discrimination Act 1995, (h) the Employment Rights Act 1996 (i) the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003, (j) the Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003 and any relevant amendments or re-enactments of such legislation, (k) the Employment Equality (Age) Regulations i. The Commission for Racial Equality code of practice for the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity in employment (1983) ii. The Equal Opportunities Commission code of practice on sex discrimination; equal opportunities policies, procedures and practices in employment (1985) iii. The Equal Opportunities Commission code of practice on Equal Pay (2003) iv. The Disability Discrimination Act 1995 codes of practice in relation to rights of access to facilities, services and premises in employment v. The European Community code of practice on the protection of the dignity of men and women at work. Other relevant legislation includes: Human Rights Act 1998 Flexible Working (Procedural Requirements) Regulations 2002 Part-time Workers (Prevention of less favourable treatment) Regulations 2000 and 2002 The Fixed Term Employees (Prevention of less favourable treatment) regulations 2002 Maternity and Paternal leave regulations 1999, 2001 and 2002 Paternity and Adoption leave regulations 2002
5 B. Duty not to discriminate (1) We will not in our professional dealings with employees, partners, members, barrister, other lawyers, clients, or third parties discriminate without lawful cause, against any person, nor victimise or harass them on the grounds of: (a) Race of racial group (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origin); (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 (f) Disability. (2) We will take such steps, and make such adjustments, as are reasonable in all the circumstances in order to prevent any of our employees, partners, members, or clients who are disabled from being placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled. (3) We will ensure that organisational structures are designed and reviewed regularly to enable the effective implementation of equality and diversity policies. Reference to this Policy will form part of the induction process, and the Policy is available on the Intranet and internet and also within the library facility at No 2 and No 11. C. Forms of Discrimination The following are the kinds of discrimination, which are against the firm s policy: (a) Direct discrimination, where a person is treated less favourably on the grounds of race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity, marital status (including civil partnership status), disability or sexual orientation, original belief, or age. (b) Indirect discrimination, where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put a substantially higher proportion of the members of one sex, or age, 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,
6 criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary. Indirect discrimination can occur whether or not the personal applying the provision, criterion, practice, requirement or condition intended to discriminate against the person or group of people affected. (c) Victimisation, where someone is treated less favourably from others because he or she has taken action against the firm themselves, or assisted another to do so, under one of the relevant Acts. (d) 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. A series of minor acts or comments can constitute harassment in the same way a one off act of sufficient severity can. Harassment may involve physical acts or verbal and non-verbal communications and gestures. This will include physical, verbal and non-verbal acts. (e) Less favourable treatment occurs when a person with a disability is treated in a detrimental way in circumstances were a person without that disability would not be so treated (eg charging more for a disabled client, or refusing to act, because of their disability). This can include failure to make reasonable adjustment, which puts a person with a disability at a substantial disadvantage when compared to a person without disability, without justification. D. Employment and Training (1) General Statement The Partners and Senior Management Team have the responsibility for providing strategic direction, setting policy and monitoring progress. They also have the responsibility for promoting and implementing the agreed equality and diversity policies. All members of staff have responsibility to ensure that equality and diversity policies are put into practice commensurate with their jobs and responsibilities. Staff are also responsible for making sure that they have read and understood equality and diversity policies, follow the policies and ensure that their managers are informed of any instances of potential discrimination in relation to the Firms responsibilities.
7 (2) 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, bonus schemes, work allocation and any other employment related activities. (3) 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, and this is confirmed in the Firm s recruitment adverts. (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; age; 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) wherever appropriate and necessary, lawful exemptions (genuine occupational requirements) will be used to recruit suitable staff to meet the special needs of particular groups; (f) all recruitment agencies acting for the firm are aware of its requirement not to discriminate and to act accordingly.
8 (4) Targets The firm will use its best endeavours to comply with Law Society policies and targets for the employment of ethnic minorities, as are produced from time to time in accordance with the provisions of the anti-discrimination legislation. (5) 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 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 employee on the grounds of their gender; marital status; race; racial group; colour; age; ethnic or national origin; nationality; religion or belief; or sexual orientation; or unreasonably on the grounds of their 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. (6) Promotion and Career development Promotion within the firm (including to Partners) 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.
9 Whilst positive action measures may be taken in accordance with the relevant antidiscrimination legislation to encourage 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. However, the firm will take appropriate positive action measures (as permitted by the anti-discrimination legislation) to provide special training and support for groups which are underrepresented in the workforce and encourage them to take up training and career development opportunities. E. Partners Arrangements and procedures for selecting Partners, their terms and conditions of partnership, 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 shall be no less favourable that those required by legislation for employees. F. Barristers and Third Parties (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; age; 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
10 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 List of Approved Barristers is complied on the basis of their ability to undertake work of a particular type, and does not contain any discriminatory bias in anyway, that would contravene Rule 6.01 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct. (2) Suppliers All lists 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 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. G. 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. The firm will take steps to meet the different needs of particular clients arising from its obligations under the anti-discrimination legislation (such as the Disability Discrimination Act) and the Solicitors Anti-Discrimination Rule 2004, and Rule 6 of the Solicitors Code of Conduct In addition, where necessary and where it is permitted by the relevant anti-discrimination legislation (for example, provisions relating to positive action or exemptions) the firm will seek to provide services which meet the specific needs and requests arising from clients ethnic or cultural background; gender; responsibilities as carers; disability; religion or belief; sexual orientation or other relevant factors. H. 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.
11 Employees and Partners will be informed of this anti-discrimination policy and will be provided with equality and diversity training appropriate to their needs responsibilities. All those who act on the firm s behalf will be informed of this anti-discrimination 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. The firm will make every effort to reflect its commitment to equality and diversity in its marketing and communication activities. Breaches of the Policy will be regarded as misconduct and could lead to disciplinary proceedings. I. Implementing the Policy (1) Responsibility Ultimate responsibility for implementing the policy rests with the Partners of the Firm. The Firm will appoint a senior person within it, that being Neville Wall, Office Manager, to be responsible for the operation of the policy. All employees and Partners 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 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.
12 Acts of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds by those acting on behalf of the firm will lead to appropriate 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 discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds made by employees, Partners, clients, barristers or other third parties. All complaints will be investigated in accordance with the firm s grievance or complaints procedure and the complainant will be informed of the outcome. Any such complaints will be dealt with by Bernard Higgins, Partner. (3) Monitoring and review Our assessments are based on evidence. This evidence is gathered from discussion and feedback from colleagues, staff and customer feedback via our client satisfaction questionnaires. By involving others in the assessment it helps us to ensure that there is consensus regarding the purpose of our policy and to avoid management and Partnerships own value judgements from influencing our findings. 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 measure its progress and judge its effectiveness. In particular, the firm will, as appropriate, monitor and record: (a) The gender and ethnic composition of the workforce and partners as well as the number of disabled staff at different levels of the organisation (b) The ethnicity, gender and disability of all applicants for promotion (including to partnership, to the role of a member of a limited liability partnership or director of a recognised body) and training opportunities and details of whether they were successful.
13 (c) Where it is felt necessary, and where doing so will not cause offence or discomfort to those whom it is intended to protect, the sexual orientation, age and religion or belief of all Partners and staff will be monitored so as to ensure that they are not being discriminated against in terms of the opportunities or benefits available to them. Firms should, however, be aware that Partners and staff may not choose to disclose their sexual orientation or religion or belief and that care should be taken to avoid inadvertent discrimination in such cases. (d) The number and outcome of complaints of discrimination made by staff, Partners, barristers, clients and other third parties (e) the disciplinary action (if any) taken against employees by race, gender and disability. (f) At least annually, the Partnership will arrange for an equality/diversity/disability questionnaire to be sent to all staff, to promote feedback/reporting of any potential issues (see Appendix A). This information will be used to review the progress and impact of the Anti- Discrimination policy. Any changes required will be made and implemented. The Policy is fully supported by the Partnership.
14 (Appendix A) - Equality/Diversity & Disability Discrimination All staff should be aware that the Equality & Diversity Policy and Procedure, and the Disability Discrimination Policy and Procedure are important Policies within the Firm. They are located in the Manuals & Policies Section of the Intranet, and are also available on our website (www.halsalls.com). As part of our ongoing commitment to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity, we would be obliged if you could respond to the questions below. If you are not aware of any issues then please simply insert n/a in the response section. 1. Are you aware of any equality, diversity, or disability issues that have arisen with the Firm? If so please provide details Are you aware of any equality, diversity, or disability issues that have arisen externally (eg with referrers/counsel/medical experts etc). If so please give details below If you are aware of any equality, diversity, or disability issues that have arisen, which you feel have not been dealt with appropriately, then please provide details below..... Name. Dated Please return this Form to Emma Walker by Friday 26 February 2010, or if you wish to remain anonymous then please place it in the suggestions box by that time. It would be more helpful if you provide your details, as this will enable us to follow up any unresolved issues, and make any necessary adjustments to our Policies/Procedures.