Equality and Diversity Policy
1 The firm’s commitment
1.1 General commitment
This firm is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity in its own policies, practices, procedures and work with clients and to contributing to the development of equality and diversity procedures within the legal sector where it has the ability to do so.
This applies to the firm’s professional dealings with partners other solicitors, barristers, clients and third parties.
The firm intends to treat everyone equally and with dignity, courtesy and respect regardless of their disability, gender, age, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief, sexual orientation, HIV status, trade union status, marriage or civil partnership status, spent conviction (save where required by law) or any other personal characteristic.
2.Clients and those we deal with.
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 Equality Act 2010 and clauses relating to disability discrimination) and Principle 9 of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Handbook 2011 and Chapter 2 of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct as updated.
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.
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 will be informed of this equality and diversity 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 and any other third parties, the firm will seek to promote the principles of equality and diversity and will take reasonable steps to ensure appropriate standards in relation to this policy are maintained.
The firm will make every effort to reflect its commitment to equality and diversity in its marketing and communication activities including, but not limited to, accessible print and online formats providing documents in what we generally consider accessible print and where possible
Below are more details about the legal framework related to discrimination.
3.Regulation and legislation
In developing and implementing its equality and diversity policy, the firm is committed to complying with Principle 9 of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Handbook and the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct as updated and with all current and any future anti-discrimination legislation and associated codes of practice including, but not limited to the Equality Act 2010 and any relevant amendments to or further codes of practice.
Forms of discrimination
The Equality Act 2010 defines the various kinds of discrimination with reference to the characteristics which are protected under the Act.
Whilst these types of discrimination largely replicate those found in previous legislation, there are some important changes which materially alter the scope of protection.
The following are the kinds of discrimination which are prohibited under this policy and the law.
3.1 Direct discrimination (s.13)
Direct discrimination occurs when someone is treated less favourably than another person because:
- they have a protected characteristic;
- they are thought to have a protected characteristic; or
- they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic.
Direct discrimination under the Act is defined as follows:
A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if, because of a protected characteristic, A treats B less favourably than A treats or would treat others.
This definition of direct discrimination applies to all protected characteristics. In relation to the protected characteristic of age, direct discrimination can be justified if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Separate provisions exist in respect of discrimination against a woman on the grounds of pregnancy or maternity (ss.17 and 18).
3.2 Perception and association
The new definition of direct discrimination also covers a situation where someone is treated less favourably than another person because they are thought to have a protected characteristic (discrimination by perception) or because they associate with someone who has a protected characteristic (discrimination by association).
3.3 Indirect discrimination (s.19)
Indirect discrimination occurs when a policy or practice that applies to everyone particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination under the Act is defined as follows:
A person (A) discriminates against another (B) if A applies to B a provision, criterion or practice which is discriminatory in relation to a relevant protected characteristic of B’s.
Indirect discrimination can only be justified if you can show that the policy or practice is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
Indirect discrimination had already applied to age, race, religion or belief, sex, sexual orientation and marriage and civil partnership. It has now been extended to cover disability and gender re-assignment. It does not apply to pregnancy or maternity.
3.4 Discrimination arising from disability (s.15)
This is a new provision. Under s.15 a person discriminates against a disabled person if that person treats them unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of their disability, and this treatment cannot be justified as a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
If you are acting as either an employer or service provider and did not know and could not reasonably have been expected to know of the disabled person’s disability, then the unfavourable treatment will not amount to discrimination. However, you must do all you can reasonably be expected to do to find out if a person has a disability.
Unlike direct and indirect discrimination, this form of discrimination does not require the use of a comparator to establish less favourable treatment.
3.6 Duty to make adjustments (s.20)
The Act consolidates and extends existing duties upon employers and suppliers of goods and services from the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled persons.
The duty is three-fold:
- Where a provision, criterion or practice puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a relevant matter in comparison with persons who are not disabled, the person to whom the duty applies must take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage.
- Where a physical feature puts a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled, the person to whom the duty applies must take reasonable steps to avoid the disadvantage.
- Where a disabled person would, but for the provision of an auxiliary aid, be at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with persons who are not disabled, the person to whom the duty applies must take reasonable steps to provide the auxiliary aid.
In relation to requirements where the provision, criterion or practice in question or the auxiliary aid required relates to the provision of information, ‘reasonable steps’ include making sure that the information is in an accessible format. The duty referring to the provision of auxiliary aids only previously applied to premises and goods and services, but has now been extended to employment. More details about how the duty operates in the goods and services and employment contexts can be found in Schedules 2 and 8 of the Act.
Harassment is defined in the Act as: ‘unwanted conduct related to a relevant protected characteristic’, which has the purpose or effect of violating an individual’s dignity or ‘creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’ for that individual.
Harassment applies to all protected characteristics except for pregnancy and maternity, and marriage and civil partnership.
The Act specifically prohibits three types of harassment:
- harassment related to a ‘relevant protected characteristic’;
- sexual harassment; and
- less favourable treatment of a service user because they submit to or reject sexual harassment related to sex or gender reassignment.
For harassment related to a protected characteristic, ‘related to’ includes where the employee or client being harassed has a protected characteristic or where there is any connection with a protected characteristic. ‘Any connection’ includes a situation where the employee or client being harassed has an association with someone who has a protected characteristic or where they are perceived wrongly as having a particular protected characteristic.
You may now also be found liable for harassment by third parties who are not your employees (e.g. clients or contractors). This has been extended to cover age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or belief and sexual orientation.
The following must be shown for liability to be established:
- the prohibited conduct has occurred with your knowledge on at least two occasions; and
- you have not taken reasonable steps to prevent it.
A statutory defence is available to employers and principals (as service providers) who can avoid liability for harassment carried out by their employees or agents if they take all reasonable steps to prevent harassment occurring.
3.8 Victimisation (s.27)
Victimisation occurs when an employer or service provider subjects a person to a detriment because the person has carried out (or you believe they have or may carry out) what is referred to as a ‘protected act’.
A protected act is any of the following (s.27(2)):
- bringing proceedings under the Act;
- giving evidence or information in proceedings brought under the Act;
- doing anything which is related to the provisions of the Act;
- making an allegation that another person has done something in breach of the Act.
The term ‘detriment’ has not been defined under the Act but it can be reasonably inferred that if an action has the effect of putting a person at a disadvantage or if it makes their position worse, such treatment will amount to a detriment.
The victim need not have a protected characteristic in order to be protected from victimisation under the Act; for example they could have been supporting a person with a protected characteristic who is making a claim. Claims for victimisation can only be brought by individuals and not groups.
In line with Principle 9 of the Solicitors Regulation Authority Handbook and the Solicitors Regulation Authority Code of Conduct as updated, the firm will not discriminate, nor victimise or harass, in the course of its professional dealings, groups of people on the grounds set out in 1.1 above; and will make reasonable adjustments to prevent those of the firm’s employees or clients who are disabled from being substantially disadvantaged.
For more information and our full Equality and Diversity Policy please call 01233 714033
Other Legal Regulation
Kirsten Moon – Solicitor Partner
Or write to me at Moon & Co Solicitors, Applewood House, The Hill, Charing, Kent TN27 0LU