EQUALITY AND DIVERSITY POLICY

  1. The Company Commitment

Sarah Bentley Solicitors is committed to the principles of equality and diversity and to observing legislative requirements relating to discrimination.

The requirements of this policy apply in relation to age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sex

or sexual orientation.

  1. Your Responsibility

All employees and partners must comply with the outcomes required by Chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct, which are as follows:

  • you do not discriminate unlawfully, or victimise or harass anyone, in the course of your professional dealings;
  • you provide services to clients in a way that respects diversity;
  • you make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled clients, employees or managers are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who are not disabled, and you do not pass on the costs of these adjustments to these disabled clients, employees or managers;
  • your approach to recruitment and employment encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity;
  • complaints of discrimination are dealt with promptly, fairly, openly, and effectively.

This applies to all our professional dealings with each other, with clients, and with third parties. Any failure to comply with this policy by employees or directors may result in disciplinary action.

  1. Ensuring Equality

We will not, in our professional dealings with employees, clients and third parties instructed in connection with client matters discriminate unlawfully or victimise or harass anyone. We will take such steps, and make such adjustments, as are reasonable in the circumstances to prevent applicants for jobs, employees, partners or clients who are disabled from being placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled.

  1. Recruitment and Interviewing

Employees and directors who are involved in recruitment are required to encourage equality of opportunity and respect for diversity. The company will treat all job applicants fairly and will not discriminate unlawfully against them. The company will apply fair, objective and consistent criteria when shortlisting, interviewing, testing and recruiting applicants. Employment opportunities will be open to all on equal terms irrespective of the personal, family, business or other connections of any applicant. The company will make reasonable adjustments to help applicants overcome disadvantages due to disability.

  1. Promoting Equality and Diversity

5.1       Responsibility:

The COLP Sarah Bentley has operational responsibility for implementing, communicating, monitoring, evaluating and updating this policy.

5.2       Communication:

Employees and directors will be informed of this policy. This policy will be made available to clients, the Solicitors Regulation Authority and relevant third parties upon request.

5.3       Monitoring, Evaluation and Updating:

The operation of this policy will be monitored and reviewed on an annual basis in a manner proportionate to the size and nature of the company.

The organisation will collect information about the diversity characteristics of its workforce and applicants for jobs, and training contracts.

Diversity monitoring will cover the areas of race, gender and disability. It may also cover age, religion and belief and sexual orientation where that can be done consistently with respect for the privacy and dignity of those concerned. This information will be collected at induction for any new employees and again annually for all existing employees and reviewed as part of our commitment to managing risk with the director and senior management team annually.

The collated information will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of this policy on induction of any new employee and annually. Any changes required will be made and implemented.

  1. Complaints of Discrimination

The company will deal with complaints of discrimination promptly, fairly, openly and effectively. Complaints will be investigated in accordance with the grievance or complaints procedure and the complainant will be informed of the outcome. Complaints of discrimination from clients or other third parties will be dealt with through the company’s normal complaints process. Disciplinary issues arising from a possible breach of this policy will be dealt with through the company’s normal disciplinary process. However, in both cases the person responsible for this policy should be notified and consulted.

  1. Forms of Discrimination

It is important that employees understand the law on discrimination appropriate to their role. This section summarises the forms of discrimination which we are all obliged to avoid, and the duty to make reasonable adjustments to help people overcome disadvantages due to a disability. Any request from an employee for further information or training on this subject will be discussed at director level and the appropriate training will be sought.

7.1       Protected Characteristics

The law forbids discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief and sex or sexual orientation.

7.2       Direct Discrimination

This is where a person is treated less favourably than another person because of a protected characteristic.

7.2       Discrimination by Association

This is direct discrimination against someone because they associate with another person who possesses a protected characteristic.

7.3       Perception Discrimination

This is direct discrimination against someone because others think they possess a protected characteristic (even if they do not actually possess that characteristic).

7.4       Indirect Discrimination

This can occur where a rule, policy or practice applies to everyone but particularly disadvantages people who share a protected characteristic. Indirect discrimination can be justified if the rule, policy or practice is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.

7.5       Harassment

This is 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 otherwise offensive environment for that individual.

7.6       Third Party Harassment

The company can be liable for harassment of its employees by people who are not employees, such as clients, if it has not taken reasonable steps to prevent such harassment recurring when it was aware of previous occurrences.

7.7       Victimisation

This is where an employee is treated badly because they have made or supported a complaint or raised a grievance under the Equality Act or because they are suspected of doing so. An employee is not protected from victimisation if they have maliciously made or supported an untrue complaint.

7.8       Disability Discrimination

A person is disabled if they have a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse effect on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. The law relating to disability differs from that which applies to other protected characteristics. The company may be required to make reasonable adjustments to help people overcome disadvantages due to impairment.

  1. Training

We will identify equality and diversity training needs at induction and annually as part of our commitment the Lexcel standard 4.2. A training and development plan for everyone will be logged on our Breathe HR system for individual access. The plan will include details of the sort of training that will be provided, who will be trained, and when training will be provided. Sarah Bentley is responsible in the organisation for ensuring that training is delivered. Employees and Directors will be informed of this equality and diversity policy and training plan.

  1. Identify the needs of staff

We will treat all employees equally and create a working environment which is free from unlawful discrimination and which respects 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 flexible working hours, maternity and other leave arrangements, performance appraisal systems, dress code, bonus schemes and any other conditions of employment will not unlawfully discriminate against any employee on the grounds of their age; gender and gender reassignment; marital status; race; religion or belief; sexual orientation or on the grounds of disability.

Where appropriate and necessary, the company will take all reasonable steps to provide appropriate facilities and conditions of service which consider the specific needs of employees which arise from their ethnic or cultural background; gender and gender reassignment; responsibilities as carers; disability; religion or belief or sexual orientation. This may include but not limited to:

  • Childcare provision
  • Wheelchair access
  • Part time working
  • Specific workstation requirements
  • Different lighting
  • Contract variations
  1. Identifying clients needs

We are committed to meeting the diverse needs of clients. We will take steps to identify the needs of clients in our community and every reasonable adjustment will be made to ensure they have access to the legal service that Sarah Bentley solicitors provide. Our office facilities are wheel chair friendly and alternative rooms will be made available to meet the needs of the client. We will take account of the needs of clients who are unable to communicate effectively in English. We will consider whether groups are predominant within our client base to ensure appropriate steps are taken to meet their needs: including men and women; carers; children; the elderly; members of religious groups; ethnic groups or nationalities; and lesbian, gay or transgender people.