Lyons Bowe is committed to eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment and bullying, and to promoting equality and diversity within our policies, practices and procedures. We are also committed to promoting equality and diversity in the firm. This applies to our professional dealings with clients, staff and partners, other solicitors and any third parties. We shall treat everyone appropriately and with the same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of:
(c) gender reassignment;
(e) nationality, colour, ethnic or national origins;
(h) sexual orientation;
(i) marital status/civil partnership;
(j) Aids/HIV positive status;
(k) pregnancy, maternity, paternity or caring responsibility;
(l) work pattern;
(m) membership or non-membership of a trade union; or
(n) any other reason which is irrelevant to the employee’s ability to do the job.
The firm will take all reasonable steps to ensure that employees do not unlawfully discriminate under the terms of this policy and any legislation in force.
This policy covers all individuals working at all levels and grades, including partners, senior managers, officers, directors, employees, consultants, contractors, trainees, home workers, part-time and fixed-term employees, casual and agency staff and volunteers, collectively referred to as staff in this policy.
Third parties who have access to the firm’s electronic communication systems and equipment are also required to comply with this policy.
Ultimate responsibility for implementing the policy rests with Paul Lyons who will be responsible for the operation of the policy. All employees are expected to pay due regard to the provisions of this policy and are responsible for ensuring compliance with it when undertaking their jobs or representing the firm.
MEETING CLIENT NEEDS
As a provider of private and publicly funded legal services, the firm will treat all clients equally and fairly and not unlawfully discriminate against them. The firm will also take steps to promote equality of opportunity in relation to access to the legal services that we provide, taking account of the diversity of the communities that we serve.
The firm is committed to meeting the diverse needs of clients, and will take steps to identify the needs of clients in our community, and develop policies and procedures setting out how we will meet clients’ needs and for ensuring the services we provide are accessible to all. We will take account, in particular, of the needs of clients with a disability, and clients who are unable to communicate effectively in English. We will consider whether particular groups are predominant within our client base and devise appropriate policies to meet their needs.
The firm will devise policies and procedures to promote and raise awareness to ensure that our services are accessible for a diverse range of clients.
In particular we will:
(a) in the development of our policies, take account of the interests of all sections of society;
(b) ensure that, wherever possible, the services we provide meet the needs and expectations of all our clients;
(c) seek to influence others with whom we often work, and from whom we purchase goods and services, to share our commitment to valuing the diversity of our society;
(d) regularly assess our progress towards becoming a diverse organisation providing excellent service to all sections of society;
(e) organise training to ensure that all members of staff are aware of the need to understand the purpose of the policy and to put the policy into practice;
(f) ensure all new and existing employees are referred to the equality and diversity policy;
(g) ensure that partners and employees:
(i) deal with people with courtesy, politeness and consideration regardless of background;
(ii) take care to assess what clients can understand and to ask clients how they need to communicate – rather than make assumptions about this based on their ethnic origin, age or disability;
(iii) ensure that clients are advised that, where the office premises are not accessible to them, a home visit can be arranged;
(iv) in the case of clients with a physical disability visiting the office premises, ensure that, as far as possible, their safety is assured and access to the premises is organised;
(v) provide clients with an impairment (visual, hearing, or speech) with options for communication;
(vi) in a case of clients where English is not their first language, provide access to language interpretations/translation wherever possible.
DEALING WITH 3rd PARTIES
The firm will not unlawfully discriminate in dealings with third parties. This applies to dealings with other legal service providers, e.g. counsel and general procurement, medical, mechanical and other experts that may be appointed to provide specialist services and advice.
The firm will instruct third parties on the basis of their skills, experience and ability, and not unlawfully discriminate, or encourage others to unlawfully discriminate, on the grounds of their age, gender, marital status, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.
As an employer, the firm will treat all staff (as described under ‘scope’ above) and job applicants fairly, and not unlawfully discriminate against them. This applies equally to voluntary positions and anyone undertaking work experience with the firm. 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.
The firm recognises the benefits of having a diverse work force and will take steps to ensure that:
(a) it endeavours to recruit from the widest practical pool of qualified candidates;
(b) employment opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of their individual qualities and personal merit, while at the same time, applying a standard skills requirement;
(c) where appropriate, positive action measures are taken to attract applicants from all sections of society;
(d) all recruitment agencies acting for the firm are made aware of the firm’s equality and diversity policy and are expected to work within it;
(e) each member of staff is guaranteed a contract of employment;
(f) it commits to a grievance and disciplinary procedure as part of a ‘dignity at work programme’.
The firm will treat all employees appropriately, and create a working environment which is free from unlawful discrimination, and one which respects the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of employees. 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 age, gender and gender reassignment, marital status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation and 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 arising from, for example, their disability, ethnic or cultural background, gender and gender reassignment, responsibilities as carers, religion or belief or sexual orientation.
Promotion within the firm (including to partnership) 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 discriminating impact on any particular group.
While positive action measures may be taken in accordance with relevant anti-discrimination legislation, to encourage applications from underrepresented groups, appointments 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 to provide special training support for groups which are underrepresented in the work force, and encourage them to take up training and career development opportunities.
Where partners or employees choose to disclose information regarding their sexual orientation or religion, steps will be taken to ensure that they are not being discriminated in any respect. The firm is aware that individuals may choose not to disclose this information, and that care will be taken to avoid discrimination in such cases.
CONTRAVENTION OF THIS POLICY
Proven acts of unlawful discrimination on any of the forbidden grounds, by employees or partners of the firm, will result in disciplinary action, as will any failure to comply with this policy.
The firm will take appropriate action on receipt of any complaint of unlawful discrimination on any of the forbidden grounds that is made by employees, partners, clients or third parties. Any complaints of unlawful discrimination could, if upheld, be treated as gross misconduct, with the attendant consequences.
Anyone who feels that they have been subjected to a breach or breaches of this policy should immediately inform Edward Romaine (Partner, COLP). Edward Romaine will deal with the complaint in accordance with the firm’s grievance procedures, and if necessary, invoke the firm’s disciplinary procedures.
All complaints and reported incidents will be thoroughly investigated, and the complainant will be informed of the outcome.
Edward Romaine will monitor the number and outcome of complaints of discrimination made by employees, clients, partners and any third party, and a record will be kept.
MONITORING EQUALITY & DIVERSITY
The firm will store equality and diversity data as confidential personal data, and restrict access to this information. Equality and diversity information will be used exclusively for the purpose of equality and diversity monitoring, and have no bearing on opportunities or benefits. The elements to be monitored are:
(a) the recruitment and selection process (applicants and existing staff and partners);
(b) promotion and transfer;
(c) all training;
(d) terms and conditions of employment;
(e) work life balance policies, e.g. flexible working requests;
(f) grievance and disciplinary procedures;
(g) resignations, redundancies and dismissals.
With regard to personnel and clients, the firm will provide equality and diversity information required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
DIVERSITY DATA COLLECTION
All firms regulated by the SRA are required to collect report and publish workforce diversity data about the diversity make-up of their workforce. The SRA have been collecting data for the last 2 years. Lyons Bowe take seriously the risks of not rising to the challenge and promoting diversity in the workplace.
Lyons Bowe values the benefits of collecting such data and is part of their strategy to set themselves apart from other firms in a competitive legal market place. Lyons Bowe are also conscious of the need to get the balance right as a small firm. Getting this balance correct is important to acquiring data that can be useful for Lyons Bowe to continue to develop and compete in the legal market place whilst protecting staff’s profiles, identifying talent and tapping into potential staff of the future by reflecting an inclusive work force reflective of the local area as much as possible. As a result although data is currently not required to be sent to the SRA, Lyons Bowe have decided that part of their equality and diversity policy will include a data questionnaire to be offered to all staff for completion (attached).
COLLECTION OF THE DATA
Everyone working at Lyons Bowe is included in the workforce diversity data collection exercise, including owners of the firm and all other qualified and non-qualified staff.
Specifically, full time and part time employees. Employees on maternity leave or on long term sick leave from the firm (but only if they are in contact with the firm during their absence and are willing to participate in the data collection), additionally temporary employees, those engaged by the firm under a secondment contract, consultants or other contracted staff where they have been or will be engaged on a contract for 3 months or longer.
Lyons Bowe are aware that although staff are given an opportunity to provide their data, individuals cannot be compelled to complete the diversity questionnaire or provide their diversity data. Staff will be informed that they may participate in the knowledge that they can select ‘prefer not to say’ for one or more of the questions. Reassurance about confidentiality and a clear explanation about what the data is being used for will encourage more staff to respond and is highlighted at the top of the Questionnaire.
Lyons Bowe accepts responsibility to ensure that all staff are aware what the data is to be used for, who will have access, and to ensure that the data is collected, processed and reported in accordance with the data protection legislation. In addition highlighting that the SRA will aggregate all data and any publication will be by an anonymous report across the whole profession. Additionally the aggregated diversity data reported on mySRA will be visible to all authorised signatories or organisation contacts for the firm or group of linked firms.
It is noted that the diversity data will be much more useful to the SRA, if it is linked to an individual, e.g. by reference to a confidential identification number by monitoring a range of employment activities over time. Lyons Bowe recognises that this this will assist in the development of equality in areas such as promotion, pay rates, or recruitment practices.
Lyons Bowe is conscious that individuals may want reassurance about confidentiality and may have questions about the arrangements the firm has for keeping their data secure and who will have access. Lyons Bowe will make every effort to ensure that such questions are answered and will make the Equality and Diversity policy of the SRA, part of the induction brief to new staff and also part of the onward training of staff employed.
It is for the firm to decide under what circumstance Lyons Bowe can publish data and how they publish but Lyons Bowe is aware that the overriding principle is that data should not be published in a way that allows any individual to be identified.
The firm’s Partners will identify equality and diversity training needs for individuals and/or the firm, and draw up a plan to address these as appropriate.
Equality and diversity training is one of the core generic subjects that will be delivered to everyone in the firm, and it is anticipated that this training will take place at least every two years, or more frequently should any issues of concern arise, or major regulatory and/or legislative changes occur.
POLICY MONITORING & REVIEW
The firm’s Partners will review the operation of this policy annually (or more regularly if any non-compliance or problems concerning equality and diversity issues with clients or personnel arise). The firm will take remedial action if any non-compliance with this policy is discovered, or if barriers to equality and diversity become apparent. When reviewing the policy, the firm’s Partners will consider the outcome of monitoring and review activities and the training plan.