Diversity

Background

The Firm is an equal opportunities employer and is committed to ensuring our workplaces are free from unlawful discrimination related to protected characteristics. These are race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), sex, marriage and civil partnership, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, sexual orientation, religion and belief, age and disability.

We will not treat anyone less favourably for a reason relating to their part-time or fixed-term status unless this can be objectively justified. The Firm will also take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that disabled people (including staff and clients) are able to participate in its business activities on an equal basis with people who are not disabled.

In line with the Firm’s value of ‘respect for each other’ the Firm is committed to making this policy effective and will take steps to ensure everyone is treated fairly. The Firm’s policies on harassment, maternity, paternity, parental leave and flexible working can be found on the intranet.

This policy impacts on all aspects of the Firm’s business including:

  • advertising jobs
  • recruitment and selection
  • benefits, facilities and pay
  • health and safety
  • career development and promotion
  • training and development
  • terms of employment
  • grievances and disciplinary procedures
  • dismissals, redundancies and the way we manage staff and deal with each other (including by e-mail)
  • the way we provide services to our clients and deal with third parties
  • the way we market our services
  • the way we deal with barristers, other lawyers, experts, suppliers, contractors and recruitment agencies

Who is covered?

This policy covers all individuals working at all levels and grades, including employees, partners, temporary, casual or agency workers, trainees, work experience students, secondees, contractors, consultants, collectively known as staff in this policy.

The Firm expects each partner and member of staff to comply with this policy and to ensure that a positive climate of inclusion and diversity exists by treating others on their merits and by disassociating themselves from any form of direct or indirect discrimination, victimisation, or harassment. This not only applies to other members of staff but our visitors, clients, customers and suppliers and potential new employee recruitment candidates.

Implementation

This policy is endorsed by the board and ultimate responsibility for implementing this policy rests with the partners. The Firm has appointed Sandy Boyle, Director of Human Resources to be responsible for its proper implementation, monitoring, promotion and review.

Line managers and the human resources department have a responsibility to ensure this policy is communicated to all staff as part of their induction, and that any update or review of the policy is communicated.

The Firm is committed to providing training on the application of this policy and all those people with line management responsibility will receive written instructions on equality in recruitment, selection, training and development, promotion, discipline and dismissal of staff.

Discrimination

Direct discrimination arises when a person is treated less favourably because of a protected characteristic. This may be because of assumptions (which may be unconscious and will not necessarily be motivated by prejudice or hostility) about the group to which they belong or are perceived to belong or with which they are associated.

Examples of this would be:

  • a woman with young children is not employed because it is feared that she might be an unreliable member of staff
  • a Sikh applicant for a senior post is turned down because it is feared he will not “fit in” with an existing (all white) team
  • a blind person is turned down for a job because of a mistaken assumption that blind people are unable to use computers

Indirect discrimination occurs where an apparently neutral requirement is applied which is more difficult for members of certain groups to meet and which cannot be justified on objective grounds. Examples of this would be:

  • a policy that no members of the workforce can work part-time could constitute indirect discrimination as proportionately more women than men can only work part-time in order to meet caring responsibilities; it may not be justified if the employer’s business needs can still be met by more flexible working arrangements
  • a requirement for GCSE English as a selection criterion; this requirement would be harder for people who have been educated overseas to meet and may not be justified if all that is really needed is the ability to demonstrate a reasonable level of literacy

Disability discrimination can also occur where a person is unjustifiably disadvantaged because of something arising in consequence of his or her disability. It also occurs where an employer fails to make a reasonable adjustment to accommodate the needs of a disabled person. It is important to realise that it is not only people who are visibly disabled who fall within the definition of people who are disabled. The definition extends to anyone who has a serious physical or mental impairment which has lasted a long time and has a significant impact in their ability to perform normal daily activities. Examples of this would be:

  • a requirement for a member of staff to hold a driving licence for a job which involves little travelling
  • failure to recruit someone with hearing difficulties for a job which requires spoken communication without first considering whether suitable adjustments can be made to working arrangements

Victimisation occurs when a person is subjected to a detriment because he or she has taken or intends to take action to assert the rights conferred by equality legislation or because he or she has assisted someone else with their complaint (for example by providing evidence), or is believed to have done any of these things.

Harassment occurs when a person is subjected to unwanted conduct (whether physical, verbal or non-verbal) related to a protected characteristic which has the purpose or effect of violating that person’s dignity. See the Firm’s Harassment Policy for more details.

Training, promotion and conditions of service

Staff training needs will be identified through regular staff performance reviews. All staff will be given appropriate access to training to enable them to progress within the organisation and all promotion decisions will be made on the basis of merit.

The composition and movement of staff at different levels will be regularly monitored to ensure equality of opportunity at all levels of the organisation. Where appropriate, steps will be taken to identify and remove unnecessary or unjustifiable barriers and to provide appropriate facilities and conditions of service to meet the needs of disadvantaged or underrepresented groups.

Our conditions of service, benefits and facilities are reviewed regularly to ensure that they are available to all staff who should have access to them and that there are no unlawful obstacles to accessing them.

Termination of employment

We will monitor redundancy criteria and procedures to ensure that they are fair and objective and are not directly or indirectly discriminatory.

We will also ensure that the disciplinary procedures are carried out fairly and uniformly for all staff, whether they result in the giving of disciplinary warnings, dismissal or other disciplinary action.

Communication

The Firm is committed to a programme of action to make this policy effective and will bring it to the attention of all staff. All staff will be able to access this policy on the intranet and new joiners to the Firm will be trained on this policy as part of their induction. All candidates applying for a position with the Firm will be advised that the Firm is an equal opportunities employer.

This policy is also made available to clients and suppliers on the Firm’s website.

To supplement this policy the Firm has a Harassment Policy which can be found on the intranet.

Further guidance on the standards expected of staff with regard to e-mail communications is contained in the Firm’s Electronic Information Systems User Policy which can be found on the intranet.

Recruitment and selection

The Firm’s policy is to advertise all vacancies internally and where external recruitment is authorised, we will concurrently advertise externally. In order to attract applications for external vacancies from the wider community the Firm will use a range of different recruitment methods. Recruitment methods may include, but are not limited to, advertising in the local and/or national press, advertising on internet job boards, use of recruitment agencies, advertising in industry specialist publications/websites and Jobcentre Plus.

The Firm will ensure:

  • all external vacancies are advertised on the Mills & Reeve website
  • this policy is communicated to recruitment agencies responsible for the Firm’s recruitment
  • all internal and external advertisements state the Firm is an equal opportunities employer
  • selection tests are applied consistently to all candidates for the same role, and are essential to the role and will not lead to either direct or indirect discrimination
  • all recruitment and promotion decisions are based on a full assessment of the capability of the applicant against the objective selection criteria
  • this policy is made available and communicated to all applicants for employment

Those staff that are involved in the Recruitment and Selection processes should refer to the Selection Interviewing Skills guide available on the intranet.

Monitoring

This policy will be reviewed annually to assess the effectiveness of the implementation of it and updated to reflect any changes in the law, demographics and the Firm’s business requirements. The results of this monitoring will be reviewed regularly and will be considered by the Board every six months.

Equal opportunities monitoring will take place for each person who applies for a position at the firm and records will be kept and reviewed in relation to the information obtained.

Diversity statistics will be monitored by the Firm and appropriate action will be agreed and implemented when a particular group is identified as being under represented.

Enforcement

All staff have a duty to act in accordance with this policy and implement the Firm’s core value of ‘respect for each other’, and therefore to treat colleagues with dignity and respect at all times. The Firm regards direct or indirect discrimination, disability discrimination, victimisation and harassment as a serious matter. Members of staff who fail to comply with this policy will be subject to the Firm’s Disciplinary Procedure which provides examples of offences which will normally be regarded by the Firm as acts of gross misconduct.

Complaints procedure

Should you feel that you are being treated unfairly, you should raise a grievance through the Firm’s grievance procedure. If you feel it is inappropriate to approach your team leader or line manager, you may approach a partner or the human resources department. In cases of harassment the procedures set out in the Firm’s Harassment Policy should be used.