Worthingtons Solicitors

Diversity Policy

 
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27 May, 2017

Policy on Equality and Diversity

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 staff and 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 or any other personal characteristic.

1.2 Regulation and legislation

In developing and implementing its equality and diversity policy, the firm is committed to complying with rule 6 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007 and with all current and any future anti-discrimination legislation and associated codes of practice including, but not limited to:

  • Equality Act 2010
  • the following codes of practice:

(a) the Commission for Racial Equality code of practice for the elimination of racial discrimination and the promotion of equality of opportunity in employment (1983);
(b) the Equal Opportunities Commission code of practice on sex discrimination; equal opportunities policies, procedures and practices in employment (1985);
(c) the Equal Opportunities Commission code of practice on Equal Pay (2003);
(d) the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 codes of practice in relation to rights of access to facilities, services and premises in employment;
(e) the European Community code of practice on the protection of the dignity of men and women at work;

and any relevant amendments to or further codes of practice.

2 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.

2.1 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).

2.2 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).

2.3 Dual discrimination (s.14)

There is a new category of dual discrimination, which allows claims of discrimination to be brought in relation to a combination of two protected characteristics. Dual discrimination claims can only be brought in relation to direct discrimination.

You should note that claims for dual discrimination only apply to the following protected characteristics: age; disability; gender reassignment; race; religion or belief; sex or sexual orientation.

Please note that the provisions relating to dual discrimination are not expected to come into force until 2011.

2.4 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.

2.5 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.

2.6 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.

2.7 Harassment

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.

2.8 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 rule 6 of the Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007, 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.

SRA Diversity Survey 2015

All of Worthingtons’ employees and partners were invited to participate in the SRA Diversity Survey in 2015. All staff took part. The data above is based on the information provided them and should not be considered representative of the entire Worthingtons workforce.

Diversity Data

Male Females Ethnic minority Non-ethnic minority Ethnicity not stated Disability
3 10 0 0 n/a 0

Age Data

16-24 25-34 35-44 45-54 55-64 65+ Not stated
0 0 2 5 6 0 0

 

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