Gosschalks takes its ethical and professional obligations seriously to ensure that neither the firm nor any of it partners and employees advertently or inadvertently discriminate unlawfully, or victimise or harass anyone, either internally or in the course of professional dealings.
Equality & Diversity Survey
We're an SRA regulated practice and that means we are required to annually collect, report and publish data on the diversity of our workforce. You can review the results of our 2014 Equality & Diversity Survey here.
A. The Firm’s Commitment
(1) Purpose of this Policy
This policy is intended to ensure that Gosschalks meets its fundamental ethical and professional obligations to ensure that neither the firm nor any of it partners and employees advertently or inadvertently discriminate unlawfully, or victimise or harass anyone, either internally or in the course of professional dealings.
(2) General Commitment
This firm is committed to eliminating discrimination and promoting equality and diversity in its own policies, practices and procedures and in those areas in which it has influence.
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 same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of their age, disability, gender, marital status, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief or sexual orientation.
In the event of the firm being made aware of complaints relating to discriminatory behaviour conducted by any of its partners or employees internally or in the course of their professional dealings, the firm will ensure that such complaints are dealt with promptly, fairly, openly and effectively, under Gosschalks' Complaints Procedure.
(3) Regulation and Legislation
In developing and implementing its anti-discrimination policy, the firm is committed to complying with Principle 9 and Chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 and with all current and any future anti-discrimination legislation (once in force) and associated codes of practice.
B. Forms of Discrimination
(1) Forms of Discrimination
The following are the kinds of discrimination as defined by current legislation, which are against the firm’s policy:
(a) Direct discrimination, where a person is treated less favourably on the grounds of age, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, pregnancy, marital status, disability or sexual orientation or religion or belief (meaning any religious or philosophical belief).
(b) Indirect discrimination, where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice puts or would put the members of one sex, or persons having a racial or ethnic origin, or of a particular age group, or a particular religion or religious or philosophical belief, or a particular disability or a particular sexual orientation at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons unless that provision, criterion or practice is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim.
(c) Victimisation, where a person treats another person less favourably than others because he or she has done or intends to do (or is suspected of doing or intending to do) a ‘protected act,’ for example, taking action against the firm under discrimination legislation, giving information or evidence in connection with proceedings under discrimination legislation, or alleging in good faith that any person has committed an act in contravention of discrimination legislation .
(d) Harassment, when unwanted conduct related to any of the grounds referred to above takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person or of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment may involve physical acts or verbal and non-verbal communications and gestures.
(2) Reasonable Adjustments
The firm is committed to making reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled clients, employees and managers are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who are not disabled. The firm will ensure that it does not pass on the costs of any such reasonable adjustments to disabled clients, employees or managers.
C. Employment and Training
(1) General Statement
As an employer, the firm will treat all employees and job applicants equally and fairly and not discriminate unjustifiably against them. 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.
(2) Recruitment and Selection
This firm recognises the benefits of having a diverse workforce and will take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that:
(a) it endeavours to recruit from the widest pool of qualified candidates possible;
(b) employment opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of their individual qualities and personal merit;
(c) where appropriate, positive action measures are taken to attract applications from all sections of society and especially from those groups which are under¬represented in the workforce;
(d) selection criteria and processes do not discriminate unjustifiably on the grounds of disability; age; gender; marital status; race; racial group; colour; ethnic or national origin; nationality; religion or belief; or sexual orientation;
(e) wherever appropriate and necessary, lawful exemptions (genuine occupational requirements) will be used to recruit suitable staff to meet the special needs of particular groups;
(f) all recruitment agencies acting for the firm are aware of its requirement not to discriminate and to act accordingly.
The firm will use its best endeavours to comply with Law Society and SRA policies and targets for the employment of ethnic minorities, as are produced from time to time in accordance with the provisions of the anti-discrimination legislation.
(4) Conditions of Service
The firm will treat all employees equally and create a working environment which is free from discrimination and harassment and which respects, where appropriate, the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of employees.
Terms and conditions of service for employees will comply with anti-discrimination legislation. The provision of benefits such as working hours, maternity and other leave arrangements, performance appraisal systems, dress code, bonus schemes and any other conditions of employment will not discriminate against any employee on the grounds of their gender; marital status; age; race; racial group; colour; ethnic or national origin; nationality; religion or belief; or sexual orientation; or unreasonably on the grounds of their 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 which arise from their ethnic or cultural background; gender; responsibilities as carers; age; disability; religion or belief; or sexual orientation.
(5) Promotion and Career Development
Promotion within the firm (including to partners) 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 discriminatory impact on any particular group.
Opportunities, recruitment or promotion 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.
The firm provides training for all staff from time to time on their obligations in respect of Equality & Diversity.
Arrangements and procedures for selecting partners, their terms and conditions of partnership, access to benefits, facilities or services and termination arrangements will be reviewed and amended where necessary to prevent discrimination on any of the forbidden grounds.
Maternity rights available to partners are no less favourable that those required by legislation for employees.
E. Barristers and Third Parties
Barristers should be instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability. The firm will not, on any of the forbidden grounds, avoid briefing a barrister and will not request barristers’ clerks to do so.
Clients’ requests for a named barrister should be complied with, subject to the firm’s duty to discuss with the client the suitability of the barrister and to advise appropriately.
The firm will discuss with the client any request by the client that only a barrister who is not disabled or who is of a particular gender; marital status; age; race; racial group; colour; ethnic or national origin; nationality; religion or belief; or sexual orientation be instructed. In the absence of a valid reason for this request, which must be within the exemptions permitted by the anti-discrimination legislation, the firm will endeavour to persuade the client to modify their instructions in so far as they are given on discriminatory grounds. Should the client refuse to modify such instructions, the firm will cease to act.
All lists of approved suppliers and databases of contractors, agents and other third parties who, or which, are regarded as suitable to be instructed by those within the firm have been compiled only on the basis of the ability of those persons or organisations to undertake work of a particular type and contain no discriminatory exclusion, restriction or preference.
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 Disability Discrimination Act) and Chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011.
In addition, where appropriate and where it is permitted by the relevant anti-discrimination legislation, 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; age; disability; religion or belief; sexual orientation or other relevant factors.
G. 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 anti-discrimination policy and will be provided with equality and diversity training appropriate to their needs and responsibilities.
In all its dealings, including those with suppliers, contractors and recruitment agencies, the firm will seek to promote the principles of equality and diversity.
The firm will make every effort to reflect its commitment to equality and diversity in its marketing and communication activities.
H. Implementing the Policy
Ultimate responsibility for implementing the policy rests with the partners of the Firm. The Firm has appointed the Risk Partner to be responsible for the operation of the policy.
All employees and partners of the firm are expected to pay due regard to the provisions of its equality and diversity policy and are responsible for ensuring compliance with it when undertaking their jobs or representing the firm.
Acts of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds by employees or partners of the firm will result in disciplinary action. Failure to comply with this policy will be treated in a similar fashion. The policy applies to all who are employed in the firm and to all partners.
Acts of discrimination or harassment on any of the forbidden grounds by those acting on behalf of the firm will lead to appropriate action including termination of services where appropriate.
(2) Monitoring and Review
The policy will be monitored and reviewed on a regular basis (and in any event at least annually) to measure its progress and judge its effectiveness. In particular, the firm will, as appropriate, monitor and record:
(a) The gender and ethnic composition of the workforce and partners as well as the number of disabled staff, partners at different levels of the organisation;
(b) The ethnicity, gender and disability of all applicants, short-listed applicants and successful applicants for jobs and training contracts;
(c) The ethnicity, gender and disability of all applicants or candidates for promotion (including to partnership) and training opportunities and details of whether they were successful;
(d) The number and outcome of complaints of discrimination made by staff, partners, barristers, clients and other third parties;
(e) The disciplinary action (if any) taken against employees by race, age, gender and disability.
This information will be used to review the progress and impact of the equality and diversity policy. Any changes required will be made and implemented.
I. Compliance with Chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011
The firm’s wider staff policies are set out in full in section 5 of the Quality Manual. In determining those policies and procedures, the firm’s management has considered carefully whether they comply with Chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct, and will also take the Chapter into account when considering any future changes to such policies and procedures.
The risks attaching to any breach of the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 are significant, and the firm will take any breach of Chapter 2 of the Code extremely seriously. This Policy is intended to minimise the risk of a breach of Chapter 2 occurring.
Everyone should be aware that any such breach is a potential major risk to the practice. The firm does not carry insurance against the financial consequences of any breach, and any claims in this regard are also likely to involve the firm in very significant commitments of managerial time. Further, a breach may be a serious professional offence, and liability may attach not only to the individual(s) concerned, but also the owners of the firm. For these reasons, any breach will be regarded as a serious disciplinary offence.
If anyone is concerned that a breach of the Code or of this Policy may be occurring, or has a complaint that they have been the victim of a breach, they should immediately report this, either through their line manager, or direct to the Risk Partner.
For its part, the management of the firm has considered all aspects of its operations to ensure compliance with the code. Any developments of the firm’s strategic and business planning, or changes in procedures, will similarly be examined in order to ensure that no inadvertent breach of the code occurs.