HRS Equality and Diversity
(Non-discrimination) Policy

Including the HRS E&D and inclusion Communications Plan as well as the E&D Training Plan

  1. Our promise

HRS Family Law Solicitors Ltd will never tolerate discrimination, intolerance, victimisation or bullying.  We regard such matters as, prima facie, gross misconduct and therefore a matter for dismissal other than in the most exceptional circumstances.

We promise that our management will be open to and receptive about all issues raised with them concerning any issue for discrimination, or a person feeling as though they are being disadvantaged or singled out and that the management of the firm will always behave with respect and in a spirit of co-operation with such a person.

The Office Staff will all be trained about the issues of discrimination, intolerance, victimisation and bullying as a priority training issue not less than once per quarter.

What is discrimination?
As per the operations manual definition discrimination can be categorised in a straightforward way as treating someone differently due to their physical or personal preferences to include but not exclusively, their gender, race, creed or colour, their sexual preference or change of gender, their disability, age, pregnancy maternity and paternity situation, or their religious beliefs.

Intolerance is the unreasonable disadvantage to people for the same or similar reasons for example not being reasonable or flexible for people to have a holiday on a religious occasion.

Victimisation is the unpleasant process of singling one person out, perhaps for one of the reasons set out above, but not necessarily restricted to that.

Bullying is the process of being unfair to and disadvantaging someone for any reason whatsoever and denotes an ongoing approach to the treatment of that person.

Diversity
At HRS we believe that the firm should be a celebration of the diversity in society.  We want staff from all backgrounds and cultures reflecting the various classes, backgrounds, religion attitudes and beliefs of society as a whole.  We will actively seek out diversity in our recruitment process and in our selection of business partners and suppliers and take in to account our current diversity profile as well as the changes in the community that we serve.  A good example of this is our policy of interviewing 50% from a minority group to ensure fairness in the process.

General cultural awareness
At HRS we believe that we need to know about the religion, country of origin and customs of our clients and our staff.  This will be achieved by arranging in house discussions every other month and by sourcing materials / information externally as and when appropriate.  We want to know so we can make our advice and assistance better and more customer focused and friendly.  We want to know because, apart from anything else, our moral and legal duty, it is good business sense.

The law
It is the responsibility of all staff to be conversant with the law of the land as to discrimination and to practice in accordance with the law in this regard.  Failure to do so is gross misconduct for obvious reasons.

Be it the Race Relations Act 1976, the Equality Act of 2010 or any of the legislation in between, all staff at HRS must abide by and bring any issues of non-compliance to the attention of CIR without delay.  CIR is the person responsible for monitoring this policy and non-discrimination at the firm.

No discrimination will be tolerated whether it be based on race, colour of skin, origin, sex, gender, age, disability or sexual preference.  Indeed lifestyle and opinion that is legal and does not adversely affect the company is also regarded as a private matter.

Please refer to the anti-discrimination training policy and the operations manual as to how the firm complies with its legal obligations.  In short, we train all staff to be aware of the issues and expect compliance in all aspects of our work, selection of suppliers and in all our dealings with clients and other professionals alike.

Making reasonable adjustments
From time to time it will be necessary to adjust the firm’s practices and procedures to allow the participation in our firm or access of our services.  This can take many forms for example flexible hours or special arrangements to accommodate a religious belief or physical need.  Our policy is to do all we can to accommodate such requests.  CIR will make the decision in any particular case.  We have done this and will continue to be flexible in our demands of staff and suppliers or clients alike. 

Reviews
The E&D officer will review the policy and the enactment of it each year.  This will include a review of recruitment, performance, promotion and dismissal against diversity markers.  We retain all interview forms and these are reviewed as a part of the process.

We will ensure that all managers and any staff responsible for recruitment and selection have undergone equality training.  We also carry out monitoring, annually, on the number of employees from different gender, disability, age and ethnic groups by grade when: a. In post b. Applying for posts c. Taking up training and development opportunities d. Promoted e. Transferred f. Disciplined and dismissed g. Leaving employment.

The E&D officer will review monitoring data and set out how to deal with circumstances where under representation of the groups listed above is identified

The E&D officer will report annually and consult on equality issues with the workforce.

Instructions to staff
We provide written instructions to managers and supervisors on equality in recruitment selections, training promotion, discipline and dismissal of staff. This is is follows;

  1. You must consider the issue of diversity and reasonable adjustments at all stages of any process pertaining to recruitment, training, promotion and discipline of staff.
  2. You must note any issues that arise and seek guidance from the E&D officer.
  3. You must ensure that you have Equality training each year. The firm undertakes this work in-house on three occasions annually during our monthly training process.  Attend one of these.
  4. We abide by the SRA annual monitoring process and all managers and Supervisors must assist in this endeavour.
     

Decisions
If a decision needs to be taken that has a discrimination element then the staff member must refer the matter to CIR for a decision to be made.  It should be provided in writing to CIR without delay.  CIR will adjudicate and launch an investigation or institute disciplinary proceedings if required.

Conclusion
HRS has an excellent record in Equality and Diversity in terms of both providing a service that is free of discrimination or preference on an unfair or illegal basis and in our dealings with the people we work for and with.  That is a priority of the firm and must continue.  We have a zero tolerance approach to discrimination in all its forms.

We believe that there is no discrimination at the firm and long may that continue.  We need to remain diligent in our practices to ensure that is so.

Annual Review of recruitment, training, promotion etc
CIR as the E&D Officer for the company reviews the previous years recruitment to ensure that it is compliant with this policy.  This is reported at the first Management meeting of the year.  In 2020 we noticed that the firm was recruiting above both national and regional diversity norms.  We have not found any examples of discrimination and the advertising methodology has also been reviewed as compliant.  We use Indeed and connections to training establishments, and local newspapers.  This method is ensuring a diverse application process including socio-economic balance.  In fact the majority of applicants are female and of an ethnic minority group.  There has been no identified failure in terms of promotion or dismissal.  It is noteworthy that three of our five associates are from an ethnic minority group.

In terms of departures there has been no identifiable problem and this is also true of promotion and training.  Our new staff salary structure is a foundation to ensure fairness for all staff based entirely on performance and experience and this is a large part of the rationale behind it,

CIR 050113
Amended 10.01.14
Reviewed 060115
And 05th Jan 16, 7th Jan 17 and 12th Jan 18, Jan 19, 20 and 21.

Communications
HRS will;

  • Put the E&D Policy on the website
  • Circulate to all staff every year and invite them to comment and contribute
  • Offer to prospective staff at first interview should they wish to read it
  • Assist clients in alternate languages upon request

We will monitor;

  • Questions on the Equality and Diversity Policy to consider changes as they may arise
  • Feedback from staff
  • And from clients
  • Any instances of unsatisfactory conduct
  • Instances of complaints about discrimination
  • Occurrences of concerning behaviour on the part of clients, stakeholders and third parties

The firm welcomes the opportunity for any relevant individual to scrutinise this policy

And to provide useful feedback

It is through this transparency that we can improve things and make better choices.

HRS Equality and Diversity Training Plan

Who will be trained?

The Office Staff will all be trained as not only is it a legal and SQM requirement but none of us know enough about others’ and their life experiences.  The more we know about others people’s ways, culture and experiences, the easier we can relate to them assist and advise.

In What?

  1. General cultural awareness – We need to know about the religion, country of origin and customs of our clients. This will be achieved by arranging in house discussions every other month and by sourcing materials / information externally as and when appropriate.
  2. Choosing staff for – Recruitment, selection, promotion, discipline and dismissal whilst taking in to account race, gender, disability, child care needs including pregnancy and maternity issues, gender re-assignment, life choices such as marriage or civil partnership, sexual orientation, age, religions or beliefs, any other minority position or activity.
  3. Equality Training – Specific consideration of how in our respective roles we deal with clients, other Professionals and each other. What in practice can we improve and how?  This will be achieved by seminar every other month for all staff at the training.
  4. Customer Service – The Practical challenges of meeting the needs of our client’s regardless of age, race and gender, sexual orientation, religion or beliefs or any other issue that may mean specific changes to normal practice are needed to assist them properly. This will include but is not limited to the examples in paragraph 2. Above.  It will be delivered by CIR and WR as and when appropriate but discussed each month as part of the other Equality and Diversity Training at our monthly meeting.
  5. Employment – Practical information is needed by management in order to ensure that we are meeting diverse needs. WR and or CIR will receive formal and or external training each year in this subject.  This will include legal and employment law updates and exposure to other cultures’ or ideas to that with which we are familiar.
  6. Bullying – Victimisation, Discrimination and Harassment are a risk and can occur in any environment including a business one. Training shall include looking out for, reporting and addressing such incidents.
  7. This Policy – All new staff will be introduced to the firms Equality and Diversity Policy and be provided with a copy on their first day.


Ensuring training takes place.
It is the responsibility of the Practice Manager to address the needs of staff in relation to Equality and Diversity.  WR will organise the training set out herein.

Timeline
This training is ongoing as we can never possibly know enough about other cultures and beliefs or challenges for those with a disability or lifestyle choices.  Training under this plan will be monthly.

HRS 10.02.08
Reviewed 20.06.10
Updated150613.
Reviewed 030815.
Amalgamated 2021 

Training 2021
HRS has a rolling monthly training programme for all staff, including client facing staff, and those involved in making decisions for clients and others  This encompasses legal, regulatory and client care bespoke guidance for the legal sector.  All staff receive training in non-discrimination and E&D issues each quarter.

This includes;

  • Direct discrimination scenarios involving clients and choice of Solicitors by them
  • Issues that have arisen
  • Indirect discrimination
  • The HRS E&D policy
  • Developments in law and society
  • Matters arising

The firm requires that all staff undertake 16 hours of CPD per annum including 6 hours on an external course in accordance with the Continuing and Development Plan.  6 hours internal training is required which will include 1 hour of E&D training, although in practice the amount of training generally and in E&D is much higher.

An example scenario that we explore is what to do if a client wants to instruct a specific person because of their ethnic background?  This happens frequently.  The training encompasses good and poor reasons for the choice, cultural or historic factors that may justify the request and how to deal with such requests.  Such a request could be discriminatory to our staff or understandable given the specific needs of that individual.

For example a lady may want to instruct a female Solicitor.  Why?  What is their reason for this request?  Is it relevant to the service we provide?  Remember that discrimination is multi-layered and applies not only to our service but also to our staff and the operation of our service.

Inclusion is an important aspect of the training – how do we ensure that people from all walks of life, backgrounds and groups have equal opportunity to join the company, or to be represented by it?  We consider the effect of our Interview, Induction and Appraisal system, unconscious discrimination and bias.  Is our system robust?  How does it work in practice?

Open forums are an integral part of our training to allow subjects to be discussed and difficulties aired.  We have found this approach both useful and thought provoking.