General commitment

Russell-Cooke (the firm) is committed to promoting equality and diversity across the firm by providing training, raising awareness and creating an inclusive work environment.

The firm’s key objective is to maintain a culture of mutual respect and consideration, ensuring that everyone is treated equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of their disability, age, gender, marital status, race, racial group, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, religion or belief, age or sexual orientation.

This commitment applies to the firm’s professional dealings with all staff and partners, clients, other solicitors, barristers and third parties.

The firm is a supporter of the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme and a member of the Law Society’s Diversity and Inclusion Charter.

Regulation and legislation

In managing and maintaining its commitment to its equality and diversity policy, the firm ensures compliance with the SRA Handbook and Code of Conduct Solicitors’ and with all current and any future anti-discrimination legislation and associated codes of practice including, but not limited to the Equality Act 2010 and also the firm’s own policies, as set out in the Office Manual.

The firm does not tolerate discrimination on any grounds. The following are examples of discrimination:

  • direct discrimination, where a person is treated less favourably on the grounds of:

(a)       race or racial group (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins)

(b)       sex (including marital or civil partnership status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity)

(c)       sexual orientation

(d)       religion or belief

(e)       age

(f)        disability (the “Protected Characteristics”)

  • indirect discrimination, where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice would put a substantially higher proportion of the members of one sex, or persons having a racial or ethnic origin, or a particular religion or belief, or a particular disability or a particular sexual orientation, or age group at a particular disadvantage compared with other persons unless that provision, criterion or practice is objectively justified by a legitimate aim and the means of achieving that aim are appropriate and necessary
  • victimisation, where someone is treated less favourably than others because he or she has taken action against the firm under relevant legislation
  • harassment, when unwanted conduct related to any of the protected characteristics referred to above takes place with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person and of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Harassment may involve physical acts or verbal and non-verbal communications and gestures. This will include physical, verbal and non-verbal acts

Employment

The firm will treat all employees equally and create a working environment which promotes inclusion and respects the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of all its partners and employees and which is free from discrimination and harassment. This will 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.

Terms and conditions of service will comply with all diversity and equality legislation. The provision of benefits such as working hours, maternity, paternity 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 any of the protected characteristics.

The firm actively endeavours 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; disability; religion or belief; age, or sexual orientation.

Promotion and career development

Promotion within the firm (including promotion to partners) will be based solely on merit and made in accordance with the principles of equality and diversity.

The selection criteria and processes for recruitment and promotion will be kept under review to ensure that there is no discriminatory impact on any particular group.

Whilst positive action measures may be taken in accordance with the relevant equality and diversity legislation to encourage under-represented groups to apply for promotion 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. However the firm will take positive action measures where appropriate (as permitted by the equality and diversity legislation) to provide special training and support for groups which are under-represented in the workforce and encourage them to take up training and career development opportunities.

The firm encourages a life-work balance amongst its employees and offers the provision of flexible working options as set out in the Flexible Working Policy. Currently 25% of the firm’s employees work part-time/flexible hours.

Recruitment and selection

This firm recognises the benefits of having a diverse workforce and actively encourages a workplace where everyone is valued for their skills and contribution. The firm therefore takes steps to ensure that:

  • it endeavours to recruit from the widest pool of qualified candidates
  • employment opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of their individual qualities and personal merit
  • 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
  • selection criteria and processes do not discriminate unjustifiably on the grounds of the protected characteristics
  • wherever appropriate and necessary, lawful exemptions (genuine occupational requirements) will be used to recruit suitable staff to meet the special needs of particular groups
  • all recruitment agencies acting for the firm are aware of its requirement not to discriminate and to act accordingly

The firm reviews and revises its Recruitment Policy procedures on an annual basis to ensure it attracts and retains individuals from diverse backgrounds.

All recruitment application forms have voluntary equality and diversity monitoring forms attached. Once completed and returned they are retained for monitoring and central analysis.

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 reflect the commitment to equality and diversity.

Barristers are instructed on the basis of their skills, experience and ability. The firm will not, on any of the forbidden grounds, avoid instructing a barrister and will not request barristers’ clerks to do so.

Suppliers

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 will take steps to meet the different needs of all its clients and will seek to provide services which meet the specific needs in particular of those clients who are vulnerable and/or require adjustments to be made arising from the clients’ disability, ethnic or cultural background; gender; responsibilities as carers; religion or belief; age, sexual orientation or other relevant factors.

All firm employees and partners are aware of the firm’s Equality and Diversity policy. All staff and partners are required to undertake Equality and Diversity Awareness Training every two years.

All those who act on the firm’s behalf will be informed of this Equality and Diversity policy and will be expected to pay due regard to it when conducting business on the firm’s behalf.

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 makes every effort to reflect its commitment to equality and diversity in its marketing and communication activities.

Reasonable adjustments

We will take such steps, and make such adjustments, as are reasonable in all the circumstances in order to prevent any of our employees, partners or clients who are disabled from being placed at a substantial disadvantage in comparison with those who are not disabled.

If you are disabled or become disabled, we encourage you to tell us so that we can support you as appropriate and make reasonable adjustments as required for example to provide an adequate chair or changing hours to ease travel to and from work. Reasonable adjustments also include re-deploying an employee to a different type of work where necessary. Time off to observe religious festivals and flexible dress policies to accommodate religious or other beliefs will be accommodated where reasonable. Flexible forms of working such as job sharing, part time working, flexible hours and home working will be considered on the basis of equality of opportunity and respect for diversity and in accordance with the procedures set out in our Flexible Working Policy.

Responsibility

Ultimate responsibility for ensuring the awareness of and compliance with this policy rests with the partners of the firm. In addition the firm has appointed the Managing Partner, Jonathan Thornton, as its Diversity Awareness Partner and he has overall responsibility for the operation and implementation of the policy.

All employees and partners of the firm are aware of and expected to pay due regard to the provisions of its Equality and Diversity policy and are responsible for ensuring compliance with it on a day to day basis when undertaking their jobs or representing the firm.

Acts of discrimination or harassment by employees or partners of the firm are not tolerated and will be taken very seriously and 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 in respect of any of the Prohibited Characteristics by those acting on behalf of the firm will lead to appropriate action including termination of services where appropriate.

Complaints of discrimination

The firm will treat seriously, and will investigate all complaints of discrimination or harassment in respect of any of the Prohibited Characteristics made by employees, partners, clients, barristers or other third parties.

All complaints will be investigated in accordance with the firm’s grievance procedures (contained in the Office Manual).

A key objective of the firm is to measure and monitor the diversity of the firm’s workforce diversity and the following proactive steps are taken to achieve this:

  • the diversity data of all partners and employees is recorded and monitored within the HR system in relation to ethnicity, gender, disability, age, religion or belief and sexual orientation
  • diversity data is recorded and monitored of all applicants, short-listed applicants and successful applicants for jobs and training contracts

The firm will maintain records of the details, number and outcome of complaints of discrimination made by staff, partners, barristers, clients and other third parties.

The firm will maintain records of any disciplinary action (if any) taken against employees as a result of failure to comply with this policy.

This policy will be reviewed on an annual basis by the Board to measure its progress and judge its effectiveness in line with our legal obligations, where applicable. Feedback forms from clients serve to monitor and evaluate the success of our Policy in respect of our services to clients. Feedback provided by staff and partners in appraisals serves to monitor the success of the policy in respect of staff. Issues identified will be addressed by The Board.

If you have any queries or concerns relating to this policy please speak to Jonathan Thornton (Diversity Awareness Partner) or Anu Kapila (Head of Risk & Compliance).

April 2017