Chambers is committed to ensuring equality of treatment and opportunity in every area of its activities. It aims to establish a working environment in which all individuals including members, pupils, mini-pupils, employees, clients and the public are treated with dignity and respect. Chambers aims to promote a working environment, which is conducive to the professional growth of its members and employees and to the promotion of equality of opportunity. It also respects the diverse backgrounds of clients.
All persons in Chambers undertake to observe the requirements set out in this Policy, particularly when discharging any duties in the management of Chambers.
In addition, all members of the Bar are committed to observing the relevant paragraphs of the Code of Conduct in respect of Equal Opportunities.
Chambers is committed to implementing the relevant requirements of the applicable legislation, the Bar Code of Conduct, the Equality and Diversity Code for the Bar and the Pupillage Guidelines.
Chambers is committed to ensuring that it does not directly or indirectly discriminate against or otherwise treat unfairly any current or prospective client, tenant, pupil or employee on the grounds of race, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity, marital or civil partnership status, gender reassignment, disability, age, religion or belief.
As a result, behaviour falling into any of the following categories will not be accepted:
(i) Direct discrimination: where one person is treated less favourably than another was or would be treated in the same or similar circumstances because of a particular characteristic identified in the Equality Act 2010 (race, sex, sexual orientation, pregnancy or maternity, marital or civil partnership status, gender reassignment, disability, age, religion or belief. For example Chambers will not treat an employee (and a member must not treat a pupil or tenant) unfavourably because of something arising in consequence of any of those characteristics unless Chambers or the member can show that the treatment is permitted by that Act.
(ii) Indirect discrimination: where an apparently neutral provision, criterion or practice has a disadvantageous impact upon a particular group and where the provision, criterion or practice is not a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim, for example, holding an internal Chambers training seminar at a time when a particular group of members will find it difficult to attend and when the meeting could reasonably be held at some other time which would not exclude any particular group.
(iii) Unfair treatment, which includes but is not restricted to victimisation: where a person is treated to their detriment because he or she has brought proceedings under the anti-discrimination legislation, given evidence or information relating to proceedings or has alleged that unlawful discrimination has occurred (or is suspected of intending to do any of the above).
(iv) Associative discrimination, where in relation to direct discrimination and harassment, an individual could consider they have been less favourably treated not just because of their race, sex, disability etc, but also “because of” race, sex disability etc in a more general sense.
(v) Perception discrimination, where someone could consider that they have been discriminated against because of a mistaken perception that they are of a particular religion, sexual orientation, age etc.
Chambers will not permit acts of direct discrimination or victimisation even if there is no intention to discriminate. Therefore treatment which is well-intentioned may amount to discrimination. Furthermore, there is no defence of “joke” or “banter” as such may be discriminatory even though there was no intention to cause offence. The fact that a person accused of discrimination shares the protected characteristic with the other person is irrelevant. In relation to indirect discrimination, treatment may be justified if it can be shown that it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim but the lack of an intention to discriminate is not a defence.
Chambers will consider discrimination which involves the more favourable treatment of a member of a disadvantaged group (“positive discrimination”) so that Chambers or a barrister or clerk will be able to single out persons with a particular protected characteristic and take any action which is a proportionate means of achieving the aim of enabling or encouraging them to overcome a disadvantage connected to the protected characteristic. Chambers or barristers or clerks may also take action to meet any needs the employees, pupils or tenants have as a result of disadvantage connected to the protected characteristic or to encourage them to participate in an activity where participation by people with the protected characteristic is disproportionately low. From April 2011, when faced with two or more candidates of equal merit in recruitment and selection exercises only, Chambers may consider more favourable treatment of someone because of a particular protected characteristic if people with that particular characteristic are underrepresented in Chambers. In practice it is rare for any two candidates to be of equal merit, and until this aspect of the law is clarified, chambers, barristers and clerks should be cautious in exercising positive action of this kind.
In any event, discriminatory or unfair treatment may amount to harassment which will be considered in accordance with the Chambers’ Harassment Policy.
The commitment by Chambers against direct or indirect discrimination or otherwise unfair treatment in the terms set out above concerns both:
a. the selection, treatment and conduct of tenants, pupils and employees; and
b. the provision of services to clients, which includes the organisation, planning, delivery and monitoring stages as well as the decision of whether to accept instructions from clients.
Chambers also has an “Equal Opportunities and Dignity At Work Policy” and a Flexible Working Policy for all employees.
Through the Equality and Diversity Officer, Chambers will promote equal opportunities and the prevention of discrimination through:
a. the incorporation of this Policy into Chambers’ promotional material including its brochures and website;
b. the dissemination of this Policy (with any future amendments) to all current and any new tenants, pupils and employees;
c. setting out the criteria upon which tenants, pupils and employees are selected;
d. the monitoring of the selection process of tenants, pupils and employees to facilitate consideration of taking appropriate action to redress the under-representation of any group where necessary;
e. the distribution of work to tenants and pupils, to include guidance on and monitoring of fair allocation of unallocated work, equal access to a range of work and reasonable adjustments and actions to promote equality for people with disabilities;
f. the terms and conditions of contracts of employment, the allocation of work within the Clerks Room, and promotion of employees;
g. the functioning of Chambers’ grievance procedure;
h. its Equality and Diversity Action Plan.
Complaints under the Equality Policy
Any complaints under the Equality Policy should be made in accordance with the Equal Opportunities Procedure Rules.
Communication of the Equality Policy
A copy of this policy is available on the website and will be publicised to all members, employees and pupils of Chambers. Where required a briefing will be provided so that everyone in Chambers is aware of behaviour which is unacceptable within the working environment and is familiar with the Equal Opportunities Policy, the grievance procedure and the assistance available. Familiarisation with the Policy forms part of the induction procedure for new tenants, pupils and members of staff
Chambers will not tolerate any form of harassment and will take all necessary steps to ensure that its members and employees are not subject to harassment. In pursuance of this aim, a Harassment Policy has been adopted by Chambers. Chambers accepts that it may be liable where a third party harasses an employee in the course of that employee’s employment and Chambers is found not to have taken such steps as would have been reasonably practicable to prevent the third party from doing so, although in line with the Equality Act 2010 such liability would require Chambers to have known about harassment of that employee by a third party on at least three occasions.
Maternity, Paternity and Fixed Periods of Leave Policy
In an effort to support Tenants, Chambers has adopted a policy to formalise the arrangements in respect of maternity and paternity leave as well as periods of leave or “sabbaticals” taken by them. Tenants on such periods of leave will receive invitations to Chambers’ training events and/or social occasions as well as information on Chambers’ business. In addition, Chambers will endeavour to consult with them in relation to major Chambers’ decisions which may affect the Tenant’s practice. Any Tenant is invited to make representations to the Equal Opportunities Officer in respect of the terms and/or the practical operation of this Policy. The Maternity, Paternity and Fixed Periods of Leave Policy is to be interpreted in accordance with this Equality Policy.
Chambers also has a specific written Flexible Working Policy for all employees.
Members of Chambers, the Chambers Management Board and the Tenancy and Pupillage Committees are committed to making such reasonable adjustments as may be requested in the context of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 in order to remove or reduce substantial disadvantage for disabled people working with chambers or receiving legal services. This policy covers all employees of chambers, barristers, clerks, pupils, mini-pupils and visitors to chambers. For the purposes of this policy the definition of disability follows that set out in the Equality Act 2010 s.6. A person is therefore disabled if s/he has a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long term adverse effect on his/her ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. “Substantial” means more than minor or trivial and “long term” means 12 months or more”. This policy does not provide an exhaustive list of the reasonable adjustments that chambers will make for staff, barristers, pupils or visitors however the following types of adjustment that may be made are listed below:
a. Provision of information in alternative formats (e.g. large print, Braille etc)
b. Paid leave for disabled employees of chambers
c. Provision of auxiliary aids e.g. induction loops
d. Provision of accessible conference room facilities
e. Provision of a reader or interpreter
Staff or barristers with specific requirements should make requests to the Senior Clerk Tim Markham for reasonable adjustment decisions. All requests for reasonable adjustments will be considered on a case by case basis with the advice and assistance of Chambers’ Equality and Diversity Officer and where it is not possible to make the adjustment requested the Management Committee will discuss viable alternatives with the applicant. The Management Committee is responsible for considering whether or not disabled staff, barristers or pupils require assistance during an emergency evacuation and if so whether or not a personal emergency evacuation plan is required for the individual/s concerned. If so, the plan will be developed in partnership with the individual concerned in order to ensure that adjustments to the emergency evacuation procedure may be made. Barristers are responsible for considering reasonable adjustment requests for their visitors. They are also responsible for anticipating any likely reasonable adjustments that will need to be made for visitors whom they know to be disabled and are likely to require assistance. Visitor requests for specific reasonable adjustments may be made by contacting the Senior Clerk Tim Markham. Chambers has requested improved access to Chambers and this has been carried out by the Middle Temple as the landlord of Chambers’ premises. Chambers will make reasonable adjustments to enable disabled candidates to demonstrate their suitability for employment, membership or pupillage. Chambers will take such steps as are reasonable to provide auxiliary aids or services to a disabled employee who would otherwise be put at a substantial disadvantage in relation to a non disabled employee.
Chambers encourages and welcomes applications from women, people of minority ethnic origin and people with disabilities, as well as candidates from other groups which are under represented in the legal sector.
Chambers collects and analyses monitoring data from applicants for mini-pupillage, pupillage, tenancy and employment.
When recruiting employees, tenants or pupils Chambers will not make enquiries about disability and health prior to appointment (whether orally or in writing) unless the question is necessary for the purpose of:
a) establishing whether the applicant will be able to undergo an assessment in order to determine whether Chambers will be under a duty to make reasonable adjustments;
b) establishing whether the applicant will be able to carry out a function that is intrinsic to the work involved in the job being applied for (for example, will a junior clerk be able to carry a reasonable weight of parcels to the DX);
c) monitoring the diversity of those applying to Chambers;
d) Chambers taking positive action for the benefit of disabled applicants; or
e) if Chambers specifically requires someone with a particular disability, establishing whether the applicant has it, though only if it is an occupational requirement to employ someone with that disability.
Returns and unnamed briefs are allocated equitably and by reason of availability and suitability for the case, taking into account experience and level of call, but without reference to the gender, origin or other personal factors of the tenant or pupil. The Clerks receive guidance on the equitable allocation of unnamed work.
“Tenant” includes Door Tenants and Tenants on a period of leave
“Pupil” includes Mini-pupils
“Employee” includes any Clerk or other person employed by Chambers on a full- or part-time basis for any period.
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