Equality and diversity are of fundamental importance to the legal profession. Although these principles are already enshrined in elements of employment legislation, they are also an explicit part of the ‘outcomes focused regulation’ which the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has imposed on the profession since 2011 and which affects all stakeholders.
The SRA and The Equality Act 2010
Under the Equality Act 2010 the SRA is classified as a public authority. The Equality Act was designed to encourage decision makers to focus on reducing socio-economic inequalities. Under the Act, the SRA and others are reminded when making decisions to consider those who belong in the equality groups regarding:
- gender reassignment
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation
The duty imposed by the Act requires the SRA to consider certain factors when carrying out its public functions such as:
- eliminating unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation
- advancing equality of opportunity between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
- fostering good relations between people who share a protected characteristic and those who do not
The SRA Equality Framework
To honour these duties, the SRA formulated its own regulatory action plan entitled the “Equality Framework”. The Equality Framework outlines how it seeks to meet its public equality duties across the various capacities it holds as an employer, as a regulator and in respect of protecting consumers.
Equality and Outcomes Focused Regulation
Within the equality framework, the SRA set out specific objectives in its Handbook in 2011 to provide standards and requirements expected of its members to benefit the clients they serve and the public interest. Equality and diversity is a key element of the Handbook.
The importance of equality and diversity in the new SRA framework is reinforced by its inclusion as one of the ten fundamental Principles. Principle 9 states, 'You must run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity.'
Outcomes and Indicative Behaviours
Chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct sets out the outcomes and indicative behaviours relating to equality and diversity. Outcomes might include for example:
- not discriminating unlawfully, victimising or harassing anyone, whether employees, clients or otherwise, during professional dealings
- approaching recruitment in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity
While indicative behaviours may include elements such as:
- having a written equality and diversity policy
- providing employees and managers with compliance training
The SRA has made it clear that all stakeholders in the legal profession should feel that equality of opportunity and respect for diversity are promoted on their behalf. The outcomes focused regulation gives the SRA a powerful means with which to promote and enforce this priority.
Osmond Solicitors Limited is committed to promoting equality and diversity in all of our dealings with clients, third parties and employees. We will not discriminate in the way we provide our services on the grounds of sex (including gender reassignment), marital status, sexual orientation, disability, race, colour, religion, age, nationality or ethnic or national origins.