MacPhee & Partners are delighted to announce we are adopting a formal policy on Equality & Diversity, intended to improve our relationships with all employees and clients. A copy of the strategy is detailed below and we would welcome any comments or suggestions.
Equality and Diversity Strategy
- Our core principles in relation to equality and diversity.
- Compliance with the Framework of Equality and Diversity Standards.
- Selection and Recruitment.
- Access to training and development.
- Career Progression.
- Bullying and Harassment.
- Access to services by clients.
Appendix 1 – Equality and diversity training resources.
Appendix 2 – Our policy on pay.
Appendix 3 – Our access statement.
MacPhee & Partners specialise in the provision of legal and estate agency services. We have a team of 4 partners, 6 solicitors, and 20 other staff across 3 offices in Fort William, Oban and Tiree.
We recognise that, regardless of size, law firms have a significant opportunity to impact on a people’s equality of opportunity in both positive and negative ways, and as both clients and employees.
This strategy is intended to help ensure that MacPhee & Partners:
- Meets, or exceeds, its requirements as both service provider and employer in terms of the Equality Act 2010 and the protected characteristics defined within it: age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex or sexual orientation.
- Meets, or exceeds, the requirements and expectations of our professional body, the Law Society of Scotland, as expressed in their ‘Framework of Equality and Diversity Standards’ and the Practice Rule on diversity (B1.15)
- Demonstrates best practice in relation to equality and diversity in relation to our clients, employees and other law firms, solicitors and organisations we work with.
By equality, we mean the need to treat people in a way that ensures they have equal opportunities, regardless of their protected characteristic. This also includes the requirement not to discriminate against anyone with such a protected characteristic.
By diversity, we refer to the need to positively recognise the difference in people and to welcome, and value, a diverse community of clients and employees.
MacPhee & Partners will endeavour to ensure that:
- Clients and employees are treated in a way that ensures they are equal in terms of access to justice and employment opportunities, including through the offering of reasonable adjustments.
- We do not tolerate or condone discrimination by, or the discriminatory practices of, any member of our team. Equally, we will not collude with our clients in any such practices.
- We recognise and welcome diversity in our team and in terms of our clients.
We consider ourselves to be fully compliant with the Law Society’s ten equalities standards and outline below how we have achieved this.
MacPhee & Partners’ equality lead is Helen MacLean, the firm’s employment partner. Her senior position ensures the promotion of equality and diversity is central to the organisation and its strategy. Time is set aside to keep up to date with changes in practice and legislation in this area, and additional training or resources sought as required.
4) The Equality Strategy is informed by monitoring of the workforce, with reference to the Protected Characteristics, in a way that is appropriate and relevant to the size of the practice or organisation
A single Equality Strategy applies to both clients and employees, which we believe is an appropriate and proportionate approach. It has been developed following a review with an independent consultant of our approach to equality and diversity and the accessibility of our premises. The firm’s team has also contributed to its development.
The Strategy covers the areas essential to addressing and eliminating any poor practice in this area and contains measurable objectives to ensure continuous improvement. Our success in achieving these objectives will inform the strategy’s annual review and revision, if necessary, as will any complaints or comments we receive with regard equality and diversity.
All members of the team are made aware of our values as they relate to equality and diversity and we are clear about the need to offer reasonable adjustments. We have introduced a training plan to ensure all staff receive online equality and diversity training. The resources we have identified are contained in Appendix 1. Staff will evaluate this training and we will identify improvements, as necessary.
Reporting and Publication
Our website will host this Equality Strategy. Users will also be made aware that future updates on our performance against objectives will also be published on the website and made available separately on request. Our e-marketing system will be used to inform our clients of this development, and future progress. We will ensure these communications are offered in a range of formats such as large print or alternative languages.
Equality and diversity will be a standing item for our team meetings, which are held every month. The ‘Meet Our Team’ section of our website will ensure both staff and clients are clear about the composition of organisational roles.
This does not apply to MacPhee & Partners.
10) It is responsive to the legal needs of a wide range of diverse communities and in particular, has a single document available to the public which contains information on accessibility options for disabled and other service users
Information is available on our website, and from our office, with regards the accessibility of our services for disabled clients and other clients with accessibility issues. This is reviewed annually in line with this Equality Strategy.
The review process for the wider business strategy incorporates customer feedback. Feedback that refers to the accessibility of our services will be used to develop our approach and inform the review of this Equality Strategy.
MacPhee & Partners has a small team with relatively low staff turnover. When roles become available it is our intention that everyone with the required skills and experience has an equal opportunity to apply, and be selected to fill, the role.
Case example: Whilst women currently outnumber men in our team, this has not always been the case. Several roles have been held by men, and the current person filling the role is a woman.
To achieve this, selection criteria will be determined prior to the advertising of the role and be made available to all potential applicants. Requirements for qualifications, skills or experience that favour, or disfavour, applicants with protected characteristics will not be imposed unless they are justifiable in terms of the role requirements.
We will advertise roles widely to encourage applications from as wide a selection of candidates as possible. Information will be made available about the availability of reasonable adjustments for the interview process. Selection at interview will be based on an applicant’s match with the criteria, established using set questions that focus solely on the required skills and experience.
At appointment, discussions will be initiated with the successful applicant about any requirements or adjustments that may be required in the workplace.
Equality objective 1: We will monitor the protected characteristics of applicants for any roles we advertise and, as part of the annual review of this strategy, identify measures for ensuring greater access for those with protected characteristics.
We are committed to offering all members of our team training and development opportunities in line with their role within the team and their skills and experience. Access to such opportunities will not vary on the basis of a team member’s protected characteristics.
We will strive to deliver training and development opportunities that allow members of our team, who might otherwise be under-represented in the wider workforce, to develop their career.
Case example: We have assisted and supported numerous members of staff in completing their Paralegal and SOLAS qualifications.
Where opportunities for career progression are created, clear and open criteria for these opportunities will be made available to the team. Team members will have equal access to such career progression opportunities appropriate to their skills and experience, regardless of any protected characteristics.
We recognise bullying as being an attempt to have power, or control, over another through repeated acts or behaviour that undermines or upsets someone, in either their professional or personal role. We recognise harassment as unwanted behaviour that results in another person’s dignity being affected, or where this behaviour creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading or offensive environment.
We are determined that such behaviours should not affect the team at MacPhee & Partners. Our recruitment process will ensure that new members of our team understand that bullying and harassment between members of the team will not be tolerated. Equally, the team will be encouraged to report any concerns they have about the behaviour of clients towards them or other members of the team. Action will be taken immediately to address any such concerns.
Case example: A client had been asked to clarify which piece of work was a priority. Subsequently, a concern was raised by a member of our team that the client was acting in an unjustified manner due to concerns about the need for a different piece of work being progressed. Clarification was sought from the client, who confirmed that it had not been their intention to appear to be applying undue pressure.
Equality Objective 2: We will record any incidences of potential bullying and harassment we have been alerted to and review, as part of the annual review of this strategy, how we could prevent any further such incidences occurring.
We specialise in specific areas of law, and adhere to the requirement placed upon us by the Law Society of Scotland not to ‘dabble’ in areas we are less specialised in. This means that we may not be able to offer the services some people with protected characteristics may be looking for, such as advice regards discrimination, immigration, etc.
We also recognise and accept that clients may have a cultural preference or religious preference in who they choose to instruct.
Notwithstanding the above, it is our intention that any client, or prospective client, should have equal access to legal services through MacPhee & Partners, regardless of protected characteristic. We will therefore seek to remove any barriers that prevent this, and respond positively to feedback we receive as to how access to, or the quality of, our service could be improved for those with protected characteristics.
The two main access issues our clients face are translation, for those who do not have English as a first language, and physical access to our building. We have specifically addressed these issues in our Access Statement, which is included in Appendix 3 and made available through our office and website.
Case example: Our Oban office has a number of steps to the main entrance door. For those who have limited mobility we offer two options. The first is to have an introductory meeting in our Estate Agency office which is situated on the ground floor. The second is to visit clients in their own home.
Equality Objective 3: We will proactively seek feedback from our clients as to any barriers they faced as a result of a protected characteristic in accessing our services.
Appendix 1 – Equality and diversity training resources
We have identified the following resources that will be of use in the training and development of our team:
- The Law Society of Scotland provides free online courses including Preventing Bullying & Harassment, The Equality Act 2010 and the Provision of Legal Services for Disabled People:
www.lawscot.org.uk/events/update-online/ – within the Equality and Diversity section
- Acas also provides free online seminars such as Equality and Diversity and Mental Health Awareness for Employers:
- The Independent newspaper has a free certificate programme on equality and diversity. Successful completion of this online course leads to a Level 2 Certificate in Equality and Diversity, a nationally recognised qualification which is accredited by the awarding body NCFE.
- The Law Society of Scotland will attend local faculties to provide free training in this area.
- The Legal Services Agency run low cost programmes on equality and diversity:
Reward and recognition policy
It is our intention that employees are recognised and rewarded fairly and equitably on the basis of their individual contribution, and the contribution that they make to the team’s effectiveness. Pay levels will be determined by the director on the basis of the market rate for the role and affordability for the firm.
Whilst the level of pay is important, we also recognise that informal and formal recognition is important in supporting and enabling the personal development of our team members. Such feedback will be encouraged at opportunities such as team meetings and yearly reviews.
Equal Pay Statement and Policy
We are committed to the principle of equal pay and aim to ensure our pay system is free of bias relating to any protected characteristic.
In order to ensure this is the case we will:
- Review annually the current pay system to identify where bias may occur
- Consult with our team and keep them informed of changes
- Agree and apply solutions to remedy any problems
At MacPhee & Partners, we’re committed to ensuring everyone can access our legal services as simply and easily as possible. Please let us know if we can provide any specific assistance to make this the case for you.
Language / translation support
If English is not your first language we are happy to help. Many of our clients choose to have a relative or friend present to assist them with what can sometimes be complicated legal wording. As long as you are confident that your views are being presented accurately, and that your legal business is kept confidential, this is acceptable to us.
We are equally happy to look for independent translation services for you; this may be required if your legal matter requires attendance in court.
Access for disabled people
Our office in Fort William has no steps to the main entrance door and we have accessible toilet facilities. Our office in Oban is accessed via external and internal stairs; handrails are provided for those who need support. Our toilet facilities in Oban are not accessible for those with more significant mobility restrictions. If you would rather meet in a more accessible venue we have alternatives; please let us know your preference.
The law requires that we can only take instructions from those who have capacity to make legal decisions. As a result, we may have to check in certain circumstances that a client understands, and is capable of legally agreeing to, decisions being made.