Equality and Diversity Policy

1 Our commitment to equality and diversity

(a) Commitment

The Mental Health Lawyers Association (MHLA) is committed to eliminating unlawful discrimination and to promoting equality and diversity within our policies, practices and procedures.

This applies to our professional dealings with our members, delegates, contractors and third parties.

We shall treat everyone equally and with the same attention, courtesy and respect regardless of:

(a) sex (including marital status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity);
(b) sexual orientation (including civil partnership status);
(c) race or racial group (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins);
(d) religion or belief;
(e) age;
(f) caring responsibility; or
(g) disability.
(b) Legislation

We will take all reasonable steps to ensure that we and our members do not unlawfully discriminate under any other relevant legislation in force from time to time relating to discrimination in employment and the provision of goods, facilities or services.

2 Meeting Members’ Needs

(a) General statement

As a national representative Association, we will treat all members, delegates, contractors and third parties equally and fairly and not unlawfully discriminate against them. The MHLA will also, wherever possible, take steps to promote equal opportunity in relation to access to the services that we provide, taking account of the diversity of the communities that we serve.

(b) Identifying members’ needs

The MHLA is committed to meeting the diverse needs of our members. We will take steps to identify the needs of members of the MHLA.

(c) Communications Plan

The MHLA has in place an established ethos to promote and raise awareness of policies and procedures (as varied from time to time) for ensuring that our services are accessible for a diverse range of members. Our communications plan sets out what steps we have taken or/ and will take to put in place member service policies and procedures to make our services accessible to members. It contains a list of policies and procedures; information about what steps we will take to put them in place; who is responsible for them; and how we will make our policies and procedures openly available for the public.

Contractors and Officers of the MHLA will be informed of the Communications Plan and training provided where appropriate to ensure that it is effectively implemented. The Communications Plan is detailed herewith and within the MHLA website.

MHLA Communications plan

All members are to be made aware of our equality and diversity policy a copy of which is held on the website.

Our members are expected to adhere to this policy.

The Chairman of the MHLA is responsible for the implementation of our policy.

A copy of our Equality and Diversity policy is available to any of our members on request

We will carry out equality and diversity training for the Officers of the MHLA on a minimum of once per year.

3. Dealings with third parties

(a) General statement

The Association will not unlawfully discriminate in dealings with third parties. This applies to dealings with other legal service providers and general procurement.

(b) Dealings with contractors / consultants

The firm will instruct consultants on the basis of their skill, experience and ability and not unlawfully discriminate, on the grounds of their age; gender; marital status; race; religion or belief; sexual orientation or on the grounds of disability.

4 Membership of the MHLA

(a) General statement

As a National Representative Association, the Association will treat all members equally and fairly and not unlawfully discriminate against them. This applies equally to voluntary positions and anyone undertaking work experience with us.

This will, for example, include arrangements for membership of the MHLA of the management committee and selection, terms and conditions of membership, access to training opportunities, grievance and disciplinary processes, dress code, references, and any other MHLA related activities.

(b) Membership

The MHLA recognises the benefits of having a diverse membership and will take steps to ensure that:

(i) we will endeavour to accept members from the widest pool of candidates practicable;
(ii) membership opportunities are open and accessible to all on the basis of their individual qualities and personal merit;
(iii) where appropriate, positive action measures are taken to attract applications from all sections of society and especially from those groups which are underrepresented in the MHLA;
(iv) membership criteria and processes do not unlawfully discriminate on the grounds of sex (including marital status, gender reassignment, pregnancy, maternity and paternity), sexual orientation (including civil partnership status), religion or belief, age or disability; other than in those instances where the firm is exercising permitted positive action or a permitted exemption;
(vi) all consultants, contractors and third parties acting for the MHLA will be made aware of requirements not to discriminate and to act accordingly.

(c) Conditions of membership

The MHLA will treat all members equally and create an environment which is free from unlawful discrimination and which respects the diverse backgrounds and beliefs of members. Terms and conditions of service for employees will comply with anti-discrimination legislation. The MHLA will not unlawfully discriminate against any member on the grounds of their age; gender; marital status; race; religion or belief; sexual orientation or on the grounds of disability.

Where appropriate and necessary, the MHLA will endeavour to provide appropriate facilities and conditions of membership which take into account the specific needs of members which arise from their ethnic or cultural background; gender; responsibilities as carers; disability; religion or belief or sexual orientation.

(d) Working with other organisations

All those who act on the MHLA’s behalf will be informed of this equality and diversity policy and will be expected to pay due regard to it when conducting activities on the MHLA’s behalf. In all its dealings, including those with partners, any consortium members, suppliers, sub-contractors and recruitment agencies, the firm will seek to promote the principles of equality and diversity.

5. Implementing the policy

(a) Responsibility

Ultimate responsibility for implementing the policy rests with the Officers of the MHLA. The Chairman is responsible for the operation of the policy. All members of the MHLA are expected to pay due regard to the provisions of this policy and are responsible for ensuring compliance with it when undertaking actions within or on behalf of the MHLA.

Acts of unlawful discrimination on any of the forbidden grounds by members of the MHLA will result in disciplinary action. Failure to comply with this policy will be treated in a similar fashion. The policy applies to all who are members of the MHLA.

(b) Complaints of discrimination

The MHLA will treat seriously all complaints of unlawful discrimination on any of the forbidden grounds made by members, delegates, contractors and third parties and will take action where appropriate.

All complaints will be investigated in accordance with the MHLA’s grievance or complaints procedure and the complainant will be informed of the outcome.

We will also monitor the number and outcome of complaints of discrimination made by members, delegates, contractors and third parties

(c) Monitoring

(1) The MHLA will monitor and record equal opportunities information about members on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity, and disability.

(2) Where it is possible to do so, and where doing so will not cause offence or discomfort to those whom it is intended to protect, we will monitor the sexual orientation and religion or belief of members so as to ensure that they are not being discriminated against in terms of the opportunities or benefits available to them. We are aware that individuals may choose not to disclose their sexual orientation or religion or belief and that care will be taken to avoid inadvertent discrimination in such cases.

We will store equal opportunities data as confidential personal data and restrict access to this information. Equal opportunities information will be used for exclusively for the purposes of equal opportunities monitoring and have no bearing on opportunities or benefits.

(d) Review

The MHLA will review the operation of this policy not less than once a year (or more regularly if we identify any non-compliance or problem concerning equality and diversity issues with members, delegates, contractors and third parties). We will take remedial action if we discover non-compliance under this policy or barriers to equal opportunities. When reviewing the policy we will consider the outcome of monitoring and review actions under our communications and training plans.

June 2018