Those who could or do use the SLCC’s services, as those we employ and who govern us, come from a diverse range of backgrounds. We want each person to feel respected and valued, regardless of their background, life experiences or abilities. Our role is to ensure that everyone we engage with can achieve their goals without encountering unnecessary barriers.
We explain how this affects our approach to helping resolve complaints, and to being an employer, below. As a public body, a service provider and an employer we must also meet certain legal requirements in relation to equality, which we also explain below.
Equality and our role in disputes between consumers and lawyers
We recognised that everyone has different abilities: things we are good at and things we find harder. Sometimes, what is happening in our lives can make us less able to cope with things than would normally be the case. Our aim is to make sure everyone has the confidence and ability to make a complaint, or to respond to one.
We can only help resolve disputes fairly if we make sure both those wishing to complain, and those responding to complaints, can fully access all parts of our services. We therefore aim to avoid or remover any unfair or unnecessary barriers that people may come up against.
Some of the barriers you might face, and how we can help to overcome them, are listed below:
- If you are finding the idea of a complaint difficult – those wishing to complain have often been through difficult circumstances, such as losing a job, a death or relationship breakdown. Simply complaining about a lawyer’s service can seem stressful of overwhelming; it may also feel that way if you are the lawyer being complained about. Our staff are aware of how difficult it can be. They will do all they can to explain anything that you are not sure about and to support you through the complaints process.
- If you need to ask for extra help or for a change to our process – we will always aim to consider any request thoroughly. Sometimes we will need more information from you to understand how we can help, or to suggest different potions. Some things, such as the time available to complete certain tasks, may be written into law and can’t be changed. If this is the case, we will explain this clearly.
- If you need support in making, or responding to, a complaint – if you wish to make a complaint but need help, we can help you take the first step by assisting you to write it down. If you prefer, someone can complain on your behalf, or help you to make or respond to a complaint. This could be a friend, a relative or anyone else you trust. Some people may be able to get help through an independent advocate from an advocacy organisation. You can also ask a lawyer for help, but you would need to pay for this.
- If English is not your first or preferred language – we already have certain information available in languages other than English, and can arrange translation and interpreting, including BSL interpreting through the ‘contactScotlandBSL’ service.
- If you prefer to communicate, or receive information in a different format – we can communicate by phone, email or letter, or other ways depending on what is easiest. We can also provide information from our website, or information sent while making a complaint, in a range of different ways.
Equality and our role as an employer
We are committed to ensuring that each person who applies for a role with the SLCC, or that we employ or who governs us, has access to the same opportunities. Our aim is to manage our relationships openly, honestly and fairly and be able to develop a bond of trust with each person. To help achieve this we ensure:
- training and guidance on equality, diversity and inclusion is provided for all employees and for those who govern the SLCC
- recruitment, selection, deployment, training and promotion of all grades of employees is performed in a fair and open way
- our progress in terms of ensuring both applicants and our current employees have equality of opportunity is monitored, and positive action initiatives introduced where appropriate
- our employment policies, procedures and practices are reviewed regularly so that they reflect best practice in terms of equality, diversity and inclusion.
Our legal duties in relation to equality
We recognise that it is good practice for public bodies like the SLCC to consider equality and human rights together when we create or change policies and practices. Equally, we recognise that we need to focus on what makes us a food service provider and employer, instead of just meeting the legal duties upon us.
As a public body, we must comply with the public sector equality duty in the Equality Act 2010. This means we must, both when making decisions and in our day-to-day activities, consciously consider the need to:
- eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation and other prohibited conduct
- advance equality of opportunity between people who share a relevant protected characteristic and those who do not
- foster good relations between people who share a protected characteristics and those who do not.
When the term ‘protected characteristics’ is used it can mean anyone, or any combination of the following:
- gender reassignment
- marriage and civil partnership
- pregnancy and maternity
- religion or belief
- sexual orientation.
As both an employer and a service provider, the SLCC must not do any of the following under the Equality Act (which are referred to as ‘prohibited conduct’):
- discriminate against someone because of their protected characteristic
- discriminate against someone because of something arising from a disability
- have a policy or practice which puts people with a protected characteristic at a disadvantage
- harass someone with a protected characteristic through unwanted behaviour which the person finds offensive, intimidating or humiliating
- victimise someone by treating them badly or putting them at a disadvantage, because they complain about discrimination or help someone who has been the victim of discrimination.
The Equality Act also places duties on the SLCC related to our role as a service provider. We must not:
- discriminate against someone wishing to use our service by not allowing them to do so
- discriminate by not providing a particular aspect of our services, or by providing our services in a different way that leaves a person at a disadvantage.
As a service provider, we must also anticipate the need for and provide for free, reasonable adjustments that are necessary for a disabled person to use our services in the same way as anyone else. Specifically we must:
- change things that might place a disabled person at a substantial disadvantage when using our services
- overcome barriers created by any physical features of our office
- take reasonable steps to provide additional support or assistance (referred to as an ‘auxiliary aid’ in the Equality Act) if this would prevent a disabled person being at a substantial disadvantage when using our services.
If you have any concerns about any aspect of our service with regards to equality, please contact us.