A solicitor’s stance on EDI in the workplace
By Chris Bishop
Chris Bishop discusses how he and his firm, Slater Heelis, have embraced EDI for the 250-strong team and the benefits this has had on the business.
Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) is top of the agenda for most employers, and rightly so, but this doesn’t stop it from being a daunting and overwhelming landscape with everchanging policies and guidance.
Whether you have two employees or 2,000, EDI is something you should be thinking about and acting upon and the best place to start is to understand what it actually means.
Gov.uk highlights the nine protected characteristics as set out by the government in the Equality Act 2010. This includes age, disability, race and religion, just to name a few, and goes through the minimum legal requirements you need to be meeting as an organisation to protect and represent your employees in each of these areas.
The protected characteristics give you a framework to work from but, as a company that goes out of its way to represent our clients to the very best of our ability, it only felt right that this same mantra is applied to our very best asset: our people. At Slater Heelis we therefore decided to run towards EDI with open arms. For us, this was the development of an EDI steering committee to build relationships with charities such as the LGBT Foundation and push forward change with internal policies and processes to be more inclusive. We now leave no stone unturned in bringing this to the fore, taking as many steps forward as we can to support the under-represented communities and wellbeing of team members in the firm.
Putting diversity to the forefront is also key and this is something that is less evident at the most senior levels. It’s a common issue to so many businesses but social class, ethnicity and gender all need putting on the radar, reviewing and working towards.
Knowledge is power(ful)
Last year, with the launch of our EDI steering group, we acknowledged that we are far from knowing it all in this area and so our team set about building relationships with experts in the field who could advise and give guidance on how we can develop and implement EDI policies in key areas. It quickly became apparent that there are companies and campaign groups across the country that would jump at the chance to help a company better itself and its EDI policies. At Slater Heelis, we have partners such as the LGBT Foundation and have become Disability Confident accredited, all of whom have helped us immensely in embracing our shortcomings in these areas and develop a business-wide solution to addressing them.
Keep the good work going
As with our approach to law, we want to be ahead of the curve where we can. For us, that’s where our EDI committee is instrumental – our team of nine get together bi-monthly to discuss any observations/trends/knowledge gaps and continually work with our expert partners to help us stay informed and let us know how we can get involved in community initiatives – including being sponsors of the recent 2023 Pride in Trafford Festival.
Slater Heelis has appointed its 10th LGBT champion and became the first law firm in the UK to become accredited as an official partner of the LGBT Foundation. This work and commitment to EDI has also been recognised in Slater Heelis reaching the finals of the Prolific North Creative Awards in the ‘Creative for Good - Social Impact’ category. We were also Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity Champions of the Year at the Manchester Legal Awards.
We’ve created a more diverse workforce across most areas of our business and we’re delighted to say that, very soon, we will have genuine diversity at ownership and strategic board level. Without doubt, we’ve seen first-hand the benefits that proactive and forward-thinking EDI policies have on our people and, in turn, on our business – and while it feels like we might have a good handle on things at the moment, we hope to continue building on this success.