Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors

Do You Pay Inheritance Tax on Lifetime Gifts?

Conveyancing | Equity Release

27th September 2020

Making gifts to your family and friends while you’re alive is a great way to reduce the value of your estate and lower the impact of inheritance tax. Estate and tax planning is a complex subject. It’s important to understand the options available to you and the best way to do this is through sound professional advice.

In this post, we’ll go through what gifts are subject to inheritance tax and how you can make lifetime gifts that are tax-free.

Giving to Your Children and Other Family Members

To ensure that what you give your children or other family members is tax-free, it’s essential that you plan when to make the gift.

As long as you live more than seven years from when you make the gift, your children or family won’t have to pay inheritance tax on your gift when you pass on. Be aware that any income made from this gift would still be subject to capital gains tax. However, if you don’t live more than seven years after making the gift, your family members may have to pay inheritance tax.

The gift is considered a potentially exempt transfer when it is first made. If you die within seven years, it becomes a chargeable transfer and is subject to inheritance tax. We’ll discuss potentially exempt transfers in more detail later in this post.

Note that married couples and civil partners are allowed to pass their estate to their spouse tax-free when they die, meaning the surviving spouse can inherit the entire estate without having to pay Inheritance Tax.

Gifting to Charity

Any cash or physical asset you leave to a qualifying charitable organization either in your will or during your lifetime is exempt from inheritance tax. This is a great option if you’re looking to give back while still maximizing the value of your estate.

Gifting to charity can also reduce your inheritance tax rate from 40% down to 36%. This lower rate only applies if the gift to charity accounts for 10% of the net estate at the time of death.

Annual Gift Allowance

While you’re alive, you have a £3,000 ‘gift allowance’ each year known as an annual exemption. This means you can give away assets or cash up to a total value of £3,000 each tax year without it being added to the value of your estate for inheritance tax purposes.

You can carry over any unused portion of the exemption to the following tax year but it can’t be carried over to a second year.

Tax-Free Gifts

There are a variety of gifts you can make that will not be subject to inheritance tax. This includes:

Wedding Gifts

Wedding gifts are free from inheritance tax provided they meet the following requirements:

  • Gifts to children are worth £5,000 or less
  • Gifts to grandchildren or great-grandchildren are worth £2,500 or less
  • Gifts given to another relative or friend are worth  £1,000 or less

Gifts That are Worth Less Than £250

You can give as many tax-free gifts up to £250 to as many people as you want. However, you cannot give tax-free gifts to anyone who has already received a gift of your whole £3,000 annual exemption.

Gifts to Help With Living Costs

Gifts used to help pay the living costs of an ex-spouse, an elderly dependent, a child under 18, or a child in full-time education might be exempt from inheritance tax.

Gifts From Your Surplus Income

If you earn a high enough income to easily maintain your standard of living, you can make gifts from your surplus disposable income. For example, you can pay into your child’s savings account or pay a life insurance premium for your spouse. These gifts must be made regularly, so you need to be able to commit to keeping up with the installments. It’s important to keep detailed records of these gifts if you plan to use this exemption as the rules are complex.

Potentially Exempt Transfers

A potentially exempt transfer (PET) enables you to make gifts of unlimited value that will become exempt from inheritance tax if you survive seven years from the time of the gift.

If you don’t live for seven years after the gift, the PET becomes a chargeable consideration and is added to the value of your estate for Inheritance Tax purposes. If the value of the estate (including the gift) is over the Inheritance Tax threshold of £325,000, then tax may be due.

To be “Potentially Exempt”, lifetime gifts must meet certain conditions and are subject to certain exceptions. The gift must be made from an individual to another individual or to a specified trust. This means that the gift cannot be made to or from a company.

Gifts that you maintain an interest in don’t qualify as a PET no matter when they are given. For example, if you continue to live for free in the house you gave your child more than 10 years ago, the house would still be considered as part of your estate for inheritance tax purposes.

The 7 Year Rule

The 7 Year Rule helps determine the rate at which inheritance tax is charged. Gifts given within three years of your death are taxed at 40%.

Gifts made between three to seven years before your death are taxed on a sliding scale known as taper relief. Below are the different tax rates, based on the years between the gift and death:

Years between gift and deathTax paid
Less than 340%
3 to 432%
4 to 524%
5 to 616%
6 to 78%
7 or more0%

Be aware that taper relief doesn’t reduce the value of the gift, it only reduces the tax payable.

Professional Tax and Estate Planning

Wills and trusts are an important part of planning your estate and minimizing inheritance tax. This area of law is complex and it’s always best to seek professional advice to make sure you are on the right track.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors has the experience to ensure that your estate is as tax-efficient as possible. Contact us today to learn how we can help you and your family plan for the future with expert estate planning, will writing, lasting power of attorney, and conveyancing services.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors

Care Home Fees And Your Will – What You Can Do To Protect Your Assets

Care Home

19th September 2020

With care costs increasing dramatically, people continue to lose more of their savings, investments, and property to the cost of care than ever before. There are ways you can use your will to protect your estate from care home fees, but this is never something you should attempt to do without expert legal services from a professional solicitor.

In this post, you’ll learn how care home fees can affect you and your family and what you can do today to protect your assets for the future.

Rising Care Home Fees

Research from Prestige Nursing and Care has shown that the average annual cost to stay in a residential care home has increased by £1,536 (5.6%) to £30,926 in the past year.

The average rise is more than 10 times the £156 average increase in pensioners’ income over the same duration. On average, pensioners earn  £14,456 a year which would cover less than half of a year’s worth of care.

This is causing concern for many people about the possible costs involved with paying for any necessary care fees in the future and the impact this could have on reducing the value of inheritance received by children after both parents have died.

Consider the following example:

Mr. and Mrs. Jones were in their 60s and had two adult children. Their joint estate was worth roughly £250,000, primarily made up of their home worth £240,000 and  £10,000 of savings. They wanted to plan for the future while keeping everything simple and straightforward, so they put in place standard mirror wills. These wills leave everything to the other when the first dies and then to their children in equal shares after the surviving spouse dies.

A few years later, Mr. Jones passed away and his estate passed to Mrs. Jones in accordance with his will. Mrs. Jones continued to live independently over the next few years. Unfortunately, Mrs. Jones suffered a stroke which meant she required residential care. She was financially assessed by the Local Authority who determined that the value of her assets was  £250,000. Because this exceeded the maximum threshold, she would have to pay the cost of her care in full.

The residential home fees added up to £30,000 a year and her matrimonial home was sold to pay the costs. She continued to live in the home for five years until she passed away. During this time, she had incurred £150,000 in care costs (5 years x £30,000) which reduced the value of her estate to £100,000 when it passed to her children.

This is a common scenario as couples who aren’t properly prepared don’t realize the impact care costs can have before it’s too late

Protecting Your Assets

If you need to move into a care home in the future and you have more than £23,250 in savings or assets, including the value of your home, you will usually have to pay for the full cost of your care.

If your savings or assets are valued between £14,250 and £23,250, you will usually have to pay a contribution to your care, with the Local Authority paying the remainder. When your assets are below £14,250, the Local Authority will take over paying the fees for your care.

As the cost of care continues to increase, people are seeing their hard-earned assets dry up at an alarming rate. With the average house worth £213,927, if just one spouse needs care, you could lose nearly all your assets to care costs in roughly six years. This would mean you have nothing to leave to your children or grandchildren.

Care Fee Trust Will

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent this from happening. Instead of leaving all your assets to your partner in a mirror will, you can make a Care Fee Trust Will which allows you to leave your assets to your partner for the duration of their life, and then to your children or whoever you choose.

A Care Fee Trust Will requires that the family home is held as tenants in common rather than as joint tenants. This means that each spouse owns 50% of the property rather than owning the home together in a single indivisible share.

With a Care Fee Trust Will, your partner can use the share of the home during their lifetime. Should your partner ever need care, the Local Authority cannot take your share to pay for care fees since your partner does not technically own it. This can help preserve the value of your estate before it is passed to your children.

Wrapping Up

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors offers the legal expertise you need to plan for the future and protect your assets. We understand that everyone’s circumstances are different and our friendly and approachable legal team works to develop wills, lasting powers of attorney, and tax and estate planning suited to your unique needs.

Contact us today to learn how our services can help you and your family prepare for the future and protect your estate.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors

Do I Really Need a Lasting Power of Attorney?

Do I Really Need a Lasting Power of Attorney

13th September 2020

Thinking about being in a condition where you are no longer able to take care of yourself can be uncomfortable. Yet, it’s important to protect your future by planning ahead in the event that something were to happen to your mental or physical faculties. If you are in a situation where you can no longer make decisions for yourself, you need a way to ensure that your wishes are being met. This is where Lasting Power of Attorney comes in.

What Is Lasting Power Of Attorney?

Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) is a legal document that enables someone else to act on your behalf and make decisions for you in a situation where you are longer able to do so yourself. There are two types of lasting power of attorney, one for your health and wellness, one for your property and finances. With these types of LPA, you choose a person known as an attorney who is then able to make decisions on your behalf.

Health and Welfare LPA

A health and welfare LPA grants your attorney the right to make decisions regarding your medical care and daily routine. Here are some examples of the decisions that your attorney could make on your behalf:

  • Your medical treatment including life-sustaining treatment
  • Where you live and if you should move into a care home
  • What to buy and where to shop
  • What you eat and how you spend your day

A health and welfare LPA can only be used if you lose capacity. You are not able to have someone else make these decisions for you simply because you don’t want to.

Property and Financial Affairs LPA

A property and financial affairs LPA allows you to appoint an attorney to make decisions regarding your finances and property. This includes:

  • Handling your taxes
  • Paying bills
  • Maintaining your property
  • Investing your savings into stocks or other assets

With a property and financial affairs LPA, you can specify when you want your attorney to be able to act on your behalf. Unlike a health and welfare LPA, you can choose to have your attorney make decisions for you even if you haven’t yet lost capacity to do so.

What Is Mental Capacity?

Every day, we all make decisions about our lives. The ability to make these decisions is considered mental capacity. People may not be able to make decisions some or all the time. This could be due to a brain injury, dementia, a stroke, or a learning disability. In these cases, a person is deemed to not have mental capacity.

It is important to be aware that living with a mental health condition such as depression, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder doesn’t necessarily mean that someone lacks mental capacity.

Who Decides If Someone Has Mental Capacity?

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 is used to establish standards for mental capacity. It states that a person is unable to make a decision if they can’t do one of the following:

  • Understand information relevant to a decision
  • Retain that information long enough to make the decision
  • Use or weigh that information
  • Communicate the decision

When you make a Power of Attorney in England and Wales, a ‘certificate provider’ decides if you’re capable of making that choice. This can be someone you’ve known for two years or someone with relevant professional skills such as a doctor or a lawyer.

Why Lasting Power of Attorney Is Important?

Establishing an LPA is essential to ensuring you and your loved ones have their preferences honored in case you are no longer able to decide for yourself. You can’t just assume that a doctor will listen to your family’s opinion even if you don’t have an LPA.

While healthcare professionals often consult with a person’s ‘next of kin’, they are not obliged to act on their suggestions. This is because a next of kin doesn’t have any legally binding influence on decision making.

You can address the fact that your next of kin doesn’t have automatic control of your care by formally appointing an attorney in a health and welfare LPA. Making an LPA is the best way to ensure that your loved ones have the authority to legally act upon your wishes. Without it, their input could be dismissed which can lead to frustration for them as they are the ones most likely to speak for you as you would have spoken for yourself.

What To Do If Someone Has Already Lost Capacity?

If someone is unable to make decisions for themselves but did not set up an LPA in advance, you can apply to the Court of Protection to ensure their interests are in the right hands. The court will appoint a deputy, usually a family member or close friend, to make decisions for the person. There are personal deputies for both property and financial affairs, and health and welfare.

While filing for a deputy can put the decision making in the hands of a loved one, it can be a long and expensive process. We highly recommend that you set up an LPA before you lose capacity to ensure that a loved one is able to make important decisions on your behalf.

Summing Up

We know that thinking about the future can be stressful. We believe that everyone should be treated with respect, kindness and receive a personal service that meets their needs in a relaxed, un-rushed environment. Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors is here to help you prepare for the future and ensure your wishes are followed, which is why our expert legal team specializes in Lasting Power of Attorney, Wills, Probate and Conveyancing. Don’t wait for life to happen – Get in touch today to learn more about our LPA services and gain the peace of mind that your future is taken care of.

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors News

Equality and Diversity Policy

7th September 2017

Elizabeth Middleton Solicitors Equality and diversity policy

1.1 This document sets out our policy on equality and diversity.
1.2 We have introduced this policy as confirmation of our commitment to ensuring equality and diversity and to the prevention of discrimination.
1.3 We are particularly concerned that equality and diversity is maintained in the following areas:
1.3.1 in the workplace
1.3.2 when providing services to clients
1.3.3 in our dealings with third parties, eg barristers, experts and suppliers
1.4 This policy also explains how we will deal with complaints, the potential consequences of failure to comply, our monitoring procedures and training.
1.5 This policy does not form part of any employee’s contract of employment. We may amend it at any time and decide to follow a different procedure where we consider it appropriate.
1.6 If you are in any doubt or have any concerns about the application of this policy in any particular instance or situation, please consult the Elizabeth Middleton as soon as possible.

2 Statement of principle
2.1 Our statement of principle on equality and diversity is:
‘We are committed to a policy of treating all our employees, workers and job applicants equally. No employee or potential employee will receive less favourable treatment because of any “protected characteristic”, namely:
—age (or perceived age)
—disability (past or present)
—gender reassignment
—marriage or civil partnership status
—race, colour, nationality or ethnic or national origins
—religion or belief
—sexual orientation
—part-time or fixed term status
No employee or potential employee will be disadvantaged by any conditions of employment that cannot be justified as necessary on operational grounds.
We aim to encourage, value and manage diversity and are committed to equality for our entire staff. We wish to attain a workforce that is representative of the communities from which it is drawn.
These principles of equality and diversity also apply to the manner in which we treat clients, our business partners and visitors.’
2.2 Employees are expected to work with us towards these aims. In certain circumstances, an employee can be personally liable for discrimination against a fellow employee or a job applicant.
2.3 An equality policy statement will be sent to all staff displayed on our intranet and website. A copy of this policy is available from the COLP.
2.4 Other firm policies, such as those dealing with harassment and bullying, maternity, paternity, adoption, emergency time off for dependants and parental leave are set out in separate documents, copies of which are available from the COLP.

3 Application of this policy
3.1 The principles set out in this policy apply:
3.1.1 in the workplace
3.1.2 outside the workplace in a work-related context, such as on business trips, customer or supplier events or work-related social events

4 Who is responsible for equality and diversity?
4.1 We all have a part to play in promoting equality and diversity.
4.2 The Elizabeth Middleton is committed to achieving effective equality and diversity and will ensure adequate resources are available to meet equality and diversity needs.
4.3 The COLP is responsible for:
4.3.1 devising and developing this equality and diversity policy
4.3.2 monitoring and reviewing our equality and diversity arrangements
4.3.3 building a culture of equality and diversity awareness through training and education
4.3.4 providing assistance to individuals and/or teams who have responsibility for specific equality and diversity actions
4.3.5 reviewing issues on equality and diversity regularly
4.4 Special responsibility for the practical application of our equality policy falls on managers and supervisors involved in the recruitment, selection, appraisal, promotion, supervision and training of employees and the way their terms of employment are fixed.
4.5 All employees have personal responsibility for the practical application of the firm’s equality policy, which extends to the treatment of job applicants, employees (including former employees), clients and visitors. This is explained in more detail below.

5 Discrimination, victimisation and harassment
5.1 There should be no discrimination, whether direct or indirect, because of any of the protected characteristics set out in the firm’s Statement of principle on equality and diversity (see above).
5.2 The types of discrimination that are prohibited are:
5.2.1 direct discrimination
5.2.2 indirect discrimination
5.2.3 victimisation
5.2.4 harassment
5.3 Direct discrimination is treating someone less favourably because of a protected characteristic. An example of this is paying someone less because of their sex or because they belong to a particular racial group. ‘Because of’ is very wide and includes less favourable treatment based on a perception of another person, for example that the person is gay, or is disabled, whether or not this perception is correct and even if the perpetrator knows that his perception is, in fact, wrong. It also includes less favourable treatment because someone is associated with another person who has a protected characteristic.
5.4 Indirect discrimination is treating people in the same way but in a way which adversely affects those with a protected characteristic. An example of this is telling all employees that they have to work late at night—although applied to everyone, it will adversely affect those employees with childcare responsibilities and these tend to be women.
5.5 Victimisation is treating someone less favourably because they have asserted their right not to be discriminated against because of a protected characteristic. An example of this is an employee claiming they had been discriminated on the grounds of their disability and then their manager deciding when they left not to give them a reference because they had claimed disability discrimination.
5.6 Harassment is unwanted conduct, related to a protected characteristic, which has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for someone or violating their dignity. Harassment may also be of a sexual nature or may occur because someone has harassed the victim and the victim either rejects or submits to it and, because of that rejection or submission, that person treats the victim less favourably. More information on what can constitute harassment is available from the COLP.

6 Equality and diversity in the workplace
6.1 We will appoint, train, develop, reward and promote on the basis of merit and ability.
6.2 Recruitment and selection
6.2.1 The following principles will apply whenever recruitment or selection for positions takes place, whether externally or internally.
6.2.2 Individuals will be assessed according to their personal capability to carry out a given job.
6.2.3 Assumptions that only certain types of person will be able to perform certain types of work must not be made.
6.2.4 Any qualifications or requirements applied to a job which have or may have the effect of inhibiting applications from certain types of person will be retained only if they can be justified in terms of the job to be done.
6.2.5 Any age limits applied to a job will be retained only if they can be objectively justified in terms of the job to be done—in most cases this will not be the case and managers should consult the COLP if considering an age limit for a particular post.
6.2.6 The use of years of experience as a criteria for a particular role will need to be objectively justified.
6.2.7 Recruitment solely or primarily by word of mouth should be avoided as its effect is or may be to prevent certain types of person from applying.
6.2.8 Selection tests will be specifically related to job requirements and will measure the person’s actual or inherent ability to do or train for the work.
6.2.9 Selection tests will be reviewed regularly to ensure they remain relevant and free from any unjustifiable bias, either in content or in scoring mechanism.
6.2.10 Applications from different types of person will be processed in the same way and the same questions asked at interview.
6.2.11 Written records of interviews and reasons for appointment and non-appointment will be kept.
6.2.12 Questions at interview will relate to the requirements of the job.
6.2.13 Where any provision, criterion or practice for recruitment and selection puts disabled people at a substantial disadvantage due to a reason connected with their disability, reasonable adjustments will be made to eliminate or, if that is not reasonably practicable, reduce the disadvantage. This could, for example, be making different interview arrangements for an applicant with mobility problems or arranging for facilities for applicants with sight or hearing impairments.
6.2.14 Decisions regarding the method of recruitment or selection or who is recruited or selected will be made only by a person who has read and understood this policy.
6.3 Promotion, transfer and training
6.3.1 The following principles will apply to appointments for promotion, transfer and training.
6.3.2 Assessment criteria and appraisal schemes will be carefully examined to ensure they are not discriminatory, whether directly or indirectly.
6.3.3 Assessment criteria and appraisal schemes will be monitored on a regular basis and, where such criteria or schemes result in predominantly one group of workers gaining access to promotion, transfer or training or being awarded a particular appraisal grade, they will be checked to make sure this is not due to any hidden or indirect discrimination.
6.3.4 Promotion and career development patterns will be regularly monitored to ensure that access to promotion, training and career development opportunities is not denied to particular groups or types of workers.
6.3.5 Traditional qualifications and requirements for promotion, transfer and training, such as length of service, years of experience or age may discriminate against certain workers and will need to be objectively justified by reference to the job requirements.
6.3.6 Policies and practices regarding selection for training, day release and personal development will not normally result in an imbalance in training between groups of workers.
6.3.7 Where any provision, criterion or practice relating to promotion, appraisal, transfer or training puts disabled workers at a substantial disadvantage for a reason connected with their disability, reasonable adjustments will be made to eliminate or, if that is not reasonably practicable, reduce the disadvantage. For example, this could be making training available for a disabled worker in a different way, in a different location or at a different time.
6.4 Terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services
6.4.1 The following principles apply to terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services.
6.4.2 The terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services available to workers will be reviewed regularly to ensure that they are provided in a way which is free from unlawful discrimination.
6.4.3 Part-time workers will receive pay, benefits, facilities and services on a pro-rata basis to their full-time comparator unless otherwise objectively justified. Managers who are responsible for part-time workers should, in particular, take advice from the COLP when assessing pay including any bonuses and benefits for part-time workers.
6.4.4 Where any provision, criterion or practice relating to terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services puts disabled workers at a substantial disadvantage due to a reason connected with their disability, reasonable adjustments will be made to eliminate or, if that is not reasonably practicable, reduce the disadvantage. Managers who are responsible for part-time workers should, in particular, take advice from the COLP when assessing pay including any bonuses and benefits for disabled workers.
6.4.5 Pay and bonus criteria, policies and practices will be carefully examined and regularly monitored, and if it appears that any group of workers is disadvantaged by them they will be checked to make sure that this is not due to any hidden or indirect discrimination.
6.5 Grievances, disciplinary procedures, dismissals and redundancies
6.5.1 Workers who, in good faith, bring a grievance (or assist another to do so) either under this policy or otherwise in relation to an equality and diversity matter will not be disciplined or dismissed or otherwise suffer any adverse treatment for having done so.
6.5.2 No member of a particular group of workers will be disciplined or dismissed for performance or behaviour which would be overlooked or condoned in another group, unless there is genuine and lawful justification for different treatment.
6.5.3 Redundancy criteria and procedures will be carefully examined to ensure they are not applied and do not operate in an unlawfully discriminatory manner.
6.5.4 The provision of any voluntary redundancy benefits will be equally available to all workers unless there is a genuine and lawful justification for doing otherwise.

7 Disability policy
7.1 It is our policy that disabled people, including job applicants and employees, should be able to participate in all our activities fully, on an equal basis with people who are not disabled.
7.2 Due to the wide variety of potential disabilities and the likelihood of a disability affecting different people in different ways, it would be inappropriate to have rigid rules on how issues concerning disabled people should be dealt with. What is essential, however, is that all managers, supervisors and all staff with HR responsibilities take all reasonably practical steps to ensure that disabled people are not less favourably treated or disadvantaged by comparison to people who are not disabled in relation to their work or working environment or by any provision, criterion or practice used by the firm. Managers and supervisors need to be aware in particular that an employee on long-term sick leave or with intermittent sickness absence may be disabled.
7.3 We are particularly concerned that disabled workers are treated equally in the following areas:
7.3.1 recruitment and selection
7.3.2 promotion, transfer and training
7.3.3 terms of employment, benefits, facilities and services
7.3.4 dismissals, resignations and redundancies
7.4 For the purpose of this policy, disabilities are either physical or mental impairments that have a substantial and long-term effect upon a person’s ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities. Particular conditions such as HIV and some forms of cancer are covered from the point of diagnosis and do not have to already be long term. Please contact the COLP for further information about what is covered by normal day-to-day activities and the status of particular illnesses.
7.5 Some disabilities are immediately obvious, for example use of a wheelchair, while other disabilities may not be apparent at all, for example HIV infection. Certain conditions are not considered to be disabilities, for example poor eyesight that is corrected simply by wearing prescription spectacles, or addiction to alcohol or other substances. If you would like further information about whether a particular condition is a disability you should contact the COLP.
7.6 The general equality and diversity principles set out earlier in this policy will apply in relation to disabled people whether they currently have a disability or have had a disability in the past.
7.7 We will take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure that disabled people are able to participate in our business and activities on an equal basis with people who are not disabled.
7.8 We will not, for a reason relating to a person’s disability, treat disabled people less favourably than we treat, or would treat, others to whom the same reason does not or would not apply, unless that treatment would be justified.
7.9 If any provision, criterion or practice used by or on behalf of the firm, or any physical feature of premises occupied by the firm, puts disabled people at a substantial disadvantage compared to people who are not disabled, we will take such reasonably practicable steps as we can to prevent this disadvantage. This is known as the duty to make reasonable adjustments.
7.10 The following general steps should always be considered where issues concerning disabilities arise or may arise:
7.10.1 be flexible—there may be many different ways to avoid discrimination or to minimise the effects of discrimination; a small adjustment may be all an employee needs
7.10.2 consider any performance or attendance problems in the context of the person’s disability and its effect on their ability to meet performance and attendance targets
7.10.3 do not make assumptions—whenever possible talk to the disabled person to find out how their disability affects them and what steps they think might help
7.10.4 do not discipline or dismiss a disabled employee for performance or attendance-based reasons without first establishing whether the employee’s performance or attendance is affected by the disability and that appropriate adjustments to accommodate the disability have been made
7.10.5 seek expert advice—disability issues can be complex and we may need expert medical advice about a person’s disability, or expert technical advice about adjustments to technology or premises that might help the disabled person
7.10.6 think ahead—try to anticipate the effects that practices, policies and procedures may have on disabled people, even if there are no disabled employees at the time, to prevent problems occurring in the future

8 Complaints procedure
8.1 Our Grievance procedure is available to any employee who believes that they may have been unfairly discriminated against. Please contact the COLP for a copy of the Grievance procedure. The harassment complaints procedure set out in our harassment and bullying policy is also available to any employee who believes that they may have been harassed or bullied. Employees will not be victimised in any way for making such a complaint in good faith. Complaints of this nature will be dealt with promptly, fairly, openly, effectively, seriously, and in confidence.

9 Equality and diversity in our relations with clients
9.1 Any reference in this policy to clients includes current, past and potential clients.
9.2 We will treat our clients fairly and equally at all times.
9.3 We will not unlawfully discriminate against our clients.
9.4 We are generally free to decide whether to accept instructions from any particular client. Where we decide not to accept instructions, this will not be based on any protected characteristics.
9.5 We will take steps to ensure that we meet the diverse needs of our clients. Where necessary, we will devise procedures to deliver services that meet specific needs arising from clients’ ethnic or cultural background, gender, religion or belief, sexual orientation, disabilities, age or other relevant factors. We will do so only where this is permitted by the relevant anti-discrimination legislation.
9.6 We will take seriously any complaint of discrimination by or on behalf of a client and act promptly to investigate.
9.7 We will communicate this Equality and Diversity policy to clients via our Terms of Business and our website.

10 Equality and diversity in our dealings with third parties
10.1 We will not unlawfully discriminate in our dealings with third parties.
10.2 We will instruct barristers on the basis of their skills, experience and ability, taking into account factors such as specialist expertise and cost. We will not accept instructions from a client to select a barrister wholly or partly on the presence or absence of a protected characteristic. If necessary, we will cease to act. Where a client requests a specific barrister is instructed, we will discuss the suitability of the barrister with the client and advise appropriately. We will take the same approach when instructing other experts or third parties on the client’s behalf.
10.3 Any reference in this policy to our suppliers includes suppliers of goods and services to the firm or our clients, regardless of the geographical location of the supplier. It also includes any outsourcing providers and other third parties involved in the provision of goods or services to the firm or our clients.
10.4 Our suppliers will be selected solely on the basis of their suitability. We will not unlawfully discriminate when selecting suppliers.
10.5 We will take seriously any complaint of discrimination by or on behalf of a third party and act promptly to investigate.

11 Failure to comply
11.1 All staff must be aware of and adhere to this policy. You may be liable to disciplinary action if you fail to comply with its provisions or related policies and procedures.
11.2 Disciplinary action will be taken against any employee who is found to have committed an act of unlawful discrimination. Serious breaches of this policy and serious incidents of harassment and bullying will be treated as gross misconduct. Unwarranted allegations that are not made in good faith may also be considered as a disciplinary matter.

12 Monitoring and review
12.1 The COLP is responsible for this policy.
12.2 We regularly monitor the effectiveness of this policy to ensure it is working in practice and we will review and update this policy as and when necessary, at least annually.
12.3 Our monitoring will include ongoing checks and analysis in the following areas:
12.3.1 recruitment and promotion
12.3.2 pay and remuneration
12.3.3 training
12.3.4 appraisals
12.3.5 grievances
12.3.6 disciplinary action
12.3.7 dismissals and other reasons for leaving
12.3.8 any client complaints
12.4 We also collect data each year about the diversity of our workforce. We do this for several reasons:
12.4.1 it is good practice to monitor the diversity of our employees, in terms of age, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity and disability
12.4.2 all law firms are required by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to collect, report (to the SRA) and publish diversity data
12.4.3 we are interested in your opinions as to whether we can do more to build an inclusive culture that works for everybody—this helps us make sure activities and future plans represent the interests of everyone in the firm
12.5 The procedure for collecting, reporting and publishing our diversity data may vary from time to time and we will notify staff of the relevant procedure at the start of each annual data collection exercise
12.6 As part of our monitoring programme, we may record equality and diversity information about staff and partners on the basis of age, gender, ethnicity and disability.
12.7 We may also monitor the sexual orientation, religion or belief of staff and partners. We will do so only where this will not cause offence or discomfort to staff and partners.
12.8 We will store equality and diversity data about staff and partners as confidential sensitive personal data. This data will be used exclusively for the purpose of monitoring equality and diversity. We will restrict access to this data.
12.9 We will take action if our monitoring reveals:
12.9.1 breaches of this policy, or
12.9.2 barriers to equal opportunities
12.10 We will review this policy regularly—at least annually. We will provide information and/or training on any changes we make.

13 Training
13.1 We will ensure that all managers and supervisors with responsibility for managing staff, supervising client matters and dealing with third parties are provided with the appropriate equality and diversity training.
13.2 All staff will receive appropriate training on our equality and diversity policy including:
13.2.1 regular training for existing staff
13.2.2 training for new staff at induction
13.2.3 updates following any changes to the policy that affect staff
13.3 Up-to-date literature on equality and diversity is available from the COLP.

Reviewed on 7 September 2017