The Law Society has encouraged firms to improve the way they recruit and retain disabled solicitors, arguing that disability has been sidelined in the profession's diversity efforts.
In guidance published in partnership with Cardiff University, the Law Society says there is ‘clear evidence that disability has been largely overlooked when it comes to improving diversity and inclusion’ and that practices have prioritised other forms of discrimination.
The guidance focuses on reasonable adjustments for employers to improve their treatment of disabled staff. Suggestions include a reasonable adjustment ‘passport’ which would set out employee’s needs; physical adaptions such as ergonomic chairs and sound-proofed rooms; changes to the office layout; flexible working arrangements; and reductions in billable hours targets.
Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce said: ‘The aim is to improve awareness of the legal requirement and to give practical ideas on how best to implement adjustments, challenging assumptions on what is possible.
‘Many of these adjustments are simple and cheap to implement. Changing the office layout and positioning, providing a suitcase for files, the option for flexible or hybrid working and adjusting roles within teams can go a long way in making disabled colleagues feel comfortable and able to function at their best at work.’
Last year, a study by Cardiff Business School said that ‘radical intervention’ is needed to tackle the bullying and discrimination disabled lawyers face.
Over half of disabled solicitors and paralegals surveyed for the business school’s ‘Legally Disabled?’ report believed their career and promotion prospects were inferior to those of their non-disabled colleagues. Meanwhile 60% said they had experienced ill-treatment at work, with the majority believing this was related to disability.
Some 46 firms and organisations, including a host of City firms, the Crown Prosecution Service and the Government Legal Department, contributed to today’s guidance. ‘Most admit that disability has often not been prioritised as much as some other aspects of D&I, but this is changing, and more are becoming eager to take action,’ Boyce said.