Trainee Blog: 10 years since the Equality Act 2010 – Inclusivity within Michelmores
Since the Equality Act 2010 was passed ten years ago, workplaces are obliged to ensure that they do not discriminate against certain characteristics. For most people, workplace culture and inclusivity has a massive influence on whether it is a place in which they would like to work.
As is well-known, the media continues to highlight various equality issues within the workplace. Some examples of this include:
- the ongoing disparity between pay of men and women, particularly in law. The gender pay gap is hugely criticised and a continuing issue in many sectors;
recent reports show that, within the FTSE 100 companies, there are more Chief Executive Officers called "Steve" than there are Chief Executive Offices from ethnic minority backgrounds; and
research done by the Chambers Student Guide showed that, on average, in 2018, approximately 27% of partners at law firms were female and only 9% were of an ethnic minority.
Inclusivity at Michelmores
Given the importance to many training contract applicants of a firm's culture, I wanted to highlight a handful of the many things that trainees benefit from at Michelmores, which help to ensure that we are working in a supportive and inclusive environment. I started my training contract 18 months ago and, during this time, have observed and benefitted from a number of practices that Michelmores implement and offer to promote diversity and inclusivity.
Michelmores run Lean-In meetings on a monthly basis. These are informal sessions organised by women who work within the firm and are open for all female employees to attend. Each session is arranged around a different topic, for example, the confidence gap, with a view to providing an environment where attendees can support each other and learn new skills. This year, the trainees have started to run their own separate Lean-In sessions, for women on their training contract. These sessions give a safe and relaxed environment to discuss perceived barriers and how we can overcome them.
Women @Michelmores Campaign
In 2016, the firm launched the Women @Michelmores campaign, with the aim of achieving true gender balance across the business. The campaign was launched in response to the recognition that a shift was needed in the number of women in law, and also the number of women at partnership level. By 2022, Michelmores has a target to increase the number of female partners to 30%.
Michelmores have signed up to the Mindful Business Charter, which commits it signatories to help change working practices which cause mental health and wellbeing issues for employees. In addition, to support a proactive approach to mental wellbeing, Michelmores have partnered with Headspace, a mindfulness App. All employees, including trainees, are able to sign up to this app for free. In addition, all employees can attend in-house yoga sessions once per week and attend the in-house gym.
Trainee Liaison Officers
There are qualified lawyers, who trained at the firm, that have taken on the role of Trainee Liaison Officers. These are designated contacts for trainees to contact for confidential chats about anything such as the seat rotation process, qualification, workload and any other queries. The Trainee Liaison Officers will agree to pass on information anonymously to HR or the Training Principal if this is requested.
The Trainee Liaison Officers run MiVoice sessions. At these meetings, trainees can anonymously raise concerns about anything that they do not wish to raise directly. Again, concerns can be progressed by the Trainee Liaison team to the relevant people.
These types of mechanisms continue to apply to staff at Michelmores throughout their careers after qualification and ensure an inclusive and positive working atmosphere.