Travers to promote firm-wide diversity week in wake of pregnancy discrimination ruling

Travers Smith will review its training contract programme and invite all partners and staff to take part in its first Diversity Week in the autumn in the wake of an Employment Tribunal ruling against the firm.

Andrew Lilley
Andrew Lilley

The tribunal dismissed all but one of former trainee Katie Tantum’s unfair dismissal claims and pregnancy discrimination against Travers earlier this month (17 May 2013).

The court, however, found that Tantum had not secured a permanent position in the real estate practice because her pregnancy had prompted the department head, Julian Bass, to reduce the number of seats available from two to one.

Travers was told by the tribunal that partners and senior staff should participate in diversity training and that this should be monitored by the firm.

Managing partner Andrew Lilley insisted that Travers remained “utterly” committed to promoting diversity at the firm.

“Our rolling programme includes training for existing and new partners, and senior non-legal staff,” he said. “We involve associates and trainees in developing our diversity plans and this will continue.

“We already had a number of new initiatives in the pipeline, co-ordinated by the firm’s diversity partner, Siân Keall.

“Examples include a “Diversity Week”, which will take place in the autumn, and a training programme on unconscious bias in the workplace, which will be conducted by specialist consultants.”

Lilley added that Travers would reviews its training contract programme in light of the ruling after the tribunal said it needed to be a transparent process with feedback for deciding which trainees get positions.

The tribunal dismissed Tantum’s discrimination claims regarding permanent jobs in the corporate and tax teams and a 12-month contract in litigation, as well as four unfair dismissal claims.

There will be no challenge to the ruling despite Lilley reiterating that the firm remained “very surprised and disappointed by it”.

He said: “Discrimination cases are, though, notoriously difficult to appeal, because they involve findings of fact based on the balance of probabilities. Of course we would want to appeal but there is no realistic option for us to do so.

“Regardless of the outcome, however, we regret that one of our former trainees was left unhappy with her experience at the firm – and we will be considering carefully the tribunal’s decision, and in particular its recommendations, to see whether any improvements can be made.”