Code of Practice
Chapter 8: A notary shall operate his notarial practice in such a way as to provide equality of opportunity and respect for diversity
As a matter of general law notaries must comply with equality legislation. Equality legislation is relevant in a number of ways to the carrying out of notarial activities and in particular a notary should ensure in particular that notarial services are available to clients with disabilities, and that persons with a protected characteristic are not discriminated against, actively or passively.
Equality of opportunity is of greatest relevance to employment procedures within notarial firms. When advertising a position within a notarial firm and when assessing applicants, all applicants must be given an equal opportunity and not be discriminated against due to age, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other protected characteristic.
Respect for diversity means treating everyone equally but also recognising that an individual may have particular beliefs that must be respected, or have made particular life choices that are relevant to that individual’s legal status. Notaries are routinely asked to verify and state clients’ personal data in notarial acts and these details may include information relating to a protected characteristic and/or sensitive personal data. When administering oaths, notaries may have to consider and cater for clients’ religious beliefs. This should be done with respect and sensitivity, in accordance with equality legislation and, where appropriate, with data protection legislation (see also Chapter 6 – Legal and Regulatory Obligations and Chapter 14 – Data Protection).
This Principle also relates to the protection that must be given to vulnerable clients. A client’s vulnerability may derive from a range of characteristics, including, by way of example only, basic literacy and numeracy skills, disability or other impairment such as dyslexia, mental health issues, distress or sudden change in circumstances such as bereavement, divorce, illness or loss of employment. Further indicators of vulnerability may be low income, age, caring responsibilities, balance of power, lack of competition and or choice, or inexperience or lack of knowledge of a particular subject. For the notarial profession in particular limited ability in the use of English or the language in which the particular document or matter to be authenticated by a notary is written is an indicator of vulnerability. Vulnerability can only be assessed on a case-by-case basis and may be relative to the complexity and nature of the proposed matter and/or the particular document or procedure to be authenticated by a notary.
- You treat everyone fairly and without prejudice.
- Your notarial services are accessible and responsive to the needs of clients and individuals representing clients.
- You assess indicators of vulnerability on a case-by-case basis and put in place systems to ensure the protection of vulnerable clients and vulnerable persons.
- You encourage equality of opportunity and respect for diversity, and prevent unlawful discrimination within your practice, and in your relationships with your clients and others.
- You are guided by the values of treating colleagues, clients, and all persons with whom you may deal, fairly and with respect, and you challenge inappropriate behaviour and processes.
- No client, individual representing a client, colleague, employee, job applicant, trainee, secondee or other person you deal is discriminated against (whether directly or indirectly), victimised, or harassed.
- You ensure that your practice or your role within it, your business model, processes and practices adequately assist consumers and clients to access notarial services and the full range of legal services provided by notaries.
- You make reasonable adjustments to ensure that disabled colleagues, employees and clients are not placed at a substantial disadvantage compared to those who are not disabled.
- Your approach to recruitment and employment encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity.
- Complaints of discrimination are dealt with promptly, fairly, openly, and effectively.
- You make appropriate adjustments to the manner in which you provide notarial services without passing on the costs to disabled employees or clients.
- You consider having a written equality and diversity policy which is appropriate to the size and nature of your notarial practice and which may include the following features:
- a commitment to the principles of equality and diversity and legislative requirements;
- a requirement that all employees comply with the outcomes;
- provisions to encompass your recruitment and interview processes;
- details of how the practice will implement, monitor, evaluate and update the policy;
- details of how the notarial practice will ensure equality in relation to the treatment of employees, managers, clients and third parties instructed in connection with client matters;
- details of how complaints and disciplinary issues are to be dealt with;
- details of the practice’s arrangements for workforce diversity monitoring; and
- details of how the practice will communicate the policy to employees and clients;
- You provide employees with training and information about they may comply with equality and diversity requirements.
- You monitor and respond to issues identified by any policy that you adopt and review and update any such policy from time to time as appropriate.
- You discriminate against a person or group of persons with a protected characteristic by targeting a particular gender or age group when recruiting staff.
- You disregard allegations made by clients or staff of discrimination or bullying.
- You fail to provide services to clients in a way that respects diversity, for example by not providing sensitively and pragmatically for the different religious beliefs of clients when administering oaths.
- Your office is inaccessible to clients in wheelchairs and you fail to adapt the access to your office or make suitable alternative arrangements to see clients.