Law Society calls in Equality Commission to bring indemnity insurers into line

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By Legal Futures

24 September 2010

Lloyds of London: insurance industry under scrutiny over discrimination

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is to host a meeting between the Law Society, black and minority ethnic (BME) solicitors, and professional indemnity insurers in a bid to agree a plan of action to improve insurers’ equality practices. 

The EHRC was called in after the Law Society judged the Association of British Insurers’ (ABI) response to examples of alleged discrimination in the 2009 renewal process to be “wholly inadequate”. It said the ABI chose to “justify the market approach as sufficient to disregard any disproportionate impact on BME solicitors” 

A report going to the society’s management board next week reveals that Chancery Lane has also reviewed the way insurers assess risk. It has passed to the ABI legal advice that highlights five areas of underwriting criteria which may result in discrimination: turnover, name, geographical location, type of work and size of firm. 

The EHRC has been provided with all the case studies and correspondence passing between the Law Society and ABI. The report adds: “We have been keeping [the EHRC] up to date on the progress being made to address concerns with the ABI and ensure that the 2010 renewal process is fair and transparent. The EHRC will review whether or not to take any further action dependent on the outcome of our work to ensure the 2010 renewal process is free of any potential to (sic) unlawful discrimination.” 

The work is all part of an action plan that the Law Society put in place after complaints of discrimination that came out of the 2009 renewal (see story) and it has been working with the society’s BME forum. Among these is a new clause in the qualifying insurer’s agreement that obliges the insurer to confirm they will comply with equality and diversity legislation. 

“We will be monitoring the 2010 renewal process carefully through the PII Helpline and we will raise concerns with insurers while the process is ongoing,” the report added. Solicitors who complain to the society that they are being discriminated against are being asked to complete a questionnaire “which will help us to understand their situation and take appropriate action”. 

The helpline number is 020 7320 9545.

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