Proposals by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to change its rules on health and wellbeing at work are not supported by evidence, the Law Society of England and Wales said today.
The SRA consultation aims to clarify regulatory requirements for lawyers and firms in the areas of health and fitness to practice and the appropriate treatment of co-workers. The SRA proposes to introduce new regulatory powers in these areas.
“We share the SRA’s desire to support a healthy profession where everyone enjoys respect and dignity. However, we oppose the need to introduce additional regulation to achieve this,” said Law Society President I. Stephanie Boyce.
“The current principles of the SRA cover the duty of lawyers to act with integrity; maintaining public confidence in the profession; and encouraging equality, diversity and inclusion.
“We do not believe that the SRA has provided sufficient evidence to justify the introduction of additional regulatory requirements.
“We would like to see more guidance and communications to highlight good practice, particularly around speaking up and challenging behaviors in the workplace. This advice should be sensitive to the difficulty for some people to express themselves, such as young employees or members of a minority.
“We oppose these proposals dealing with health issues that could affect the way a lawyer provides services to their clients. They are unclear, lack transparency and run a high risk of being used in a way wider than that covered by the consultation – suggesting that they would be used primarily with an individual’s ability to engage in application processes.
“The proposed new rules could require lawyers to submit conditions to their certificates of practice at any time, they could be required to provide confidential medical information, and this could have a ripple effect on employers’ attitudes towards the people concerned.
“Given these risks, the SRA should have a strong body of evidence to introduce this proposal, which it does not.
“The Law Society’s offer to work with the SRA on this issue stands. Lawyers engaged in regulatory work have a thorough knowledge of the issues raised by the SRA and the Disabled Lawyers Division should be involved in any proposal that may affect their members.
Notes to Editors
Read the full response to the Bar’s consultation
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