The SRA has issued updated guidance on 4th May 2023. This is in response to continued reports of an unsupportive, bullying or toxic working environment and culture in some firms it regulates.
The guidance is for all individuals and firms the SRA regulates, including managers and other individuals involved in senior leadership within law firms and other organisations delivering legal services.
The purpose is to explains the SRA's approach where they consider that individuals and firms have failed to take appropriate steps to look after colleagues' wellbeing. It sets out the main standards that apply to solicitors, and to law firms and those responsible for their culture and the systems in place within them.
It is the responsibility of senior management to do everything they reasonably can to look after the wellbeing of those who work in and with the firm. It seems pretty clear that the SRA will refer to these rules when considering the conduct of a firm.
Here is a link to the Guidance.
The SRA write about enforcement:
"We are likely to take action against an individual where, for example, there is evidence of:
- Behaviours which intentionally undermine, bully or harass a colleague, or which are discriminatory.
- Repeated or blatant unfair treatment of colleagues which leads to culture, practices or actions which are unethical or against the interests of clients.
- Intentionally placing pressure on a person to act improperly, or victimising them for acting properly.
- A manager repeatedly failing to challenge or address any such behaviour in a prompt or effective way.
We are likely to take action against a firm where, for example, there is evidence of:
- A pattern of the abuse of authority by senior staff that has been left unchecked by the firm
- A complaint of discrimination, victimisation or harassment not dealt with by the firm in a prompt and fair manner
- Complaints of bullying raised with the firm over a period of time involving a number of staff and inadequate action taken by the firm as a result. Or evidence that the incidents had not been brought to light sooner because of the firm's culture and/or inadequate reporting and disciplinary procedures
- A history of the firm's managers failing to challenge the unfair treatment of staff in a reasonably prompt or effective way
- A firm pressurising staff to withdraw their complaints
- Ineffective systems and controls, including failure to supervise or support staff leading to serious competence or performance issues or delivery failures
- The imposition of wholly unreasonable workloads or targets."