The Law Society of England and Wales has warned that proposals put forward by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) to tackle bullying behaviour risk silencing those being bullied.
According to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales, the organisation was responding to the SRA’s consultation on proposed changes to health and wellbeing rules.
The society said that it supported the “overarching principles” of treating people fairly at work, and promoting a culture where concerns and complaints could be raised and dealt with.
It warned, however, that the regulator had been too hasty in proposing a regulatory requirement to challenge bullying, harassment, or discrimination.
The body said that the SRA had failed to fully consider the effect of the requirement.
“Someone who has been subjected to bullying or harassment is likely to feel isolated, vulnerable and undermined, making it difficult for them to challenge behaviour, especially if they are in a minority or position of vulnerability in the workplace,” the solicitors’ organisation stated,
It suggested that the SRA instead look at measures that had been shown to work elsewhere, such as ‘speak-up guardians’, and confidential reporting mechanisms.
The society questioned the need to add to the codes of conduct an explicit requirement to treat people fairly at work, as this was already covered by SRA principles.
“Much of what is being proposed is already covered by firms’ HR policies, and in some cases by employment law and equality legislation,” it added.
On whether the new obligations should apply to behaviour outside of the workplace, the society said the SRA should set out good practice examples if it was worried. It added that the regulator had also failed to adequately outline its approach for enforcing the new requirements.
The body added that the proposals “run the risk of overstepping the SRA’s regulatory duties under the Legal Services Act 2007”.
It called on the SRA to encourage good practice and engage with the profession to identify specific gaps, and the most suitable way to address them.