News releases

Equality and diversity: Progress made, more to do

Equality and diversity remains a strategic priority for the SRA, the authority's Board was told when it received the second annual equality and diversity progress report at its meeting on 4 July.

Members heard of the significant progress made to embed the principles of equality and diversity into the work of the regulator, and noted the further work that is needed. The equality and diversity progress report for 2011 looked at what the SRA has done to ensure it is fair and proportionate when dealing with the profession, consumers and its own staff.

The progress report looked specifically at achievements against the SRA's three priorities, which are

  • embedding equality in the rules and processes introduced to bring about the move to outcomes-focused regulation and organisational transformation,
  • monitoring the impact on equality of our outcomes-focused approach and the introduction of alternative business structures, and
  • continuing to focus on equality issues identified in relation to regulatory work, such as the disproportionate regulatory outcomes for black and minority ethnic (BME) solicitors.

Mehrunnisa Lalani, Director for Inclusion, said: "The annual report demonstrates our commitment to diversity and inclusion issues. There has been significant progress made in delivering against our priorities, but we are not complacent and we know we need to do more to address certain issues.

"Our work in equality and diversity cannot be about ticking a box, it must be about continuous review and improvement. And key to this is our close engagement with diversity practitioner groups and consumers."

There are three key factors for the SRA to focus on in taking forward its equality and diversity work.

These are

  • having adequate data and information to show that decisions are fair and proportionate under outcomes-focused regulation,
  • finding ways to address the issue of disproportionality, which remains a key concern and has resulted in criticism of the organisation, and
  • being more creative in improving the diversity profile of the workforce and becoming an employer of choice to meet targets on workforce diversity.

The most recent diversity monitoring figures for 2011 show similar patterns for key areas of regulatory decision making as demonstrated within the progress report. The figures, published each year by the SRA, include regulatory outcomes for BME solicitors, and also a breakdown by gender, age and disability.

The latest figures show there still appears to be some disproportionality in the number of BME solicitors being intervened into. However, 2011 saw a reduction in the proportion of interventions involving BME solicitors from 38 per cent in 2010 to 30 per cent in 2011, a reduction from 25 individuals in 2010 to 20 in 2011.

There was an increase in the number of referrals to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal overall (311 in 2010 to 390 in 2011). BME solicitors made up 27 per cent of the solicitors referred to the SRA for conduct and other regulatory matters but accounted for 35 per cent of the SDT referrals, an increase of four per cent.

Although there were far fewer solicitors who had conditions on the practising certificates this year (459 compared to 684), 34 per cent involved BME solicitors, up five per cent. There is an over representation of BME solicitors reported to the SRA which means there will inevitably be some over representation in the outcomes of regulatory activity.

The figures for 2011 and previous years are available here:

Diversity monitoring

The SRA's Board report from July 4 is available here:

Download the board paper (PDF 23 pages, 243K)

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