SRA issues first fixed penalty fine for diversity data failure

Diversity: Firm required to provide workforce data

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has handed out the first fixed penalty fine for a law firm’s failure to submit its workforce diversity data within the deadline.

Leicester firm HG Legal has been fined £750, with costs of £150, for failing to comply with the SRA’s request, made under paragraph 1.5 of its code of conduct for firms, which requires them to “monitor, report and publish workforce diversity data, as prescribed”.

Firms are required to respond to SRA requests like this under paragraph 3.3(a) of the code. HG Legal has now done so.

Fixed penalties form part of the SRA’s new fining powers introduced in 2022 and are published on the SRA website. They are being piloted with a small number of lower-level breaches breaches by firms; in November, three firms that failed to comply with the transparency rules became the first to receive fixed £750 fines under the regime.

As well as the transparency rules and failing to provide information or documentation requested or required by the SRA – a declaration of compliance with anti-money laundering requirements is another example – failing to ensure approval of role holders like compliance officers can also lead to a fixed penalty.

A second offence within three years leads to a £1,500 fine.

The SRA is set to consult this year on fixed penalties for minor anti-money laundering system and control failings, although the amount of the fine could be higher.

The regulator published its biennial collection of the profession’s diversity data last month, reporting on a “slow but steady increase in diversity among all lawyers”, but especially among smaller law firms.

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