Requirements on firms to collect workforce diversity data
Updated 29 April 2013
Approach and arrangements for 2013
In 2011, the Legal Services Board (LSB) published their decision paper on increasing diversity and social mobility in the legal workforce. This requires approved regulators, such as the SRA, to ensure that a comprehensive evidence base about the diversity characteristics of the legal workforce is available.
As a result, firms regulated by the SRA are required to collect, report and publish workforce diversity data about the diversity make-up of their workforce. The SRA has adopted the diversity monitoring categories as set out in the LSB model questionnaire.
In collecting this data, firms are required to give every individual in their workforce an opportunity to self-classify against a range of diversity characteristics. The aggregated workforce data must be reported to the SRA, broken down by the specified role categories and a summary of that data published by the firm.
The time table for 2013 is as follows:
- Firms are advised to start planning their diversity data collection now;
- The facility for online reporting will open in the Summer 2013 and will remain open for firms to comply with their annual reporting requirements;
- Firms must report their data online to the SRA by 31 January 2014;
- The SRA will take a snapshot of the aggregated data in February 2014.
A new approach for 2013
In 2012, when these requirements were first introduced, the SRA provided firms with an online survey which they were asked to circulate to their workforce and individual responses across all regulated firms were collated by the SRA.
The arrangements for collecting and reporting workforce diversity data from firms will be different in 2013. The main changes are:
- The SRA is not offering an online survey in 2013, firms must make their own arrangements to collect their own workforce data.
- There are minor changes to the diversity questions we will be using in 2013 but it they will remain closely aligned to the LSB's model questionnaire.
- Firm will be required to report their aggregated workforce data to the SRA.
- Firms will be required to publish a summary of their workforce diversity data, for example on their website.
Which firms are covered by the requirement to collect workforce diversity data?
The requirement applies to all firms regulated by the SRA, including sole practices, recognised bodies and alternative business structures.
However, only one set of data is needed to cover firms which are "linked" to each other, for example, a firm and its corporate partners, a firm and its trustee companies or nominee companies and a firm's head office and its branches. Even though all such entities are regulated by the SRA and are covered by the requirement to collect workforce diversity data we do not need to collect, report and publish a separate set of data for each firm individually where they are linked.
The main regulated firm should be identified (perhaps the main head office) and the response for that firm and all other linked firms should come as one submission from that global practice. Accordingly, directors, owners, and staff of the linked firms should be included with the submission of the main regulated firm. If firms have any questions about how to proceed, they should email the SRA at email@example.com.
The requirements do not apply to regulated individuals working for in-house practices or other bodies not currently regulated by the SRA.
What are firms required to do?
Firms regulated by the SRA are required to collect, report and publish workforce diversity data annually.
The responsibility for making arrangements to collect, report and publish this data lies with firms.
What data needs to be collected?
The SRA has published guidance for firms in compiling the diversity questionnaire which sets out the data that firms will need to collect.
The SRA will only be able to accept the data from firms in a format which is consistent with the diversity questionnaire. However, firms may wish to add further guidance for their staff in the questionnaire and may wish to collect additional data from their workforce for their own use. A Word version of the diversity questionnaire (DOC 5 pages, 26K) is available for firms to adapt for their own use.
For each of the questions in the diversity questionnaire, there are categories for individuals to select and each question has a 'prefer not to say' option. It is for each individual to classify themselves using these categories, and a firm must not attempt to complete the questionnaire on behalf of an individual within its workforce.
Although they must be given an opportunity to provide their diversity data, individuals cannot be compelled to complete the questionnaire or provide their diversity data.
As this process will involve firms collecting and processing sensitive personal data firms will need to think about how to protect that data. The firm's arrangements will need to provide for reporting the aggregated data to the SRA. For information about data protection requirements please see the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) website.
We have published a Diversity data publication framework, about the requirement on firms to publish a summary of their workforce diversity data. The responsibility for compliance with the data protection legislation remains with the firm and firms will need to think carefully about this at the outset, not just at the point of publication.
Who should be included in the firm's diversity data collection?
|Solicitor (sole practitioner, partner, member or director)
||Authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) - including sole practitioners, partners, members or directors
||Authorised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) - all other solicitors including assistant solicitors, associates or consultants.
|Other fee earning role
||Not an authorised person eg trainee solicitors, legal executives who are not chartered or a fellow and paralegals but excluding managerial roles.
|Role directly supporting a fee earner
||Not an authorised person (eg legal secretaries, administrators, legal assistants, or non fee earning paralegals)
||Not an authorised person (eg non lawyer managers, directors, practice managers)
|IT/ HR/ other corporate services role
||Not an authorised person and not individuals in a managerial role - includes finance or accountancy roles
||Authorised by the Bar Standards Board
|Chartered Legal Executive/ Legal Executive (Fellow)
||Authorised by the ILEX Professional Standards Board
||Authorised by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers
|Patent or Trade Mark Attorney
||Authorised by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board
||Authorised by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board
||Authorised by the Master of the Faculties
|Prefer not to say
What needs to be reported to the SRA, when and how?
The SRA is making arrangements to facilitate the reporting of the aggregated workforce diversity data to the SRA and precise details will be provided later in the year. The arrangements will involve firms inputting the aggregated data online. We will be publishing further details about the reporting arrangements in the summer.
When reporting the data to the SRA, it will need to be broken down by the role categories set out above.
Firms will be required to ensure that they have reported their aggregated diversity data online to the SRA by 31 January 2014 and should have arrangements in place to collect the data from everyone at the firm in good time to meet the reporting deadline.
What do firms have to publish and how?
In addition to reporting the data to the SRA, firms are required to publish a summary of their workforce diversity data. The diversity categories of sexual orientation and religion or belief are exempt from the publication requirement, but must still be collected by the firm and reported to the SRA.
The responsibility for publishing this data rests with the firms and the firms themselves must ensure that they are compliant with the data protection legislation. The publication requirement does not override the data protection legislation and firms must ensure that they comply with the data protection principles and do not publish data that may identify individuals within their firm.
The SRA's Diversity data publication framework has been published.
Why have these requirements been imposed on firms?
These requirements stem from the Legal Services Board's transparency project which requires approved regulators, such as the SRA, to ensure that the firms we regulate are collecting workforce diversity data. This is for the purpose of meeting the regulatory objectives in the Legal Services Act 2007, in particular 'encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession'.
The SRA has imposed these requirements on regulated firms in order to comply with the LSB's expectations of us as an approved regulator. However, the requirements are consistent with Principle 9 from the Handbook which requires firms to 'encourage equality of opportunity and respect for diversity' and the outcomes in Chapter 2 of the Code of Conduct. Workforce diversity monitoring is one of the indicative behaviours set out in Chapter 2.
The data will provide an aggregate view of the diversity make-up across the solicitors profession and ultimately across the whole legal services sector so we can track key trends. All the approved regulators are required therefore, to use the standard diversity questionnaire set by the LSB and are required to publish a report of aggregated diversity data for their respective regulated populations.
The requirements will also promote transparency about workforce diversity at a firm level and this will provide an evidence base and an incentive on firms to take appropriate action to improve diversity and will make diversity information available to consumers, which they can use in making their choice of law firm. The 2012 report is available to download - Diversity in the legal profession, PDF 20 pages, 1MB); for the full data set, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do these requirements fit with the SRA's outcomes-focused approach?
Although this is a specific requirement which has been imposed on the SRA and firms by the LSB, we support the policy which is consistent with our risk-based outcomes-focused approach to regulation.
Having diversity data is a fundamental prerequisite to understanding how patterns of inequality and disadvantage can occur for some groups in all sectors of society. The aggregated data for solicitors firms will help the SRA understand the dynamics of diversity within the profession.
Most firms will find the data useful, for example to monitor their recruitment policy, or measure the impact of workplace policies and it provides an evidential basis to demonstrate delivery of the equality and diversity outcomes in chapter 2 of the SRA Code of Conduct. It makes good business sense for firms to access all the talent available in the marketplace and a diverse firm will be well equipped to access and serve a diverse community.
Questions & Answers
Q1. What changes have been made to the diversity questionnaire for 2013?
There are a few minor changes to the diversity questionnaire this year, and most of these changes have been made to more closely align the questions to the Legal Services Board's model questionnaire:
- there is no question asking about the type of disability an individual may have,
- we are not asking about workplace reasonable adjustments for disabled people,
- we have no longer included a separate category for atheist in the religion or belief section, this is now included in the 'no religion or belief' category, and
- there is no longer an option to select 'grammar school' in the question about your education.
Q2. What will the SRA do if a firm does not comply with the process?
As this is a regulatory requirement we expect every firm regulated by the SRA to comply. We have written to every firm which did not respond to the diversity survey in 2012, although we are not planning to take any formal action as 2012 was the first year. However, we will follow up non-compliance in 2013 in the normal way.
Q3. What happens if an individual at a firm refuses to respond to the diversity questionnaire?
Firms must give everyone at the firm an opportunity to complete the questionnaire but individuals are not under any legal or regulatory obligation to complete the questionnaire or provide their diversity data. However, we do expect firms to encourage their staff to complete the questionnaire by explaining the purpose of the exercise and giving them appropriate assurances about confidentiality. If individuals have concerns about one or more questions within the diversity questionnaire they will be able to select "prefer not to say" for these questions.
Q4. How can we justify asking individuals about their religion or belief or their sexual orientation?
We understand that some people do not wish to provide information about their religion or belief or sexual orientation and may regard these questions as intrusive. The information is requested alongside all other diversity categories, to help firms identify and remove any hidden barriers or discrimination which might be affecting people and promote equality across all groups. Firms are required to keep this sensitive data confidential and will be able to advise individuals how their data will be used. Stonewall provides excellent guidance for employers, download their workplace guide 'Using Monitoring data. Making the most of sexual orientation data collection'.
Q5. Was the profession consulted about these requirements?
The Legal Services Board did consult widely and also engaged with the profession about the proposals. Information about the consultation process is published on the LSB's website (see Closed consultations - Legal Services Board) under the title "15 December - Increasing diversity in the workforce".
Q6. How will this process benefit our firm?
Diversity monitoring can benefit your firm in many ways and this has been recognised by many firms leading the way in this area. Signatories to the Law Society's Diversity and Inclusion Charter have all recognised the real benefits that monitoring can bring and have committed to diversity monitoring for their firms. You can read more about the Diversity and Inclusion Charter, the flagship diversity initiative of the legal profession, on the Law Society's website, but a few of the benefits of diversity monitoring identified by firms are set out below:
- it helps us to identify which policies and practices are effective and direct our resources to where they will have most impact;
- it enables us to identify where barriers exist that prevent the best use of all available talent;
- it can help to prevent costly discrimination claims by identifying possible problems early;
- it can help us to win business by evidencing our performance;
- it helps us to strengthen our reputation.
Q7. Where can I get more advice about equality and diversity?
The SRA may update this Q&A document, so please check this page regularly for updates.
Please use www.sra.org.uk/diversitydata to link to this page.