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Diversity data collection

Issued on 1 July 2013

Update

Updated August 2014

Arrangements for 2014/15

We will be announcing the reporting deadline for the 2014/15 diversity data in October 2014. We are working on a few improvements to the organisation diversity data pages on mySRA which we hope will go live early next year.

We are not changing the questionnaire, so firms can proceed with their 2014/15 diversity survey for staff so the data is ready in time for the reporting deadline.

Please email us if you wish to discuss your plans or have any questions, or you can visit our guidance below for tips on how best to collect and collate the survey data.

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Quick guide

This is a brief summary of the guidance providing you with a high level overview of the requirements.

Requirements for the annual workforce data collection

What are firms required to do each year?

Firms regulated by the SRA are required to collect, report and publish data about the diversity make-up of their workforce annually.

Who does the requirement apply to?

The requirements applies to all firms regulated by the SRA, including sole practices, recognised bodies and alternative business structures. Everyone working at the firm should be covered by the workforce diversity data collection exercise, including owners of the firm and all other qualified and non qualified staff.

What information are firms required to collect?

Firms must collect diversity data from staff at the firm, broken down by the role categories set out in the guidance collecting data.

A Microsoft Word version of the diversity questionnaire (DOC 5 pages, 26K) is available for firms to adapt for their own use.

How do firms report the data to the SRA?

Firms need to report the aggregated firm data to the SRA on the Organisation Diversity Data pages of mySRA which can be found by clicking on your firm name under 'My Organisations' on the main menu of mySRA services.

Only individuals nominated by the firm as authorised signatories or organisation contacts will be able to view and enter this information. Our user guide provides further information on how to enter the data.

How do I meet the publishing requirement?

Firms will be required to publish a summary of their workforce diversity data. Further guidance can be found under Publication guidance.

Firms need to be careful about publishing diversity data, even anonymous data, where there is a risk that individuals may be identifiable.

The Information Commissioners Office has published a code of practice on publishing anonymous data; Anonymisation: managing data protection risk " which provides useful advice about how to guard against the risk of publishing data that might lead to the identification of an individual or individuals.

See the other tabs or the questions and answers section for further guidance.

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About the workforce diversity data requirements

In 2011, the Legal Services Board 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.

All firms regulated by the SRA are required to collect, report and publish workforce diversity data about the diversity make-up of their workforce.

The requirement applies to all firms regulated by the SRA, including sole practices, recognised bodies and alternative business structures. The requirements do not apply to regulated individuals working for in-house practices or other bodies not currently regulated by the SRA.

The benefits of diversity monitoring

We identified the lack of a diverse legal profession as a current risk in our 2014/15 Risk Outlook - diversity monitoring will help firms identify how diverse they really are and inform their approach to recruitment, promotion and other workplace policies.

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. Valuing and supporting the diversity of people's backgrounds and lifestyles in the workplace is important and may improve their engagement and productivity.

The wider benefits of diversity monitoring have been recognised by many firms leading the way in this area, including signatories to the Law Society's Diversity and Inclusion Charter who have said:

  • 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.

Diversity monitoring will help firms take action to 'encourage equality of opportunity and respect for diversity' in compliance with Principle 9 and is one of the indicative behaviours of the equality and diversity outcomes in Chapter 2 of the Code of Conduct.

For further information about why diversity is important and what you can do to benefit your firm, please see the Law Society's Business Case for Diversity and inclusion in law firms - a separate document has been prepared for small firms.

What will the SRA do with the data?

We collate the data and report the diversity profile of the profession on our website. We need all regulated firms to provide us with this information so we can provide a full set of diversity data across the whole firm population as required by the Legal Services Board.

We will use the diversity data where we can to inform our policy work and to help us monitor the effectiveness of our work in promoting diversity in the profession.

The data forms part of the wider information that we hold about each firm and may be used to inform our regulatory work.


Please use www.sra.org.uk/diversitydata to link to this page.

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Collecting diversity data

This section contains guidance on collecting diversity data.

Planning the survey

If you are managing the exercise in-house, a Microsoft Word version of the diversity questionnaire (DOC 5 pages, 26K) is available for you to adapt. You will need to include your own message to staff, information about how the data will be used and you may wish to add further questions.

Firms should not make an assumption about a person's diversity - individuals must be allowed to self classify on all of the diversity categories.

Although they must be given an opportunity to provide their data, individuals cannot be compelled to complete the diversity questionnaire or provide their diversity data. However, they may be prepared to participate in the knowledge that 'prefer not to say' for one or more of the questions. Reassurance about confidentiality and a clear explanation about what the data is being used for will encourage more staff to respond.

Data protection

It is the firm's responsibility to advise people working at the firm what the data is to be used for, who will have access, and to ensure that the data is collected, processed and reported in accordance with the data protection legislation.

Make it clear what will you be doing with the diversity data but also tell individuals that the data will be aggregated and reported to the SRA and the SRA in turn will be publishing an anonymous report of diversity across the whole profession. Remember that the aggregated diversity data reported on mySRA will be visible to all authorised signatories or organisation contacts for the firm or group of linked firms.

The diversity data will be much more useful if it is linked to an individual eg by reference to a confidential identification number. In this way, it can be used to monitor a range of employment activities over time, such as promotion, pay rates, or recruitment practices. However, individuals will want reassurance about confidentiality and may have questions about the arrangements the firm has for keeping their data secure and who will have access.

Who should be included in the firm's diversity data collection?

Everyone working at the firm is covered by the workforce diversity data collection exercise, including owners of the firm and all other qualified and non qualified staff.

The following people should be included in the diversity data collection:

  • full time and part time employees,
  • employees on maternity leave or on long term sick leave from the firm (but only if they are in contact with the firm during their absence and are willing to participate in the data collection),
  • temporary employees, those engaged by the firm under a secondment contract, consultants or other contracted staff where they have been or will be engaged on a contract for 3 months or longer.

The following people should not be included in the diversity data collection:

  • people engaged in work which has been outsourced by the firm to another firm or company,
  • barristers or other experts engaged by the firm on individual matters,
  • people who are normally based outside England and Wales.

If a person works for more than one firm, they must only complete one questionnaire for the firm where they undertake the majority of their work - where they spend most of their time undertaking day-to-day work activities.

Role categories

Every individual needs to be categorised according to the role categories set out below - make sure your staff know which category they should use if you are conducting an anonymous survey.

If a person falls in more than one role category, they use the category which most accurately reflects their main role i.e. where they spend a greater proportion of their time in their day to day work activities.

Role category Notes
Solicitor (sole practitioner, partner, member or director) Members or directors who are not solicitors should be recorded in the 'Managerial role' category below.
Solicitor All other practising solicitors including assistant solicitors, associates or consultants. Includes Registered European Lawyers and Registered Foreign Lawyers
Other fee earning role Includes fee earners such as trainee solicitors, legal executives (who are not chartered or a fellow) and paralegals ie those who are not 'authorised persons'.
Role directly supporting a fee earner Includes legal secretaries, administrators, legal assistants, or non fee earning paralegals.
Managerial role Includes non lawyer managers, directors, or members and others such as practice managers, finance or account managers etc
IT/HR/other corporate services role Includes non-managerial staff working in support services - including finance or accountancy roles.
Barrister Individuals who are authorised by the Bar Standards Board
Chartered Legal Executive (Fellow of CILEx) Individuals who are authorised by ILEX Professional Standards
Licensed Conveyancer Individuals who are authorised by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers
Patent or Trade Mark Attorney Individuals who are authorised by the Intellectual Property Regulation Board
Costs Lawyer Individuals who are authorised by the Costs Lawyer Standards Board
Notary Individuals who are authorised by the Master of the Faculties
Prefer not to say  

An 'authorised person' is a person who is authorised by one of the approved regulators to carry on the relevant activity (defined by the Legal Services Act 2007). Solicitors with a current practising certificate, Registered European Lawyers and Registered Foreign Lawyers are 'authorised' by the SRA.

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Reporting diversity data

This section contains guidance on reporting your firm's diversity data.

Please note: We are working on a few improvements to the organisation diversity data pages on mySRA which we hope will go live early next year. You can still use the existing pages but they will be easier to use once we have made the changes. We will be making a further announcement in October 2014 confirming the new reporting deadline for 2014/15.

Firms are required to input their aggregated diversity data into the organisation diversity data section on mySRA. This can be found by clicking on your firm name in the 'My Organisations' section, which is on the main menu of 'mySRA services'.

We cannot accept your firm's diversity data in any other format, unless you have agreed a reasonable adjustment with us. To request a reasonable adjustment please contact us.

Only individuals who have been appointed by their firm as Authorised Signatories and Organisation Contacts can view, access and input the organisation diversity data section on mySRA.

If you have relied on an external provider to carry out the survey and collate the data for you, please remember they cannot enter that data for you.

Before you are ready to enter the diversity data into mySRA, please remember:

  • You will need to have given individuals at the firm an opportunity to provide their diversity data in accordance with the questions set out in the SRA's diversity questionnaire (DOC 5 pages, 26K) .
  • This data needs to be aggregated, so you are ready to enter total figures for the individuals in each role category.
  • Check you have "linked" your firm to all its related regulated entities (eg corporate partners, trustee or nominee companies) on the organisation diversity data section of mySRA for the main firms. If you did this when you reported your data in 2013/14 you do not need to link them again.

You can download a user guide (PDF 10 pages, 162K) to enter the diversity data into mySRA. The guide will explain how to link entities to the main firm and how to input the diversity data for each question.

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Publishing diversity data

This section contains general guidance for firms when considering the publication of their diversity data. Comprehensive guidance about compliance with data protection legislation can be obtained from the Information Commissioner's Office website.

The SRA has not prescribed the manner or format in which a firm is required to publish a summary of their workforce data. It could be published on the firm's website, at the firm's offices or in one of the firm's publications. It is only a summary of the data that needs to be published so firms can present the data in a variety of ways.

However they decide to publish the data, firms should ensure that the data is published in a clear and accessible manner. For example, explaining the meaning of any abbreviations or acronyms which are used.

It would be good practice to provide staff with a clear and comprehensive account of how the data will be used and who will have access to it. Staff should be told that the data will be published as part of an aggregated report across the profession by the SRA and also published by the firm (subject to the qualifications set out below). This information should be provided before or at the point of collecting the data - for more details see collecting diversity data.

Qualifications to the requirement to publish workforce diversity data

The requirement is qualified in the following ways:

  • Firms are not required to publish any data relating to the sexual orientation or to the religion or belief of their workforce;
  • Firms must comply with the data protection principles and legislation when publishing a summary of their workforce diversity data and these regulatory requirements are not intended to override this.

Compliance with the data protection legislation

It is for the firm to decide what they can publish and how they publish but the overriding principle is that data should not be published in a way that allows any individual to be identified.

In November 2012, the ICO published a code of practice on publishing anonymous data: Anonymisation: managing data protection risk which provides useful advice about how to guard against the risk of publishing data that might lead to the identification of an individual or individuals. The ICO emphasises in this code of practice that the Data Protection Act does not require anonymisation to be completely risk free – firms must be able to mitigate the risk of identification until it is remote. Sole practitioners and smaller firms are likely to find they cannot publish their workforce diversity data without the risk of identification and in such circumstances, the SRA will not expect them to comply with the publication requirement.

Even large firms will need to consider how they might mitigate the risk of identification. Publication of the data broken down by each one of the role categories specified may reveal only a few individuals in one of those roles. If data is published at this level of detail, the individuals in those roles may be identifiable. Firms in this position may combine some of the role categories or publish the data for the whole firm without breaking it down by role categories at all.

When to publish

Firms should publish their diversity data annually at a time which is convenient to the firm. The SRA does not have a set date by which the publication should be made, but firms should be able to demonstrate annual publication on a cycle that suits the firm.

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Q1. When do we report data from 2014/15 to the SRA?

A. We will be making an announcement about the next reporting deadline in October 2014 but it will not be before 31 January 2015.

Q2. How do we report the firm diversity data to the SRA?

A. The diversity data needs to be aggregated and entered in the 'My Organisation' section of mySRA under the heading Organisation Diversity Data . This will only be visible to Organisation Contacts and Authorised Signatories for a firm. In order to input your firm's diversity data, you will need to log into your mySRA account. From the left-hand menu, select My Organisations and select the organisation whose data you intend to enter. This should load up a new drop-down menu and you will need to select the option 'Organisation Diversity Data.' Please see the published user guide (PDF 11 pages, 112K) if you have any difficulties inputting the data.

Q3. What if I cannot enter the data on mySRA and need a reasonable adjustment?

A. If you already have an arrangement with the SRA for reasonable adjustments in relation to the use of mySRA we will communicate to you separately about the requirements. If not please contact us.

Q4. How do I know that the data has been received by the SRA once it has been inputted? Is there a 'submit' button at the end of the process?

A. No. If you have saved each page and are able to see the data that you have entered, it will have been recorded on our system successfully.

Q5. Can we upload our results to mySRA rather than having to input all the data manually?

A. No, the data will have to be inputted manually but a user guide (PDF 11 pages, 112K) is available.

Q6. Where should I record the staff who did not respond to the survey in the Totals tab?

A. The total figures in the Totals tab should reflect the total number of people working at your firm. You will need to calculate the number of people that did not respond to the questionnaire and add this figure to the 'prefer not to say' category. We can extract those that did not respond to enable us to retrieve a response rate for the firm. We will make this clearer for the 2014/15 reporting deadline.

Q7. My firm asked our staff to select their own role categories as part of the questionnaire but we know from our own firm data that some of the information they have provided is incorrect. What do I do?

A. If you are able to track the responses back to an individual, you can correct the role category information. If the survey was carried out anonymously, you will have to record the data provided by the individual as it is.

Q8. I am receiving an error message when I enter information into the various tabs, why is this?

A. Firms will receive this error message if they are attempting to enter a number in one of the columns which is higher than the number entered in the Totals tab for that column. Check the numbers you are entering against the numbers in the Totals tab.

Q9. Are small firms and sole practitioners required to collect the diversity data even if it means that the personal data of individuals cannot be kept confidential?

A. Yes. All firms regulated by the SRA are required to collect the data, so you will have to give everyone at the firm the opportunity to complete the diversity questionnaire, but you should reassure them that they are not obliged to complete the questionnaire or alternatively they could select 'prefer not to say' for one or more of the questions.

Q10. I have already entered my own diversity data mySRA. Why do I have to provide it again for this firm diversity data exercise?

A. The firm-based diversity data collection includes individuals who are not authorised by the SRA. Unfortunately, we were not able to collect data from these individuals and link them to the individual data held for authorised individuals on mySRA.

Q11. Will Diversity and Inclusion Charter members have to report their diversity data twice - to the Law Society and to the SRA?

A. The Law Society are not expecting firms to report their data in 2014 as they are reviewing the operation of the Diversity and Inclusion Charter but please refer to the Law Society website to confirm the latest position.

Q12. What if there has been no change in the diversity data when I come to report the data next year?

A. We are working on the arrangements for 2014/15 and hope to provide an easy way for firms to confirm when there has been no change.

Q13. Who can enter the diversity data into mySRA?

A. Only the Organisation Contact and the Authorised Signatory for the firm will be able to enter and view the firm diversity data on mySRA.

Q14. Who can see the diversity data in the firm once it has been inputted into mySRA?

A. Only the Authorised Signatories and Organisation Contacts for your firm will be able to view the aggregated firm data on mySRA when it is has been entered. However, if your firm is linked to other organisations (such as corporate partners, trustee or nominee companies), the Authorised Signatories and Organisation Contacts for all the linked firms will be able to view the data.

Q15. What does the SRA intend to do with the data once it has been reported to them?

A. The SRA will publish a report setting out the diversity profile of the profession highlighting any key findings or trends emerging as a result of the data collection process. This information will help us to better understand the impact of our work, and inform how we develop our approach to regulation. The data will be aggregated, and it will not be possible to identify a particular firm from the data that we publish. View the diversity data reports. The data forms part of the wider information that we hold about each firm and may be used to inform our regulatory work .

Scope of the requirements

Q16. Do small firms and sole practitioners have to comply with the data collection requirements?

A. Yes, all firms regulated by the SRA, however large or small, are included. This includes recognised bodies, sole practitioners and licensed bodies/alternative business structures.

Q17. Do the requirements apply to in-house lawyers?

A. No, the requirement applies to firms regulated by the SRA.

Q18. What if an individual works for more than one firm?

A. If an individual works for more than one firm, they should complete a survey for the firm where they undertake the majority of their work ie where they spend most of their time undertaking day-to-day work activities. If a person works for a number of firms on an equal basis, they should complete the questionnaire for the firm they have been working for the longest.

Q19. Should consultants be included in the diversity data collection for our firm?

A. Yes, consultants who have been or will be engaged on a contract for 3 months or longer should be included, whether they are paid through invoices or through the pay roll. Consultants should be included within the appropriate role category as if they were employees.

Q20. Are a firm's corporate partners or other regulated entities such as a nominee or trustee firm covered?

A. Yes, if the entity is regulated by the SRA, but these regulated entities can be linked to the main firm to form a group. One set of diversity data can then be provided for the main firm and this will cover the group. For guidance on how to link regulated entities to the main firm, please refer to the user guide (PDF 11 pages, 112K).

Collecting diversity data

Q21. I would like to outsource the diversity data collection exercise for my firm, is this acceptable?

A. Yes, there are a number of companies who are offering this service for legal firms and the Law Society is working closely with one of these providers. More information can be found on the Law Society's website. Whilst you may decide to hire a third party to collect your firm's diversity data, it is important to bear in mind that only those that are Authorised Signatories or Organisation Contacts for the firm will be able to input this data via mySRA.

Publishing diversity data

Q22. Are firms required to fulfil the publishing requirements if it means that individuals will be identifiable?

A. No, it is for the firm to consider the data in accordance with the data protection legislation and firms are entitled to make a reasoned decision not to publish if an individual might be identified from that publication. It would be sensible to record this, so you can demonstrate your approach in the event that your firm is contacted by the SRA about this or investigated for any reason.

Q23. Does the firm need to apply to the SRA for an exemption or waiver from the publication requirement if the firm decides that it cannot publish its diversity data because there is a risk that individuals could be identified?

A. No, if you decide that you cannot publish some or all of your diversity data you do not need to apply for any exemption or waiver from the SRA. We will be satisfied that you have complied with the requirements of the diversity data requirements if you have collected and reported the diversity data to us, and have considered the data in accordance with the data protection legislation and made a reasoned decision not to publish. You may wish to review the publishing guidance on our website before making this decision. You may also wish to record your decision so that you can demonstrate your approach in the event that your firm is contacted by the SRA about this or investigated for any reason as there is not any provision for us to capture this information on mySRA at present.

Compliance

Q24. What action will the SRA take if a firm does not comply with the requirements?

A. This is a regulatory requirement and we expect every firm regulated by the SRA to comply. Where firms do not provide the information requested we will consider their lack of co-operation as a compliance issue in which case enforcement action will follow. Firms which did not comply with the 2013/14 exercise were referred to Supervision for enforcement.

Q25. What happens if an individual at a firm refuses to respond to the diversity questionnaire?

A. Individuals are not under any legal or regulatory obligation to complete the questionnaire or provide their diversity data. However, firms must give everyone at the firm an opportunity to complete the questionnaire and 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.

Q26. How do I respond to concerns from my staff about completing the questionnaire?

A. 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. Stonewall provides excellent guidance for employers in their workplace guide Using Monitoring data. Making the most of sexual orientation data collection. The advice is helpful across all areas of diversity monitoring.

Q27. On what basis is the SRA making this a regulatory requirement?

A. The requirement on firms to collect, report and publish diversity data stems from the Legal Services Board's decision document Increasing diversity and social mobility in the legal workforce: transparency and evidence (PDF 56 pages, 473K), dated July 2011. This in line with the SRA's policy in this area and reflected in the principles and rules in the Handbook, see for example:

  • Principle 9 which states: 'you must run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity'. The outcomes for equality and diversity are set out in Chapter 2 of the Code of Conduct 2011 and the indicative behaviours in that chapter include firms having a written equality and diversity policy which is appropriate to the size and nature of the firm and includes the firm's arrangements for workforce diversity monitoring.
  • Principle 7 which states: 'you must comply with your legal and regulatory obligations and deal with your regulators and ombudsmen in an open, timely and co-operative manner'.

Miscellaneous

Q28. How is this exercise different from the Law Society Diversity and Inclusion Charter monitoring survey and the Diversity League Table compiled by the Black Solicitors Network (BSN)?

A. Neither the Law Society nor the BSN surveys are related to the SRA's regulatory requirement on all firms to collect, report and publish diversity data. You can read more about the diversity monitoring element of the Law Society's Diversity and Inclusion Charter on their website. The charter is open for all firms to sign up to and the monitoring commitments are aligned to the SRA regulatory requirements. Read more about the BSN survey.

Q29. Was the profession consulted about these requirements?

A. 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".

Q30. Where can I get more advice about equality and diversity?

A. For more information about your regulatory obligations in relation to equality and diversity, please see Principle 9 in the Handbook and Chapter 2 of the Code of Conduct. The Law Society has further guidance for the profession.