Diversity data collection

Updated 5 October 2015

How to report your law firm diversity data to the SRA in 2015

If you have not already done so, please report your firm diversity data as a matter of urgency. The reporting deadline was 30 September 2015. A short user guide is available to download. To arrange a reasonable adjustment for reporting your firm's data, or if you have questions, please contact us.

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 requirements apply 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.

Firms may wish to use our new diversity toolkit to help them compare their own diversity data with other similar firms in the market. This is available on our website and is free for all firms to use. You can view our webinar of 28 January 2015 for a demonstration of the diversity toolkit, how it can best be used, and how diversity monitoring can bring about real business benefits for firms.

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 will collate the data and publish the diversity profile of the profession on our website and report the data to the Legal Services Board (LSB). The data may be published at a firm level, a sector or regional level, or across the whole profession, but we will ensure that individuals are not identifiable from any data published or provided to the LSB. 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.

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, add 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 they can select '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 who will publish the data and report it to the Legal Services Board. The data may be published at a firm level, a sector or regional level, or across the whole profession, but we will ensure that no individual is identifiable from the data that we published or the data that we provided to the LSB. 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, e.g. 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 into more than one role category, they should 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) Partners, 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, i.e. those who are not 'authorised persons'.
Role directly supporting a fee earner Includes legal secretaries, administrators, legal assistants, and non fee earning paralegals.
Managerial role Includes non lawyer partners, 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 CILEx Regulation
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.

Arrangements for reporting firm diversity data to the SRA in 2015

You can now report your firm diversity data to us.

The reporting deadline is 30 September 2015.

A short user guide is available to download.

To arrange a reasonable adjustment for reporting your firm's data, or if you have questions, please contact us.

What you have to do

All firms are required to publish a summary of their staff diversity data, subject to compliance with data protection legislation.

  • You should publish a summary of the staff diversity data you have collected, but you do not have to include information relating to religion or belief and sexual orientation. It is good practice to publish this data, but it can be quite sensitive, so make your own decision on this.
  • You should not publish diversity data in a way that might identify individuals. Therefore sole practitioners and small firms may find they cannot publish their data at all.
  • For larger firms, your data will be more meaningful if you provide some interpretation; showing any trends and setting out any steps you are taking to promote diversity at the firm.
  • A much richer picture of your firm will be provided if you publish more detail, for example about your new trainee or partner appointments.
  • You should refresh your publication each year after you have collected your annual diversity data, at a time which is convenient for your firm.

What about data protection?

There are practical steps you can take to avoid breaching data protection legislation when publishing your staff diversity data.

  • Please remember, you must minimise the risk of identifying individuals and it is your responsibility to consider what you can publish.
  • You can reduce this risk by publishing a summary rather than a detailed breakdown for every role category. For example:
    • Join role categories together such as all partners, all other fee earners and support staff
    • Publish data across the whole firm
    • Show the high level ethnicity categories rather than the detailed sub categories
  • For more guidance about your obligations see the Code of Practice on publishing anonymous data from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

Where you should publish your data

Your diversity data should be made available to your staff and externally to the wider community, and most firms publish the information on their website.

  • As well as your staff, you should make the data available to people who may apply to work for your firm and your existing/potential clients.
  • Being open about this highlights your firm's commitment to diversity. This may offer a competitive advantage in promoting your firm to clients and attracting the best talent in the recruitment market.
  • Most firms will choose to publish on their website, but you can use alternative or additional publication methods such as:
    • a poster in your office reception area and/or meeting rooms
    • an article in your internal or external newsletter or bulletin

If you are publishing the data on your website, you should make it easy to find and understand. This could include:

  • having a 'Diversity' link on your homepage with a specific page for 'Diversity Data'
  • illustrating the data using clear tables, diagrams or graphics and include a summary of what it shows
  • if you can, adding a layer of detail to show for example, how many of your female partners attended fee-paying schools
  • setting out an account of your approach to diversity and any initiatives you have in place.

Examples of how you might set out your data

Here are some examples of how to set out your diversity data. Please ensure that graphs and tables published online can be easily read by assistive technology.

Staff ethnic breakdown with the roles reduced to four main categories and the ethnicity categories reported at the highest level.

16-24 is 7.06%,

Gender breakdown as a percentage of all staff with the roles reduced to six categories

Gender breakdown as a percentage of all staff
Role category Male Female
Partners 69 31
Solicitors 55 45
Other fee earners (e.g. trainees,paralegals,legal execs) 41 59
Role directly supporting fee earner (e.g. PAs) 2 98
Business services – Managerial 36 64
Business services – Support 38 62

Age distribution of employees across the whole firm

16-24 is 7.06%,

Q. When do we report this year's data to the SRA?

A. You can report your data now. The deadline for reporting is 30 September 2015.

Q. What about the data we collected earlier this year? Do we have to survey our staff again to get up to date information?

A. No, we are not expecting firms to carry out another staff survey, if the data was collected in 2015, then it can be used for the 2015 reporting exercise. If your data was collected in 2014, please contact us and we will advise.

Q. Why are we changing the way that firms report their diversity data?

A. We listened to the feedback that we received in 2014 that we needed to make it easier for firms to report their data to us. The new form will be designed to be more user friendly and easier to complete.

Q. Why have we not just improved the existing Organisation Diversity Data section of mySRA instead of building a new reporting facility?

A. The Organisation Diversity Data section sits on an IT platform that we will be phasing out. Ongoing work across our IT systems to build a new platform, meant that it was not possible or cost effective to invest in changes to the Organisation Diversity Data section.

Q. Why can't we transfer the existing data on the Organisation Diversity Data pages to the new online reporting facility?

A. We have changed the format of the questions in the new reporting facility, so they more closely match the diversity questionnaire.

Q. How can firms access the firm diversity data submitted last year in mySRA?

A. You can no longer access the diversity data submitted last year in mySRA. The organisation diversity data pages were removed on 9 July 2015. You should not need access to this data to enter your firm's current data, but if you need a copy of that information please email us.

Q. You said you were going to use an external provider to collect the diversity data. Is this still the case?

A. No, we have identified a way for firms to report the data using our own systems.

Q. I have already entered my own diversity data in the My Profile section of 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.

Q. 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.

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

A. No, the requirements apply to firms regulated by the SRA.

Q. 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, i.e. 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.

Q. 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.

Q. 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.

Q. 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 an online service for collecting your firm's diversity data, but it will still need to be reported to the SRA.

Q. 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. Firms are entitled to make a reasoned decision not to publish if someone could be identified from that publication. You may wish to review the publishing guidance on our website before making this decision.

Q. Does my 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. 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.

Q. 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.

Q. 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. Firms should give everyone an opportunity to complete the questionnaire. To encourage completion firms should explain the purpose and give appropriate assurances about confidentiality.

Q. 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.

Q. 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 is in line with the SRA's policy in this area and reflected in the principles 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'.
  • 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'.

Q. 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.

Q. 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".

Q. 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.