Edit: Since writing this article, the SRA has announced the dates of the diversity data collection exercise will be 26th June – 23rd July 2023.
It is almost that time again: the SRA will be conducting its biennial diversity data collection exercise this summer.
With the start date yet to be announced, you will have just four weeks to collect, report and publish your firm’s diversity data.
And don’t forget, it is a regulatory requirement to complete this exercise as prescribed by the SRA (Code of Conduct for Firms paragraph 1.5).
SRA Principle 6 also states that you should “act in a way that encourages equality, diversity and inclusion.”
Who needs to collect data for the SRA diversity monitoring exercise?
Every firm regulated by the SRA. Your firm’s authorised signatory will receive an email setting out what needs to be done. Look out for the email (they have been known to get caught up in spam filters).
The data collection requirement covers everyone working in your firm – not just solicitors. They will be placed into ‘role categories’. You will need to make sure your staff know which category they are in when completing the questionnaire.
People who need to be included:
- Full time employees
- Part time employees
- Employees on maternity leave or long term sick leave (if they are willing to respond)
- Employees on a temporary contract and consultants working for you three months or longer
People who need not be included:
- Those who work in an outsourced capacity for your firm
- Barristers engaged by your firm
- Other experts engaged by your firm
- Those who are based outside of Wales and England
If someone works for more than one firm, they only need to complete one questionnaire (this should be for the firm they do the majority of their work for).
Obviously, the larger the workforce the bigger project this collection exercise becomes.
What’s new for 2023?
There are two changes to this year’s questionnaire:
- Solicitor Partner category – for full equity partners and salaried partners (or partial equity partners), you will now need to report separately.
- Question on parental occupation – the wording has been slightly changed to align with the Social Mobility Commission guidance.
What do you need to do?
The best way to think of the process is in 3 stages as follows:
- Stage 1 Collect your firms’ diversity data
- Stage 2 Consolidate data and report to the SRA
- Stage 3 ‘Publish’ the data
Stage 1 – Collect your firm’s diversity data
You need to collect information from everyone including full and part-time employees, those on maternity leave, and temporary employees who are with you for at least 3 months.
The SRA provide a diversity questionnaire that you can use to collect information. Do not use old versions of this form you may have on your system – the questionnaire has been updated.
When you send the diversity questionnaire to your employees the covering email or letter should include the following information:
- Why you are collecting the data – you should point out that it is a requirement of the SRA to do so every two years and they are you interested in monitoring the diversity of your employees and using any opinions to build an inclusive culture.
- That there is no requirement to answer every question (or even the questionnaire at all) and that they can answer ‘prefer not to say’ to any question.
- What you will do with the data:
- Report to the SRA;
- Publish a summary that will be done in a way that does not identity individuals (see Stage 3 below).
- How long you will store the data and who will have access to it.
- Who they need to contact to correct or request information the firm holds in relation to the questions asked.
It is also good practice to get employees’ written consent to process the information.
Everyone must be given an opportunity to respond and you should encourage your staff to do so. Having said that, you can’t of course force anyone. The SRA accepts that you will have some people who will not respond and you will be able to report this information to them. However, we suspect questions will be asked if you have 100 employees and only 2 responses!
If you are a sole practitioner, you still need to complete the exercise, but you can answer with ‘prefer not to say’ if you wish.
Stage 2 – Consolidate data and report to the SRA
The SRA makes it clear that it is a regulatory requirement to report your data, in accordance with the Code of Conduct for Firms.
Details of how to submit your data will be contained in the email they send out in due course.
Stage 3 – ‘Publish’ the data
The final step is to publish a summary of your data. You will need to ensure that any data published does not identify any individuals, which is likely to be particularly problematic for smaller firms. Publication must be in line with data protection legislation.
You may wish to give special consideration about how you include information relating to religion or belief, sexual orientation, and gender identity. This information can be sensitive with a higher risk of identifying individuals, so it may be worth thinking about publishing a breakdown of the whole firm, or merging role categories as this could assist with the anonymity of the exercise (especially for smaller firms).
The data can be published on your website. Alternatively, you can put a poster up in reception or a publish an article on it. The SRA has provided examples as to ways you can publish the data.
Help is at hand
JBL clients all have access to a cloud based compliance portal, which includes a handy diversity monitoring tool. Our consultants will also be guiding their firms through the process.
Contact us for more information.