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The SRA Equality & Diversity Survey 2019

The SRA have announced the commencement of the biennial Equality & Diversity exercise which will commence in June 2019. In case any of you are super-keen to submit your firm’s data before that, then you will need to rein your enthusiasm in because they’re not ready for it yet.

The data collection form is available now however, and if you wanted to you could start collecting the data now, the form is available here;

The form has some new questions, so it’s best to use this version rather than the older one you may have on file, although the SRA have published some information on how you can still use the older version.

One consideration for the exercise this year is…yes…GDPR and Data Protection. Under GDPR the information being collected is “sensitive data” this is personal data which reveals an individual’s racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs and health-related datadata concerning a person's sex life or sexual orientation.

So there are some choices to be made both about collecting the data and publishing it. The safest option is to make sure those completing the form do so anonymously, although this can present logistical problems, particularly for those firms who are multi-office. You will also have to remind those completing the forms of their rights under Data Protection legislation.

Also there are considerations when it comes to your firm publishing the data, which is also an SRA requirement. If there is a chance that an individual can be identified from the data then the firm should not publish it. This can be a particular issue for smaller firms, where a personal characteristic such as ethnicity or physical disability can easily identify an individual. If this is the case it’s a good idea to document why the firm will not publish the data.

Finally, it’s worth remembering why the SRA carries out the exercise. The regulator wants to ensure that solicitor’s firms are championing diversity and its principles, so that all areas of UK society are represented appropriately across the profession, as they should be. In order to conduct an effective analysis of diversity across the profession, the quality of the data has to be good, and this can be a problem. The completion of the questionnaires is not mandatory, individuals can exercise their right to simply not fill them in, or to select the “prefer not to say” option throughout the form.

If that happens, then the SRA analysis will not be correct, and they may well draw erroneous conclusions about certain or all the groups that are ill informed. For example, let’s say there are 10 firms with 5 partners in each firm. 3 of the partners identify as women, but they decline to answer the question on this or ignore the form, however their male counterparts do. That’s 50 partners, where 30 of them have not answered the question, and 20 of them (the males) have. What conclusions are the SRA likely to make about that, given that 100% of the actual respondents identified as male?

The point here is this, if you and your firm want to see the diversity that the SRA and firms in general aspire to across the profession, then you will have to actively encourage those who are completing their questionnaires to provide their answers, which means completing and returning the questionnaires and ensuring they haven’t selected “prefer not to say.” Remember, this can’t be forced, but if people understand what the information is for then they may be more inclined to provide it.

If you want some help with the collation, analysis and publication of your diversity data, then cpm21 can help. Contact one of our consultants today by going here;