Top tips for monitoring diversity


11 / 2 / 2009 4.19pm

To ensure legal compliance, trusts must publish data by ethnicity, disability status and gender. As model employers, they should also consider extending this to age, religion or belief and sexual orientation.

Step 1 - comply with data protection
Step 2 - develop a business case for diversity monitoring
Step 3 - gain management support
Step 4 - promote consultation and involvement
Step 5 - encourage participation
Step 6 - review the data
Step 7 - communicate next steps
Step 8 - treat initial data with caution
Step 9 - benchmark (internal and external)
Step 10 - take action on findings

Step 1 - comply with data protection

The Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) protects the rights of people on whom organisations collect and process data, providing the regulatory framework for managing personal information. Employers must therefore adhere to the principles of the DPA when collecting, analysing or publishing diversity data for monitoring purposes.

Under the framework, personal data must be:

  • Fairly and lawfully processed
  • Gathered only for lawful and specified purposes: it should not be processed further in ways that are incompatible with the specified purposes
  • Adequate, relevant and not excessive
  • Accurate
  • Retained only for as long as is necessary
  • Processed in accordance with individuals' rights
  • Stored securely

Data should not be published in any way that allows an individual to be identified unless the individual has explicitly granted their permission.

Step 2 - develop a business case for diversity monitoring

Outline the business case for monitoring, going beyond simply legal requirements. In addition communicate why you are monitoring and what you want to find out.

Step 3 - gain management support

Gain the support of both the senior team and line managers. Senior level buy-in will demonstrate to staff, the importance of monitoring. Support from line managers is equally important as the first port of call for staff when they have questions. In addition line managers act as ambassadors for monitoring, encouraging staff to take part and to give the information required.

Step 4 - promote consultation and involvement

Consulting with relevant stakeholders about plans for gathering data, setting targets and priorities, is good practice. In some instances, it is the legislative requirement which helps to focus attention on the areas that really matter to those concerned. The Disability Discrimination Act, for example, requires public bodies to engage disabled people in a meaningful way, enabling them to influence the organisation's decision-making processes.

Step 5 - encourage participation

It is important to encourage individuals to provide personal information to get robust data for monitoring. Effective communication is key to build confidence in the integrity of the organisation's monitoring processes and the willingness of staff to provide information. Any communication asking for sensitive diversity data should include:

Why you are collecting the information and how you will use it
How you will restrict access to protect the information and who has access to it.
How monitoring has helped to identify issues and what action has been taken to bring about improvements

Step 6 - review the data

Analyse the data to look for inequality for different groups. It is also valuable to do a multidimensional analysis of the data, rather than just limiting it to single diversity strands. The impact of a policy could, for example have a detrimental effect on an ethnic minority male member of staff who also has a disability.

Step 7 - communicate next steps

Tell staff how the information is going to be used, to track the effectiveness of a policy or service delivery. This can be done by comparing the data with benchmark information.

Step 8 - treat initial data with caution

Stonewall believes it may take up to five years for the numerical data to become reliable, as staff get used to the process and develop the confidence to take part. Commit to repeating the exercise so that an internal benchmark can be established over time, to measure performance and progress.

Step 9 - benchmark (internal and external)

Do an internal comparison exercise between current performance indicators and earlier performance indicators, to assess progress resulting from an action plan. In addition, do an external analysis to compare the organisation's performance indicators with available labour market data eg. the take-up of employment opportunities by women, compared to the Labour Force Survey estimates of participation in the labour market).

Step 10 - take action on findings

Identify the actions required and tell staff about progress, to ensure they are aware that the organisation has listened and is tackling any issues. Communicate this widely, to encourage more staff to get involved in monitoring exercises.

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