Workforce diversity – will your firm be prepared to report to the SRA?
Riliance recommends that if the answer to the question is no, you need to start making plans now as failure to report will be seen as non-compliance with the SRA Code of Conduct (Principle 9 and Chapter 2).
The SRA recently announced details of what it will require firms to do in relation to surveying their workforces, and recording, reporting and publishing the diversity data that is gathered; it has made it clear that it will be for firms to make their own arrangements to collect this data. Individuals must be given the opportunity to complete the survey but cannot be compelled to do so.
Last year the exercise was made relatively easy by the SRA because an online survey company was engaged to carry out most of the work, but this year firms will be required to do all this work using the guidance and questionnaire issued by the SRA.
The exercise will not just be a matter of sending out a questionnaire, it will require an understanding of the Data Protection and Equality Acts, and the SRA Code of Conduct. Firms should not see this as merely a regulatory requirement; they should recognise the advantages that could be gained from taking a proactive approach to diversity, for example, improved staff retention and recruitment.
Firms need to be confident that those responsible for dealing with this matter fully understand what their obligations are and the potential risks involved in handling sensitive data such as sexual orientation, religious belief, or caring responsibilities; they also need to be prepared for approaches from staff who want clarification over their rights in relation to completing a survey and the protection of their data.
The SRA’s reporting method is likely to be by way of mySRA, but this will be confirmed in due course; firms need to start planning now so they can report data after the online portal opens this Summer.
Firms will also be required to publish aggregate data gathered, for example on websites, although certain data (sexual orientation and religion or belief) will be exempt from this requirement; this will offer proactive firms another opportunity to get the message out that they take equality and diversity seriously.
The deadline for reporting data is 31 January 2014, and the SRA will take a snapshot of the aggregate data in February 2014, but I would not recommend leaving it until the last minute as there is much to do and consider!
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