Data collection isn’t new and is carried out at a national level through the Census to gain an understanding of our population profile. It may feel intrusive to individuals, but it enables government departments such as health, education and housing to plan ahead around population changes and needs.
Diversity data collection and monitoring is an important part of our Impact Assessment process. The Equality Act 2010 states that public authorities have a specific legal duty to publish information about how people are affected by policies and practices. The Impact Assessment process uses data, critical assessment and consultation activities to identify whether services, functions and policies are promoting equality of opportunity and good community relations, and eliminating unlawful discrimination in line with the Public Sector Equality Duties under the Equality Act 2010. It also helps us ensure we are designing services around the needs of our communities. For more information about our Impact Assessment process visit www.devon.gov.uk/impact.
Collecting data about people should be carried out in line with Data Protection law. Please note this guide does not seek to explain Data Protection law – please refer to other guidance.
Equality and diversity monitoring can help identify current and future needs, possible inequalities including problems accessing or using services and information, as well as checking that a cross-section of people have been reached and given their views. It is only the first step. If gaps are identified, further investigation may be needed to understand causes and solutions, including reviewing ‘qualitative feedback’ such as comments or holding focus groups with particular communities.
There are many ways to collect and analyse data to understand equality and diversity issues; how this is done depends upon a number of factors:
- Why you are asking – what do you want to find out?
- What you will do with the information – how do you want to present the results and what methods are you using to collect and analyse data?
- Who is going to receive the information and how will it be shared?
- Who you are asking – how many people are you asking? For smaller numbers open text is often acceptable, but for large samples it is difficult to make sense of open text to identify patterns and trends and therefore categories such as ‘drop down’ or ‘tick box’ lists are useful. You may also need to tailor your questions to your audience. For example, if your audience has a learning disability or is elderly then too many questions and certain terminology might be confusing or need further explanation.
Data collected can only be used for the purposes intended as described and can’t be duplicated or shared for other purposes.
Data collection statements
You will need to guarantee privacy in line with Data Protection and explain why you are asking these questions. If collecting personal information, you will need to produce a Privacy Notice. If data collected is anonymous, a statement to say it is anonymous will be sufficient.
Example Diversity Monitoring Statements on forms (for example, a complaints process and surveys): Now we need to ask some questions about you. These questions will help us check we have reached a representative section of society and help us identify inequalities. The information you provide is kept anonymous and will not be used to identify any individual.
As part of a survey, you could say: At the end, we will ask some questions about you. This is so that we can see if certain groups experience inequalities. Some of the questions may not be important or relevant to you, but they are important to the person with that characteristic. Completing these questions will help us analyse results accurately. Information provided in this survey is anonymous and held securely by the County Council. Results will be published in an anonymised way and raw data will not be provided for counts less than five.
See Engaging Devon for more information about carrying out surveys/consultations.
Example Diversity Monitoring Statement for selection processes: The information you provide will be separated from the selection process and will only be used for monitoring processes to make sure that people are treated fairly and according to their needs.
You should also describe how long it will be kept for and who to contact if they have any questions.
Information about disability during recruitment
Information about disability will need to be collected as part of the recruitment process and made available to the appointing officer. This is because the County Council has signed up to the Disability Confident Employer scheme (formerly ‘Two Ticks’) which means that a disabled person is guaranteed an interview on ‘essential criteria’ only, and in order to make any other adjustments to the process. A person does not have to disclose that they have a disability, but we cannot make any reasonable adjustments or apply the guaranteed interview unless they let us know they have a disability and what their needs are. This is different and separate to the diversity monitoring process.
Questions and diversity categories
There are two ways to find out about people’s experiences when monitoring for equality – either by asking a direct question about fairness and discrimination, or by asking general questions alongside diversity characteristics and then cross-checking the results.
Some people get annoyed about being asked the set of diversity questions; they are usually in the minority though and the benefits of diversity monitoring far outweigh this, however this method is probably best avoided during the first stage of a complaints process.
Always provide an explanation for collecting the data and asking the questions – usually this helps people understand why you are asking and they will provide the information for you.
Let people leave it blank if they want to and allow them to move to the next page on an online survey (it is unlawful to force someone to provide the data), but don’t encourage this by providing a ‘prefer not to say’ option if possible.
It is generally not a good idea to classify people on their behalf. If you do this, you must (by law) give them the opportunity to confirm or correct the data you have gathered about them.
Direct question (without the need for diversity profiles)
The example given below is to monitor satisfaction levels. This approach is probably more useful for complaints procedures because people might be experiencing a poor service because of a ‘perceived diversity characteristic’ whether they have that characteristic or not, or because they are associated with someone with a characteristic (for example, they care for a disabled person).
Discrimination by perception or association is unlawful in the Equality Act. For more information please see our guide to the Equality Act.
It is also likely that when someone is complaining about a service they will be angry and the process of asking the list of diversity characteristics (“how old are you?”, “what is your ethnic origin?”) can annoy them further!
Did you feel you were treated fairly and with dignity and respect? No / Yes
If not, did you feel you received a worse service because of age, disability, ethnicity, gender, religion/belief, sexual orientation or any other reason? No / Yes
If yes, please provide further details:
For larger numbers, to help with data analysis, you may want to provide a circle option or tick box, for example:
I received a worse service because of age / disability / ethnicity / gender / religion/belief / sexual orientation / other reason (please circle all that apply)
Please provide further details:
Diversity analysis of general questions
If you have general questions and need to ask supplementary diversity questions in order to look for differences in responses from different groups, the categories below are acceptable.
For example, you may want to ask the question “was the information you received clear and helpful?” and then ask questions about age, disability and ethnicity to see if there are any differences between ages, ethnic minority groups and White British people, and disabled and non-disabled people. A difference might indicate barriers for a particular section of our community which needs exploring further.
As a minimum, we would normally ask about age, gender, disability and ethnicity (race). Other questions will be dependent upon the issue you are trying to explore, the way you are asking the question (is it anonymous?) and relevance of that particular characteristic. For example, if it is possible for a member of staff to treat someone less favourably because they are gay then asking about sexual orientation could be useful. You could use a mix of diversity questions and more direct questions as explained previously.
Depending upon the size of your form, audience and purpose for collecting the information, you may want to use shorter or longer options. We have provided around two to three options below for each characteristic.
It is best practice to put selection boxes (tick boxes) to the left, making sure they are large enough for people to see and tick. A large print version will need the whole list in one column with all selection boxes to the left. Boxes are not shown in the examples below.
Questions about age
What year were you born?
(you could provide years as a drop-down on an online survey)
Which age band are you in? (please select one option only)
17 and under
18 to 24
25 to 34
35 to 44
45 to 54
55 to 64
65 to 74
75 to 84
85 or over
Or you could ask:
‘how old are you?’ or ‘what is your age’?
However, some elders don’t know their age and age-bands are more helpful if you have the space.
The above age bands are given as an example. You may want to use five year groupings instead. You may also want to break down younger and older categories differently, depending upon the audience and issue you are exploring. The ‘cut off’ age for Care Leavers (in full time education) and disabled young people (SEN) is their 25th birthday (although there is a degree of discretion for those in education whose 25th birthday falls early in the academic year) so you will want to ensure that there is a change between 24 and 25 to monitor any differences there. Young people may leave care services between 16 and 25 years. For young people 16, 17, 18, 21 and 25 are all key ages for legal status and eligibility. For older people, retirement is a significant life event but this can happen at any age and there is no longer a ‘default’ or forced retirement age. The state pension age is also changing. It is best to consider how you will be able to compare your results to things like the Census or other benchmarking data.
Avoid using ‘Date of Birth’ as part of community questionnaires because, like home address, this can reduce the anonymity of the information and make people suspicious. Only ask for this information for genuine identity and eligibility criteria or for another substantial reason.
Date of birth: DD/MM/YYYY
Questions about sex and gender
First you need to determine if you are collecting information about a person’s sex / sex assigned at birth or their gender. Sex is defined by external and internal sex and reproductive organs and is registered / assigned at birth. Gender is more complex, can be fixed or fluid, and refers to our internal sense of who we are and how we see and describe ourselves and, for trans and intersex people, may be influenced by variation in chromosomal configuration. Trans people will identify with a gender opposite to the sex they were registered / assigned, or as non-binary (neither male or female). Other terms may be used.
In some situations, a health or care professional may need to know someone’s birth sex if this is different to their gender identity where this can affect medical results and treatment. Sex may also be used for calculating pensions.
People can apply for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) to have their affirmed/acquired gender to be legally recognised. This means they can amend the sex assigned on their birth certificate to match their gender.
Regardless of what sex definition is used for medical or other purposes, names, pronouns and titles/honorifics for patient/customer records must reflect a person’s affirmed gender; this should always be done as a matter of courtesy and is not dependent on the person having a GRC.
A GRC is not needed to update a driving license, passport, medical records, employment records or bank account. However, currently, under UK law, a person’s sex / assigned sex cannot be changed for pension purposes unless a GRC is in place.
Currently, non-binary or intersex is not recognised under UK law and therefore sex can only be described as either female or male. This can pose problems for people who do not identify as either male or female when only given the ‘binary sex’ option on forms.
Asking questions about sex and gender
The 2021 Census asked the following:
Sex: Female / Male
Is the gender you identify with the same as your sex registered at birth? Yes / No / If no, Female / Male / Other or non-binary
You may want to clarify why you are asking this question, for example:
Sex / assigned sex (for HMRC or pension purposes): Female / Male
You could also ask a person’s preferred pronouns for customer service purposes if limited to sex / assigned sex:
Pronouns: He/Him / She/Her / Them/They / Other (please specify)
If you do not need to know a person’s sex (for medical or other purposes) or you are carrying out diversity monitoring, you could ask:
What is your gender?
Gender: Man / Woman / Other or non-binary
There are a number of gender terms being used for people who do not want to identify as male or female such as ‘non-gender conforming’, ‘non-binary’, ‘gender-queer’, ‘third-gender’, ‘pan-gender’, ‘poly-gender’ as well as people who are intersex. Because the language is relatively new and to avoid confusion we are suggesting using just ‘other or non-binary’ as standard).
Or, for anonymous or separated (e.g. diversity monitoring):
Gender: Man / Woman / Other or non-binary (self describe: )
Do you identify as Transgender or formerly Transgender (your gender is different to your sex registered at birth)? No / Yes
No – my gender is the same as my sex registered at birth / Yes – my gender is different to my sex registered at birth
Important note: Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) – the law
In 2004 the Gender Recognition Act was passed, and it became effective in 2005. A medical opinion indicating that the applicant has experienced gender dysphoria is necessary. However, no medical treatment is required. Successful applicants acquire the new gender status ‘for all purposes’, entitling them to a new birth certificate registered under the changed name and title, provided that the birth was registered in the UK. The GRC has strict privacy provisions which must not be breached by any person acquiring such information, in an ‘official capacity’. Disclosure to a third party could be a criminal offence (GRA s22(4)) (some limited exceptions apply). When asking questions about gender and trans identity you will need to think carefully about who will have access to this information to ensure you meet the strict privacy provisions and ensure staff with access to this information are aware of this requirement.
In all other cases including gender classification on passports, driving licenses and everyday issues such as use of toilets or access to services, legal recognition in their gender starts as soon as someone declares their intention to transition. A GRC is not needed for these purposes.
Questions about disability
Disability: do you have a physical, sensory or mental condition or illness lasting or expected to last 12 months or more?
No / Yes
Are you disabled?
No / Yes
Do you consider yourself to be disabled? (please select one option only)
No / Yes, day to day activities limited a lot / Yes, day to day activities limited a little
(These three, rather than two, categories are used in the Census)
If you selected ‘Yes’, please select the options below that most apply:
- Acquired Brain Injury
- Mental health condition (long term)
- Blind or partially sighted
- Deaf (Sign Language user)
- Hard of hearing or deaf
- Learning disability
- Long term illness or health condition (lasting more than 12 months or terminal)
- Mobility impairment
- Neurodiversity (Autism, ASD, ADHD etc)
- Severe disfigurement
- Speech impairment
- Other/self describe – please specify:
Questions about ethnicity
What is your ethnic origin?
In using the above open question, there is a risk that people would not know what to write as an answer as well as the challenges of analysing open text in larger responses. Therefore it is probably better to align responses to the Census and ask:
How would you describe your ethnic origin (or ‘What is your ethnic origin’)?
- Arab/British Arab
- Asian/British Asian (subcategories: Bangladeshi, Chinese, Indian, Pakistani and other Asian background)
- Black/Black British (subcategories: African, Caribbean and other Black background)
- Mixed Heritage
- White – English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish / British
- White – Irish
- White – Other
- Other / self describe (please specify):
PLEASE NOTE: it is very important to provide a free text option for the ‘other’ boxes.
Longer lists and additional categories are available, if you require a larger list or advice on adding categories, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or use the Government recommended list.
If ethnic minority responses are low, then it is likely you will need to ‘group up’ responses (White British / White – Other or Irish / Black, Asian and other ethnic groups including Gypsy/Traveller/Roma, or counting GRT separately) and use qualitative feedback. Regional or national data can also increase the sample size.
You may want to ask about Nationality (British or other – with please state or a list) and / or National Identity (English, Scottish, Welsh, Northern Irish, Irish, or other, please state:) separately.
Questions about sexual orientation
For anonymous or separated processes only:
How would you describe your sexual orientation? (please select one option only)
Bisexual / Heterosexual or ‘straight’ / Lesbian or Gay / Other or self describe:
Or you could ask:
How would you describe your sexual orientation? (please select one option only)
- Bisexual (attracted to either men or women)
- Heterosexual or ‘straight’ (attracted to people of the opposite sex)
- Lesbian or Gay (attracted to people of the same sex)
- Other/self describe:
Or (for anonymous surveys, combining Trans identity):
Do you identify as LGBT+ (lesbian, gay, bi, trans/formerly transgender +)?
No / Yes / Unsure or questioning
Do you identify as LGBT+?
- Yes – lesbian, gay or bisexual +
- Yes – transgender or formerly transgender +
- Unsure/questioning my sexual orientation or gender identity
(need to be able to select more than one)
Use the plus sign to include other descriptions people use such as gender-fluid or pansexual.
Religion and Belief
For anonymous or separated processes only:
What is your religion or belief? (please select one option only)
Atheist / Baha’i / Buddhist / Christian (including Church of England, Protestant, Catholic and other Christian denominations)/ Hindu / Humanist / Jewish / Muslim / Pagan / No religion or belief / Sikh
Or, for a shorter alternative, you could ask:
Religion/belief: Christian / No religion or belief / Other religion or belief (please specify)
How would you describe your religion or belief?
However, this may be harder to analyse for larger samples, and you may get descriptions of belief rather than categories.
Other reasons why you may want to know a person’s religion/belief
Where there is a specific requirement to know someone’s religion/belief (for example, in end of life care) it is better to ask the individual about how they would like their needs met. Simply knowing someone’s religion/belief will not necessarily tell you their preferences because there are many aspects and interpretations to religion. Even under the heading of Christianity, there are many types of Christianity including Catholic, Church of England and Methodist.
The following questions have been used in surveys like the 2015 Community Insight survey in addition to the longer questions in the tables above. The survey had a good response rate and many people said they found it very easy to complete.
Are you a volunteer or family carer who looks after or supports someone else in their home who needs help with their day-to-day life due to a disability, illness, or old age?
No / Yes
If ‘Yes’, how many hours a week do you provide care for on average?
(please enter approximate hours per week)
Do you have any children (people under 18 years) living with you?
(please select one option only)
No / Yes / Part of the time
Do you have use of a car or other private motor vehicle?
No / Yes
How is your physical health, in general?
Very good / Good / Fair / Bad / Very Bad
How is your mental/emotional health, in general?
Very good / Good / Fair / Bad / Very Bad
What is your first language?
English / Other
If you selected ‘Other’, please specify your first language below:
If you find that many people are adding a similar category to the ‘other/self describe’ box then you should add this as a category in its own right so that it can be selected from the list.
You may want to say “Please select one option” after questions where only one answer is required.