Monitoring can be a sensitive issue, and return rates may initially be low. However, over time in a safe and supportive environment, return rates are likely to increase and the quality and validity of the data will improve.
Improving levels of staff and student disclosure can:
- Provide more accurate monitoring of the recruitment and retention of staff and students with protected characteristics
- Indicate the impact of policies and practices on different groups in the institution
- Provide in-depth understanding of inequality or unfair treatment, different experiences and areas for action.
- Several factors can influence an individual’s decision to disclose equality information, including:
- Understanding the relevance of the information to the organisation and their experiences at work or study.
- The culture of the institution – whether it is open and inclusive or if there are concerns about possible discrimination.
- Availability of information on the uses and confidentiality of their details.
- Opportunities to disclose information on an ongoing basis.
- Whether they relate to the options available on equality monitoring forms.
Cultivate a positive atmosphere
Staff are more likely to engage with a diversity monitoring exercise if they see it as an integrated part of an institution’s strategy for promoting inclusivity and increasing accessibility.
A proactive approach to making diversity commitments visible on campus and celebrating achievements will help to ensure that staff and students feel positive about monitoring and confident that it will be of benefit. Planning a monitoring exercise to coincide with other diversity activity, for example a ‘diversity month’, may help build an atmosphere for disclosure.
Visible senior management involvement can have a positive impact, as can active support from trade unions.
Share examples of how diversity monitoring information has informed initiatives in the institution and helped to remove barriers for staff and students.
Explain why the data is being collected
In order to build a culture of trust and understanding, it is important to explain clearly why the data is being collected, how it will be used and who will have access to it. It is also important to provide reassurance that the institution will follow guidelines on data collection, storage and use, including complying with data protection legislation. Some people may be concerned that information could disadvantage them, or encourage discrimination or harassment.
- If individuals will be identifiable from the data
- If the information will be stored separately from personal details
- Who will have access to the information
- If disclosure will lead to further contact from the institution (for example sharing information about support services or events related to a protected characteristic)
- The systems and safeguards to safely store and analyse the data in line with the Data Protection Act 1998.
Additional questions that demonstrate the institution’s commitment to understanding the issues affecting particular groups might help to persuade staff of the benefits of disclosure.
For example ‘How well does the institution enable you to meet your religious obligations while at work?’ or ‘We want our workplace to be inclusive and welcoming of all staff – is there more we could do to improve your experience?’.
Example data collection statement
[Institution] aims to have an inclusive environment for all staff and students, by identifying and removing barriers in our practices. Completing this monitoring form will help us achieve this, and also help [institution] meet our obligations under the Equality Act 2010.
While it is voluntary to disclose this information, doing so will enable us to better understand the composition of our workforce/student body and examine our practices fully.
Your answers will be treated in the strictest confidence, and all data disclosed will comply with the Data Protection Act 1998. [Insert statement about institution’s confidentiality policy].
To find out more about the work [institution] is doing to meet the requirements of the Equality Act, please contact [name] or visit [website link]