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2017/18 academic year, HESA require HEIs to report data on the sexual identification of staff using the response options of ‘male’, ‘female’ and ‘other’. This change brings the staff and student questions on sex into line.

Advance HE welcomes the addition of the response option ‘other’ as it includes staff who do not define as ‘male’ nor ‘female’. However, this development has caused some confusion about how this question aligns with the reporting requirements of HMRC, which requires data on whether a person is ‘male’ or ‘female’ only, for pension purposes.

It is therefore no longer possible to ask staff one question about sex, as staff who select ‘other’ cannot be reported to the HMRC.

Advance HE therefore recommends that HEIs ask staff about sex in two separate surveys at two separate points in time. This recommendation not only avoids confusing staff with multiple questions on sex within a single survey, but also conforms to requirements under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that stipulate that any surveys collecting sensitive or personal information clearly state the purpose for collection.

For HESA reporting, HEIs should ask:

What is your sex?

Male / Female / Other

HEIs must provide staff with all response options. The category ‘other’ covers staff who define as anything other than male or female, this might include staff who are intersex or have a non-UK passport with a gender marker which is not male or female and identities such androgyne, intergender, ambigender, gender fluid, polygender and genderqueer. HEIs should also clarify that this information is being recorded for HESA staff records alongside any additional purposes such as staff/student surveys or the evaluation of equality and diversity initiatives.

On a separate form and at a different time, Advance HE recommends that HEIs provide the following explanation on why further data on sex is being collected and ask:

The HMRC require employers to gather data on employees’ sex. For this reason, we are required to ask the following question and offer two response options only.

What is your sex?

Male / Female

In instances where HEIs collect equality data that is not used to report to HESA or the HMRC, such as staff/student surveys or the evaluation of events, they might wish to ask about gender rather than sex. Although the two words are often used interchangeably, Advance HE believes that asking about gender is more inclusive than asking about sex. An example question might include:

What is your gender?

Non-binary / Man / Woman / Other / Prefer not to say

HEIs should also ask about gender reassignment and not simultaneously ask questions about sex and gender as this may inadvertently out trans people. If you have additional questions on how to support trans staff and students please see our guidance Trans staff and students in HE and colleges: improving experiences.