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Diversity reporting FAQs

A list of frequently asked questions around the subject of diversity reporting in probate including requirements, statutory and social relevance and how ICAEW handles sensitivity of data.

I understand there is a requirement to monitor diversity, what is this?

All probate firms must monitor the diversity of their principals and employees. ICAEW collects this information every two years. Further information including a questionnaire template is available on the diversity data collection webpage. Your firm’s data should be published on your firm’s website in a format of your choice. If your firm does not have a website, you must still publish the data on some appropriate form of documentation eg, as a paragraph in a letter of engagement or in advertising materials.

If the anonymity of individual members of staff may be compromised, you should adapt the information you publish accordingly, e.g. by only publishing the less sensitive data.

How is the sensitivity of the data addressed by ICAEW?

The sensitivity of the data is very important to ICAEW. We are mindful of our obligations and those of the firms with regard to data protection. We request that firms only send us their firm’s aggregated results (we must not receive staff’s individual responses).

Why was diversity reporting only introduced in 2017?

When the Legal Services Board (LSB) asked us to introduce diversity reporting as part of the accreditation application process, we felt this would discourage firms from applying. We accordingly ask for the information (only if available) in applications, and advise firms they need to provide this data on a periodic basis – reinforced by Probate Regulation 2.7(s). To allow firms time to comply, we waited until 2017 before formally asking for this information.

Why has the list of questions been expanded?

The original list of questions were less in number and excluded areas such as faith and gender identity. These were introduced at a later date to give people time to get used to the reporting process. The education questions were introduced as the UK government’s social mobility programme required us to have access to this information.

Are there any companies that can help my firm collate this data?

Yes. Companies such as Riliance, a compliance firm that supplies similar services to the Solicitors Regulation Authority and legal firms, can support you with collecting the data from your employees. Such companies collect the data on behalf of a firm, then relay the information back to the firm. The firm uses the data for its reporting requirements and its management. This allows the data to be confidential yet provides the firm with the information it needs.

Should you wish to consider a third party supplier such as Reliance, please contact them directly to discuss your firm’s requirements and please ensure you use the same questions that are contained in the probate diversity questionnaire template.

What if my organisation is not in a position to carry out the administration of this requirement?

Notice was given on the probate application form that this data would be needed at some stage. We have given firms as much notice as possible to organise their processes. This data can perhaps be collected as part of an annual routine with staff. Third party survey providers can facilitate this process at low cost and at minimal disruption to management time.

What is the statutory relevance of diversity reporting to probate?

The relevance and appropriateness of the reporting to probate has two principal drivers: statutory and voluntary.

ICAEW has two obligations under statute law. Under the Equalities Act 2010, ICAEW is listed in Schedule 19 as one of the bodies required to apply the equality duty under section 149 as part of its regulatory functions. This has an obligation to have due regard to diversity, and case law has since indicated that doing nothing is not an option. ICAEW has developed a vision and policy around diversity. Monitoring provides data to support key performance indicators to indicate progress in its initiatives.

A second statutory obligation relating to probate firms is that arising from Section 1 of the Legal Services Act 2007. Regulators such as ICAEW, in discharging its duties, are required to meet the eight statutory objectives, one of which is based on diversity. The Legal Services Board (LSB) issued guidance in 2011 (updated in January 2017) indicating they viewed this requirement as relating to the 10 protected characteristics under the Equalities Act 2010. As part of the guidelines the LSB indicated they expected regulators to require monitoring of this data by the firms they regulate and periodic reporting of it.

What is the social relevance of diversity reporting to probate?

ICAEW has placed a greater emphasis on diversity in the profession in recent years. One driver has been the social mobility programme of the government – and Liz Truss in her first speech in the House of Commons as Lord Chancellor referred to this as an issue for the legal profession. A second has been the evolution of practice as predicted by ICAEW’s Tomorrow’s Practice initiative where major changes in work patterns are expected. The monitoring work provides ICAEW with evidential support to indicate how firms may be adapting to the changes envisaged in that document.

At a tactical level the intent is that firms consider their marketing strength and options taking diversity into account and adapting their marketing and recruitment strategies. They also provide some insight into retention issues. The due regard for diversity is not actually using it as a sole driver, but rather as an informative strand in shaping other policy. The monitoring data and trends help steer a practice in its chosen direction.

If my employees respond ‘prefer not to answer’, how is this useful to ICAEW?

The metric ‘prefer not to answer’ is an important metric. It may be a statement of how staff feel about being ‘themselves’ at work. It may reflect the culture of the firm in terms of how staff feel they can interact with each other, management and clients. If management feel their policies should encourage a happy and open workforce, large ‘prefer not to answer’ percentages may suggest that all may not be quite right and some further investigation may be required.

If my employees respond ‘prefer not to answer’, how is this useful to my firm?

Sometimes strange diversity statistics are symptomatic of much wider issues in strategy as a whole; benefits packages, overtime demands and the needs of sole practitioners are examples of areas that have been amended for problems identified through diversity metrics.