Many people working at computer desks in a well-lit office with an arched ceiling with classical painted frescoes and windows at the top of the ceiling.
Survey of London, Oxford Circus, Westminster, Greater London. View of former Wallis department store tea room with murals of famous opera scenes, now an IT department. View from the north. © Historic England Archive. DP183530.
Survey of London, Oxford Circus, Westminster, Greater London. View of former Wallis department store tea room with murals of famous opera scenes, now an IT department. View from the north. © Historic England Archive. DP183530.

How Do We Stay GDPR Compliant When Conducting a Workforce Survey?

What is this resource for?

This resource aims to inform individuals undertaking the Historic England workforce diversity survey for the heritage sector on how it complies with General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is also aimed at organisations wishing to conduct their own GDPR-compliant diversity surveys.

This advice was produced on behalf of Historic England by Nexer Digital.

What are the key points?

  • A workforce diversity survey is an important tool to establish representation in the workforce and enable organisations to develop strategies to tackle barriers to entry
  • Diversity data can be collected under GPDR legislation but must be done so in accordance with the rules on 'special category data'
  • It is important to allow those completing a survey to have the option to choose "prefer not to say"
  • An established survey tool, such as Microsoft Forms, should be used as they have existing robust privacy policies and compliance with GDPR
Take Part: Heritage Sector Workforce Diversity Survey

29 April to 28 June 2024

The Heritage Sector Workforce Diversity Survey is now live.

If you work in any area of heritage in England, please click the link to take part and share it with your colleagues and networks.

Take the survey

The guidance below provides more information about the survey, including how your data will be stored and processed.

Surveying the demographics of people in your workforce (also known as a workforce diversity survey) is an important tool in understanding who is and who isn’t represented in your workforce. This can help you to understand if people with specific characteristics, backgrounds, or identities face any barriers to employment. Organisations can then use this information to develop their policies and practices to become more inclusive and accessible.

Historic England is working with Nexer Digital to develop the 2024 heritage sector workforce diversity survey and analyse the resulting data. Nexer Digital are a user-centred research and design company based in Cheshire.

All information collected is anonymised and confidential. Neither Historic England nor Nexer Digital can link any data collected to 1 individual, and all data collected is done so in accordance with GDPR and data protection rules. Rigorous access controls will be applied for all data collected.

What is special category data? How is it collected in line with GDPR?

Under the UK GDPR and the Data Protection Act 2018, some categories of data collected in this survey are likely to be classed as 'special category' data. Special category data includes information on some protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, as well as health and biometric data. It is the protected characteristics that will be collected under the workforce diversity survey. You can learn more about special category data from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO).

UK legislation permits the processing of special category data for the purposes of identifying and keeping under review equality of opportunity. To comply with the relevant legislation, it is necessary to confirm that the survey is voluntary, that each question contains an option to submit a "prefer not to say" answer, and that this is present on all questions in the 2024 survey.

At the end of the survey, participants will have the option to save a copy of the data for their own records.

For the 2024 heritage sector workforce diversity survey, Nexer Digital will analyse the aggregated data generated from the survey and draw out key findings, trends, and opportunities. There will also be a series of focus groups to gather feedback and comments. The outcomes will be fed back to Historic England in the form of a report and recommendations. Historic England will use the report to inform the organisation's future direction, specifically in addressing any inequalities or lack of representation from any area of society. Historic England will not have access to the raw data set.

It is important to use an established survey tool when developing a workforce diversity survey, with a transparent and robust privacy statement that demonstrates its compliance with GDPR. Microsoft Forms is the data collection platform for the 2024 heritage sector workforce diversity survey. You can find Microsoft Forms privacy and compliance information on their website.

What are the key aspects we should consider if we develop our own workforce diversity survey?

  • Make sure you have a clear understanding of GDPR and, in particular, special category data rules
  • Develop a strong plan to make sure the data captured is kept securely. Ensure only relevant individuals have access to it (a process known as access controls)
  • Choose an established platform to collect your data that has a robust privacy policy and demonstrates compliance with GDPR
  • Make sure you communicate the reasons for the survey to participants, as well as what you intend to do with the data and how it will be stored and processed in accordance with GDPR (the wording in this guidance can provide you with a framework to use)
  • Allow participants to download a copy of their answers for their own records