• Insights

Diversity monitoring:
a global view

In some countries, collecting data from employees on race, ethnicity, religious belief or sexual orientation can fall foul of data privacy laws. Ius Laboris lawyers have analysed how data protection laws in their countries can impact on an organisation’s diversity monitoring ambitions.

In the wake of the global Black Lives Matter movement, workplaces across the globe have self-reflected on how race and ethnicity impact on their own hiring and other employment practices.

A key element of addressing race and ethnicity disadvantage is understanding the diversity composition of a workforce. Monitoring the racial composition of a workforce, including tracking movement within the workforce and the candidates who apply for roles, provides insight into how diverse a workplace really is. With this insight, employers may be better placed to take positive steps to promote or maintain equality of opportunity or treatment among racial or ethnic groups.

Diversity monitoring can also extend to other characteristics beyond race and ethnicity.

  • Tracking the disability status of candidates can help to identify impediments to those with health needs being hired.
  • Tracking religious or philosophical belief can identify whether those from a minority religion are excluded from hiring/promotion opportunities.
  • Monitoring open sexual orientation status can gauge whether a workforce feels comfortable bringing their whole selves to work.


Promoting openness and inclusion encourages hiring and retaining talent from a more diverse pool of workers.

Here, Ius Laboris lawyers from across the alliance explain whether diversity monitoring is permitted in their jurisdiction and what limits apply.

However, race, ethnicity, disability status, religious or philosophical belief and sexual orientation are frequently considered by data protection laws to be ‘sensitive’ types of personal information and are afforded special protections. In some cases, employers are prohibited under discrimination laws from asking about or tracking this type of information about employees, even when conducted anonymously.

In our survey, 60% of countries surveyed prohibit or significantly restrict diversity monitoring.

Does your country place any prohibition or significant restriction on diversity monitoring?

Global legislative change appears to be slow. Only 12% of surveyed countries indicated diversity monitoring legislative change on the horizon.

Is there any legislative change on diversity monitoring on the horizon?

Despite this, employers frequently face internal and external pressure or encouragement to conduct diversity monitoring despite legal barriers. For example, the parent of a group of companies may require its members to conduct diversity monitoring (despite local restrictions) so that a group-wide diversity ‘snapshot’ can be obtained.

Employees may also push monitoring initiatives to promote an inclusive and diverse workplace.

D&I Monitoring map

Our world map, below, provides global insights into how data protection laws can impact on an organisation’s diversity monitoring ambitions.

If you can’t measure it, how can you improve it?

If you want to increase the diversity of your workforce, you first need to know if you are allowed by law to ask your employees diversity questions. In this episode of our podcast we ask Ben Favaro, data privacy specialist from our UK law firm, Lewis Silkin, about the results of our international survey into diversity and inclusion monitoring and what it all means for employers.

Benjamin Favaro
Managing Associate - United Kingdom
Lewis Silkin
Lucy Lewis
Partner - United Kingdom
Lewis Silkin
Rebecca Rule
Managing Associate - United Kingdom
Lewis Silkin

Contact us

Philip Nabben, a partner at Bronsgeest Deur and a Certified Data Protection Officer, specialises in employment and data privacy law, and is Chair of our international Expert Group on data privacy.

Philip Nabben Philip Nabben
  •  - Data Privacy
  •  - Diversity & Inclusion
  • Employment Rights
  •  - Health & Safety
  •  - Immigration & Global Mobility
  •  - Pay & Benefits
  •  - Restructuring & Labour Relations