Equality, diversity and inclusion data tool - commonly asked questions

What is the EDI data tool?

The NHF’s EDI data tool allows housing associations in England to compare how diverse their workforce is to the communities they serve, based on characteristics of population in stock location. The excel based tool allows housing associations to plug in their data to compare workforce to population in stock location, executive to staff and board to staff for all nine protected characteristics and socio-economic background. You can also compare your customer data to population by stock location. The data used comes from multiple sources such as census data, sample surveys from the Office of National Statistics and The Regulator of Social Housing Statistical Data Return.

Why should we use it?

We know from the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in Housing Association Staff in England insight review that “the starting point (for change) is data. We need to know where we are in order to know where we want to be and measure our progress”. By using the tool, housing associations can work out where they need to improve the most on diversity, set ambitious targets, and figure out what mechanisms for change are most impactful.

By better understanding the diverse characteristics of the population in stock location and how our workforces compare to them, housing associations are forming a solid foundation for ensuring our leadership is diverse, and that our workplaces embrace equality.

Will you update the data-set information when new surveys are published?

Yes, we will update the tool when 2021 Census data becomes available at local authority level. This is currently scheduled to be published at local authority level in March 2022. As soon as it is available we will update the tool.

Should we use the tool even if we’re a small organisation and are pretty sure we’re representative of our residents?

Yes, the tool may give you new insights that you previously weren’t aware of, and will allow you to benchmark progress over time rather than rely on assumptions. Eventually we would like to see as many housing associations as possible using the tool to develop a standardised sector-wide approach to the collection of EDI data.

How do I access and use the tool?

You can access the tool via our website. It is behind a member login - if your housing association is a member of the NHF then all you do is register with your work email and it will recognise you as belonging to a member organisation. You can then login and download the tool. As it is Excel, you can work on and save the spreadsheet offline.

How do I use the tool?

The tool contains notes explaining how to use it and where the data comes from.

  1. Select your housing association and check the stock data in the sheet named 'Stock'.
  2. If the stock data is not correct, select 'No' in cell D6 of the 'Stock' tab.
  3. Enter the correct stock data by local authority in column H of 'Stock'.
  4. If the stock data is correct, you will now be able to look at the characteristics of the local authority population where owned and managed stock is located by going to 'Workforce by characteristic'.
  5. You can compare how representative your workforce is of the community served by entering your workforce numbers by characteristic in sheet named 'Workforce by characteristic'.           

You will need to make sure your stock data by local authority is correct (it is based on any Statistical Data Return to the Regulator of Social Housing, currently 2019/20) and input your workforce numbers by characteristic. The tool allows you to record where you don’t know characteristics, or where staff have declined to provide this data. When it comes to defining staff, we anticipate that this would be all staff, whether full or part-time, employed by your organisation and any direct labour organisations who are also employed by you.

What do we do if we don’t hold EDI data about our staff?

We’ve provided a list of questions for you to ask staff about their diverse characteristics, you can use this to collect the necessary data.

What do we do if we hold EDI data about our staff but not our board?

It’s important to have EDI data from your board members. The insight review showed us that diversity at board level is an important factor in creating an inclusive culture and shaping a more diverse workforce. We would encourage you, therefore, to collect this information in the same way you do with your staff.

Are intermediate or student accommodation excluded from the tool?

The tool only includes stock information from the Statistical Data Return for registered providers, as submitted to the Regulator of Social Housing. This does not include care home, market rent, or student accommodation. You can check your stock data within the tool and, if incorrect or not showing the complete picture, correct it within the stock tab of the tool (be sure to select 'No' in cell D6 of the 'Stock' tab when you do this). When it comes to deciding what stock to include when editing, we would suggest it should be any property that you either own or manage.

Is the information we submit for a particular period in time?

You can update the tool with your most recent workforce data and, as you can save and edit it offline, you can update as and when you require. We suggest that it would be useful to review on an annual basis, though you could review more regularly if you wish. Best practice is for Executive and board members to review diversity data at set intervals (at least annually) as part of their governance of diversity strategy or action plans. When a new version of the tool is available, with Census 2021 data, we will let you know so that you can download and use it.

Within the ethnicity section, is that all to be populated or just everything above the headline total area?

The ethnicity data is split by headline categories (White, Mixed/multiple ethnic group, Asian/Asian British, Black/African/Caribbean/Black British, Other ethnic group) and the more detailed categories within these headline totals. 

Should we be collecting data for occupants not named on a tenancy agreement?

We suggest the customer data should be any tenant on the tenancy contract, but if you would prefer to use any person living in the household then you can do so. Whichever definition of customer you use when completing this spreadsheet, the most important way to accurately measure their characteristics is to be consistent with your definitions.

Why are the options around sexuality so limited?

The data on sexual orientation is from the Annual Population Survey. As this is a sample survey, it can mean that the more narrowly categories are defined, the more likely you are to find there is a zero, disclosive revealing of individuals, or low group sample size. We are limited in what data is available on diversity characteristics, but have followed Stonewall guidance and available data when developing the tool.

Can you include sex as well as gender identity please? 

We have included sex and gender identity within the tool, though there is currently no national data on gender identity. The Census 2021 was the first to ask about gender identity and we expect more comparison data to be available through this. The ONS data that the tool draws from refers to Male/Female as sex, whereas gender identity or transgender is for those who identify as a different gender to their sex at birth. We have updated the tool to make this distinction clearer.

Please use ‘Male’ and ‘Female’ to record sex. Use ‘Other gender identity’ to record those who identify as a different gender to their sex at birth. Transgender should be used to record those who identify as transgender.

Why does the tool ask questions about socio-economic background, it’s not classified as a diverse characteristic?

We have included this because it is recommended by the Social Mobility Commission as a way to monitor socio-economic background. We believe that inequality is played out through socio-economic situations and that one way to measure diversity is through looking at this socio-economic background.

Does the data tool allow us to distinguish between housing organisations with and without a DLO?

When it comes to defining staff, we anticipate that this would be all staff, whether full or part-time, employed by your organisation and any direct labour organisations who are also employed by you. If your DLO manages a stock portfolio larger than the managing housing association, then you could complete a separate tool, with the altered stock figures, for this.

Suggested questions document "disability" is yes/no. I’m curious to know if anyone’s experience of accessibility needs insight. Is this something the tool can help with?

We encourage organisations to use the tool as a starting point to looking at diversity within their organisation. While it is useful to start with numbers, it should be complemented with talking to your staff, understanding their experiences, and responding to them.

Can you use the workforce tab to monitor your percentage of customer data against the community, as opposed to the tab that measures customers and workforce?

You could use the workforce by characteristic tab to do this, but instead of inputting staff figures you could input community customer data figures. You would then be comparing customer data to the characteristics of population in stock location.

How can the EDI tool help housing associations to set diversity targets where they fall short of reflecting the communities they are working in?

Understanding where your organisation is currently, particularly in relation to the communities it serves, will help inform plans for the future. As with any business area, targets for improvement need to be achievable and sustainable. It is most important to maintain a commitment to action: it can be easy to feel discouraged if the gap between aspiration and reality appears wide, but maintaining sustainable progress is possible.

The fact that the EDI tool will enable comparisons between the workforce and the diversity make-up of local communities will provide a useful mechanism to set targets. For example, where the ethnic diversity of a housing association’s workforce is 30% and the ethnic diversity of the community in which the housing association operates is 40% - it would be reasonable to set a target to increase the ethnic diversity of the workforce by 10%. It is important to set out a reasonable timeframe to increase the level of representation – i.e. by 2024, the ethnic diversity of the workforce will have reached 40%. The publication of the 2021 census data, early next year, will also enable more accurate comparisons between the make-up of a housing association’s workforce and local communities.

How can I use the results of the tool to improve a culture of inclusivity?

You can use this information to start, or continue, a conversation about diversity in your organisation. Sharing the results with senior decision makers, including your board, is often the first step taken by housing associations after the use the tool. You should also consider opening this data out to colleagues across your organisation as well. This transparency can provide a greater sense of collective ownership of diversity issues across the organisation and demonstrate that the conversation is a safe one to hold.

When sharing results, apply appropriate protections to ensure there is no risk of individuals’ sensitive data being revealed (for example, by having at least ten individuals within any demographic grouping).

The NHF EDI tool is likely to improve the quality of equality data among participating housing associations and provide opportunities to share learning and good practice. Having better quality data is fundamental to improving a culture of inclusivity as it will enable organisations to identify gaps, where action needs to be taken and measure progress.

I need to collect EDI data from my staff, and am worried they won’t want to give it to us. Are there any examples of how to share with staff what you are doing with their data to offer reassurance?

There will always be individuals who choose not to reveal their sensitive information under any circumstances and this is entirely their choice. However, if people are reluctant to share due to concerns that their data will be misused in any way, there are things that can reassure them. Make it very clear that sensitive data is never accessed to make any decision-making about them at work without their explicit consent (for example: they may declare a disability to HR colleagues to access a reasonable adjustment). Information about specific individuals is never used during diversity analysis, only groups of individuals.

Keep reassuring staff as to how their data will be used. Some organisations, for example, commit to regularly publishing all workforce and resident equality data and explain how the data provided has been used to improve our their organisational practices. Some are also running a series of focus groups with employees from protected groups, to better understand why they are reluctant to provide their equality information.

Is there a dashboard for viewing the data and maybe for data entry? This could be helpful for staff with visual issues.

We do not plan to release a data dashboard, but encourage you to create this yourself using the tool. We have based the tool in Excel because we believe most housing associations will have access to this programme and will be able to use the tool in this way.

What would good engagement from Executive and board members look like in this process?

For the EDI data tool to make an impact, it is important that board members are interested, inquisitive, and accountable for their organisational diversity strategy. With this is mind, best practice is for executive and board members to review diversity data at set intervals (at least annually) as part of their governance of diversity strategy or action plans.

What’s the role of qualitative data in improving workplace EDI?

We encourage organisations to use the tool as a starting point to looking at diversity within their organisation. While it is useful to start with numbers, it should be complemented with talking to your staff, understanding their experiences, and responding to them.

The tools data spans quite large geographical areas, are there any plans to collect the data at a more granular level?

As the NHF serves all housing associations in England, the lowest geography we can go to for a national tool (and still make it user friendly) is local authority. We do not currently have plans to release a tool at a lower geographical area. 

Will the tool enable us to assess or better understand intersectionality?

Unfortunately, there is no national data on intersectionality (capturing the multiple characteristics of an individual and interconnected and interrelated nature of discrimination or oppression). Due to the different combinations of data that might be needed to look at intersectionality, we have not included this in the tool. We welcome suggestions of how to include it or how housing associations have looked at this area. The tool includes socio-economic characteristics, as recommended by the Social Mobility Commission, as we believe this shows how some inequalities intersect while also showing diversity of workforce in terms of socio-economic background. The tool, of course, is no substitute for listening to staff and understanding their experience of equality, diversity and inclusion.

Will we have the opportunity to submit our data to NHF for sector-level analysis and/or benchmarking?

Yes, we are now collecting data and asking members of the NHF to submit their completed tools (including any data gaps) to us. We can then build a national profile of the workforce of housing associations in England and how this compares to population in stock location.

For the data collection exercise, as a minimum, we would like you to complete as many characteristics as possible for ‘workforce by characteristic’. We would also like you to complete as many characteristics as possible for ‘executive to staff by characteristic’ and ‘board to staff by characteristic’. These are important to complete as these show diversity within key decision makers in the sector.

If you don’t hold data on certain characteristics, be sure to mark ‘Do not know’ rather than leave blank.

Save your Excel file with your organisation’s name and send your completed data tool, in Excel, to us by 23 September 2021.

If you have a question about the EDI data tool that we have not answered, then please get in touch and let us know using the details below.

Who to speak to

Bethan Buck, External Affairs Manager