Bosses at Watford Borough Council say they want their workforce to reflect the diversity of the community - but they don’t know exactly how successful they are, because staff are not sharing their personal information.

Like all organisations with more than 150 employees, Watford Borough Council aims to collect data from its employees, including age, disability, gender, race, sexual orientation and religion.

That data is used to monitor equality across the organisation – by looking at the make-up of the workforce.

But data released by Watford Borough Council this week shows significant numbers of employees are not sharing the information needed for comprehensive and meaningful reporting.

According to the data this year, 40 per cent of employees failed to share information about race, 60 per cent about sexual orientation and 75 per cent about disability.

Elected Mayor Peter Taylor says the council will continue to work to make sure the workforce is diverse.

And he stresses that all staff have the right to withhold personal information, if they choose.

“Watford is a diverse town and it is important to me that this is reflected in our council’s workforce,” he said.

“We do well at recruiting talented individuals from many different groups and are always monitoring our progress in this area.

“Of course, it can be helpful if our staff to tell us more about themselves but this is personal information and is something they have the choice to withhold.

“We’ll be working with staff throughout the year so we can make sure our workforce is as diverse as it can be.”

The data is from the latest ‘workforce monitoring report’ – based on staff employed by the council on March 31, 2019.

According to that report, 27 of the council’s 220 employees on March 31 – 12.2 per cent – are from a black or minority ethnic background, which is lower than the council’s target of 27.1 per cent. 

Meanwhile just four employees – that’s 1.82 per cent of the workforce – declared they have a disability. That’s below the council’s five per cent employment target.

The council does have complete data for age and gender – which shows that the majority of employees (58.6 per cent) are women.

But just six of the 22 top-earning posts at the council were held by women – which is lower than the council’s 50 per cent target.

Commenting on the collection of workforce data and the varying response rates, a spokesperson from the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “Everyone has the right to a working environment that allows them to achieve their full potential.

“Collecting comprehensive, meaningful data can give employers the insight they need to tackle the barriers that individuals may face when progressing in the workplace and address issues such as ethnicity and disability pay gaps.

“We know however that response rates can vary as some people feel more comfortable answering certain questions than others.

“There are a number of reasons why an individual would prefer not to disclose their race, sexual orientation or disability, for example personal choice or a lack of clarity on why the information is being asked for and how it will be used and stored.

“That is why it is essential that employers are transparent about the purpose of any diversity monitoring exercise and take the time to explain how the data will be used and reassure employees that their privacy will be respected.”