Equality and Human Rights Monitor 2023: The importance of being data and evidence-led

Published: 16 November 2023


Data and evidence are central to the work of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). We use it to better understand the problems facing different groups in society. We can then propose more targeted and effective solutions. Our biggest single source of this data is our Equality and Human Rights Monitor, which we will refer to as ‘the Monitor’ throughout this blog. This is our state of the nation analysis of progress in equality and human rights outcomes.

The Monitor is based on our Measurement Framework. The Framework sets out how we monitor data and evidence across each of the nine protected characteristics in areas such as: education, work, living standards, health, justice and personal security, and participation. This framework is important, as it allows us to get a snapshot of how these groups are doing, and then compare that performance over time. However, our ability to analyse those trends has been limited by one overarching factor – data availability.

There are a several key reasons why we have found there to be a lack of available data.


The COVID-19 pandemic caused many data collections to be paused, vary their methodologies or in some cases they were stopped altogether. This has left data gaps across the protected characteristics.

Variation in standards

The Inclusive Data Task Force, established in October 2020, set a goal of ensuring that data and evidence across the UK is reflective and inclusive of all. Their 2021 report set out a number of recommendations, such as creating consistent standards for some groups, to help achieve this goal. However, progress against these recommendations has been slow.

Capability and capacity

Even where we have standards for data and evidence, such as for sex, gender identity and ethnicity, we find that many data sources do not use them, or do not collect equality data at all.  This means that comparing groups is difficult and we get an incomplete picture of life in Great Britain. This may be due to capability, capacity, or a lack of awareness of the benefits of collecting this information. 

How does this affect us?

For the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, we have very limited quantitative evidence with which we can assess the overall quality of life for trans people.

We also face challenges in analysing data on ethnicity. Although there are standards available for this group, they are not always used, or are used incorrectly (for example by just using 'Black' and 'White' categories). In addition to this, some ethnic groups, such as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, are often left out altogether.

As some of the most marginalised groups in Britain, this is a significant problem. It means that we, and the service providers that directly support them, do not have the evidence to be able to create new policies which address the issues facing these groups.

What is the solution?

The Government Statistical Service provides consistent standards for data collection. However, other than for Official Statistics and the Code of Practice, there is no mechanism to enforce the use of those standards by data owners. We rely on data owners being interested in equality data and having both capacity and capability to implement not just the data standards, but wholesale approaches to inclusion in their data collections and publications. 

The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) gives us some leverage, but we need a concerted, coordinated effort across UK governments and all public bodies to proactively collect equality data and bring about better data and evidence.

Without this, policy can only ever be designed on a partial picture, and the likelihood that progress will continue to be achieved on that basis is low.