Ethical considerations related to the inclusivity of data for research and statistics

16 February 2022
Last updated:
16 March 2022

Legal compliance

We must always ensure legal and regulatory compliance in the UK and internationally (as required). Of particular relevance to inclusivity in Great Britain is the Equality Act 2010, which provides a legal basis to ensure that people are not discriminated against on the grounds of nine protected characteristics.

These protected characteristics are:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender reassignment
  • Marriage and civil partnership
  • Pregnancy and maternity
  • Race
  • Religion and belief
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation

Definitions for each of these protected characteristics can be found in Part 2, Chapter 1, of the Equality Act 2010.

In addition, public bodies are bound by the public sector Equality Duty, which means that all individuals must be considered when we carry out our day-to-day work, having due regard to:

  • The elimination of discrimination
  • The advancement of equality of opportunity
  • The fostering of good relations between different people when carrying out activities

This includes when designing and undertaking research and statistical projects.

The Human Rights Act 1998 is also of relevance for inclusivity, outlining the that everyone in the UK is entitled to. The Act incorporates the rights set out in the European Convention on Human rights, and at its heart are 5 core principles: Fairness, Respect, Equality, Dignity and Autonomy.

It is important that researchers and statisticians consider any legal requirements pertaining to their work before their research commences. Particularly, the processing of personal data for research and statistical processes must be fair, lawful, necessary and proportionate, consistent with data protection legislation, as set out in the Data Protection Act 2018 and the General Data Protection Regulation. Processing can be unlawful if it results in other breaches, for example, of the Human Rights Act 1998. Researchers must ensure that their research is undertaken in a way that advances equality of opportunity, does not cause harm to any involved party, and eliminates discrimination. Some of these aspects are considered further in the following sections of this guidance.

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