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Legal implications of collecting race data globally

I work at a global organisation and we are at the start of our D&I journey. We would like to understand if we have any issues within some of our minority groups. We can gather gender data but when it comes to race data, we don’t seem to be allowed legally to do this beyond the US. I would like to include a race selection as optional in our exit survey but am not sure if just by asking the question in some countries might be deemed as illegal. The challenge being that every country seems to have different regulations, and I can’t seem to get a straight answer about where we could and where we shouldn’t ask the question. Has anyone else encountered similar issues and have any advice they could share?

I cannot speak for all countries but I used to work for an organization that operated in African and asking race/ethnicity is illegal. We ended up asking “what do you self identify as”

Hi @elaines, we went through this with a recent DEI survey. My company operates in over 20 countries, so we got legal advice on what countries we could ask race in this survey. We found that we could ask it in the majority of countries, but in general the advice was to obtain explicit consent to obtain the data, make the question optional, provide information in a privacy notice, and de-identify the data. There were some countries where collecting race was prohibited or not recommended. I think this was Canada, France, Germany, Sweden, and Israel. Our lawyers gave us a 20 page report outlining which countries we could ask it and the requirements in doing so - given the complexity, I would recommend consulting with a lawyer.

Hi @elaines - very similar experience for us, we are a global business in 45+ territories and used a lawyer to help us navigate what we could ask where. It was a huge undertaking and we ended up only being able to ask race and other diversity demographic questions in US, UK, Australia, NZ and Canada and had to ask ‘sex’ rather than ‘gender’ in a number of our European territories. I would say that the legal advice gave us the, hardline view but a review with local HR partners helped us understand that sometimes the practise is a little different in terms of what is culturally appropriate/comfortable so I would recommend parallel approaches with external counsel and HR

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