Harmonised standards and guidance by topic

What are harmonised standards and guidance?

Harmonised standards and guidance are tools for improving the comparability and coherence of statistics.  

Being harmonised is about aligning with others, not necessarily being identical to them. As such, some of our harmonised standards can be tailored for specific situations. Further information on the importance of harmonisation can be found on the dedicated harmonisation page of this website, or in the United Kingdom (UK) Statistics Authority’s explanation of how coherence relates to the Code of Practice for Statistics. 

Harmonised standards include definitions, survey questions, suggested presentations and information for data users. Producers of statistics can use these harmonised standards to align with others, which will increase the usefulness of their statistics. 

 In some circumstances, it is not appropriate to suggest harmonised questions and definitions. In these cases, harmonisation guidance explains the topic landscape to help users understand where they can and cannot compare data. 

 Work on the standards has been developed by topic groups, after wide consultation across the Government Statistical Service (GSS) and beyond. 


On this page we list the standards and guidance by topic.

In October 2020, the National Statistician established the Inclusive Data Taskforce to improve the UK’s inclusive data holdings in a broad range of areas, including the nine protected characteristics of the Equality Act. In September 2021, the Taskforce recommendations were published, some of which specifically refer to harmonised standards. The National Statistician’s response to these recommendations references the publication of a GSS Harmonisation Plan and the review, refinement and updating of harmonised standards. Further information on this work will be made available in due course.