LGBT (Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights charity Stonewall has released its top 100 LGBT-inclusive employers for 2019. The UK’s leading list ranks employers from across the public and private sectors on how inclusive their workplaces are.
Although workplaces are becoming increasingly diverse, sadly many LGBT people in the UK still choose not to disclose their sexuality at work for fear of homophobia, exclusion or in case they are discounted from promotion opportunities.
Stonewall revealed in a survey last year that a surprising 34% of LGBT people hide their private lives from colleagues and clients at work for fear of discrimination.
This is a worrying statistic for employers seeking to make the most of a diverse workforce by improving services and increasing productivity, because we know that ultimately people perform better when they can be themselves.
According to Stonewall, LGBT-inclusive employers play a “crucial role in changing society by using their power and influence to proudly support LGBT people in their organisations.”
So if you are a business looking to ensure all people are treated fairly and equally in your workplace regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, here are some tips to help you ‘come out’ as an LGBT-inclusive employer:
1. Ensure that your policies are fully inclusive
Organisations can improve the environment for LGBT employees by creating policies that are squarely motivated by a desire to be more inclusive. This doesn’t stop at ensuring you have a fully inclusive equality and diversity policy; all other organisational policies including parental leave and pensions for example should be reviewed and explicitly mention LGBT people where relevant.
2. Educate staff about LGBT equality
All staff, including senior management, should undergo diversity training, with a specific section on issues that may affect LGBT colleagues. Because discrimination more commonly results from insensitive ‘banter’ rather than targeted intolerance, it is important to train staff on issues such as inappropriate language to ensure a more tolerant and comfortable working environment for everyone. This gives out a clear message that discrimination against LGBT people is not acceptable and improves people’s understanding of the discrimination that LGBT people may face.
3. Engage staff members who don’t identify as LGBT
Humour in the workplace is healthy but office ‘banter’ can sometimes establish a culture of subordination, and complaints should always be taken seriously. It is important to encourage all staff to challenge any negative comments and ‘jokes’ relating to LGBT people and/or LGBT issues. Ensuring that your employees know that reporting homophobic behaviour is their responsibility will contribute to an inclusive atmosphere across the entire business.
4. Take time to understand your staff
Getting to know your staff will help ensure you are able to cater effectively to any needs they may have. This also means listening to how people describe their own identity, gender, partners and relationships and reflecting their choice of language. To do this it is advisable to avoid making assumptions about a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity and instead use gender-neutral terms such as ‘partner’.
5. Confidentiality is key
It is crucial to ensure confidentiality to all staff unless they have clearly chosen to be ‘out’ themselves. Be aware that confidentiality for LGBT people can be a matter of personal safety rather than solely about privacy. There are also legal considerations under the GDPR for employers since sexual orientation and gender identity are classed as ‘special category data’. Such information therefore requires additional protection; it should be considered strictly confidential and treated as such.