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LGBT+ History Month: The benefits of fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce

Posted on 23 February 2024

LGBTQIA+ identity in the workplace

A recent Just Like Us survey of LGBTQIA+ young adults found that a quarter 'go back in the closet' and are no longer open about their sexuality and/or gender identity after starting work, and almost a fifth reported that they have experienced workplace bullying. While there are a number of reasons why someone might choose to stay silent about their sexual and/or gender identity, it is well documented that employees perform better when they can bring their 'whole' selves to work. 

A diverse and inclusive workforce not only allows an employer to utilise a wide range of talent and experience, but also increases productivity, encourages employee retention, and assists with recruitment; workplaces with LGBTQIA+ inclusive cultures are attractive to both LGBTQIA+ and non-LGBTQIA+ individuals. While cultivating an inclusive workplace makes both ethical and business sense, the labour of creating change should not rest solely with LGBTQIA+ employees.

Discrimination protection

Under the Equality Act 2010, sexual orientation and gender reassignment are "protected characteristics". Employers must not therefore directly or indirectly discriminate, harass or victimise employees, workers and others on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender reassignment.  Employers will also typically be held responsible for the discriminatory workplace actions of their employees, unless they can show they have taken "all reasonable steps" to prevent the wrongdoing.

Fostering an inclusive workplace for LGBTQIA+ individuals

There are many steps that employers can take to foster an LGBTQIA+ inclusive workplace, for the benefit of LGBTQIA+ employees and the workplace as a whole, including:

  • Having in place a comprehensive equal opportunities policy, which includes specific support for LGBTQIA+ individuals. A Trades Union Congress poll in 2022 found that 1 in 5 workplaces do not have any policies in place to support LGBTQIA+ workers;
  • Updating other company policies such as family friendly policies and transitioning at work policies to ensure that they are fully inclusive of LGBTQIA+ people;
  • Putting procedures in place to ensure compliance with these policies.  A June 2023 Trade Union Congress Report 'Being LGBT+ at work', found that while policies and procedures to promote LGBTQIA+ equality are necessary, they are not sufficient to ensure inclusion and on the ground behaviours of management and staff should be monitored;
  • Having clear messaging from a senior level that the culture of the workplace is LGBTQIA+ inclusive;
  • Having a zero-tolerance approach to homophobic, transphobic and other anti-LGBTQIA+ behaviour in the workplace;
  • Ensuring managers are actively fostering an inclusive culture which sets behavioural standards and monitors bullying. This was a key conclusion in the TUC Report 'Being LGBT+ at work';
  • Reviewing recruitment processes to limit the risk of unconscious bias in hiring decisions and increase diversity;
  • Providing LGBTQIA+ mentors for junior employees and creating an LGBTQIA+ network group;
  • Encouraging a culture of allyship so that LGBTQIA+ individuals feel comfortable being out at work;
  • Putting policies in place with regard to qualifications with names or gender markers that are no longer used by individuals. Trans people may struggle to have qualifications recognised that are not under their current name or gender marker, and these documents may 'out' trans people in the workplace;
  • Encouraging the correct use of pronouns in the workplace. Gendered language, assumptions about employees' gender or partners, or intrusive personal questions were found to have an impact on inclusion in the TUC Report 'Being LGBT+ at work';
  • Conducting an LGBTQIA+ pay gap review and sharing the results; and
  • Supporting LGBTQIA+ charities and volunteering opportunities.

If you would like more information on supporting LGBTQIA+ individuals in the workplace, please get in touch with a member of the Employment team.

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