Creating an LGBT+ inclusive workplace
Sexual orientation is one of the nine protected characteristics under the 2010 Equality Act. This means that it is illegal to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation in the workplace. Whilst it is important to bear this in mind when creating diversity and inclusion policy, the focus here is much more about creating an inclusive workplace; Attracting a wider pool of talent and maximising the potential of employees.
Startlingly, more than a third of LGBT+ staff have hidden their sexual orientation at work for fear of discrimination (Stonewall) and it is easy to see how this would have an impact on an employee’s wellbeing and performance at work. A good way to think about the impact this would have on your happiness and wellbeing is to try to describe your weekend to colleagues without mentioning the gender of your other half. It really puts into perspective how much effort it takes to try and hide who you are, doing this on a daily basis makes people feel marginalised and less engaged. The result of this is staff who are unhappy at work, less confident and therefore less able to contribute fully and productively.
According to a recent Stonewall study, 1 in 5 LGBT+ employees have been a target of negative comments or conduct from their work colleagues in the last year because they are LGBT+. It is important to create a culture within an organisation that celebrates diversity, whilst understanding that it doesn’t work without inclusion and a respect for difference. A team who respect and learn from each other’s differences is supportive and works well together to maximise productivity.
Co-founder of LGBTed and Clear Company Consultant, Hannah Jepson says;
“For me it’s simple: People perform better at work when they can be their authentic selves, when the culture of that organisation creates the conditions in which they don’t have to hide who they are. When that happens people are happier in their jobs, they are more productive, they’re more committed, healthier, and more likely to stay.”
The Importance of Allies
Creating the right environment for an individual to work in will improve their performance. Employee networks are valuable to influence how your organisation manages diversity because they draw upon the expertise of your employees and open up conversation. However, be sure to open up your LGBT+ networks to allies. LGBT+ allies are people who support LGBT+ equality and can be great drivers for change in your organisation. Allies will allow LGBT+ staff to be their authentic selves in the workplace, ultimately it is beneficial to every member of staff if the whole team can be themselves and contribute effectively.
It is also important to consider your company values, they are the foundation of your organisation, they set direction, goals and promote a performing culture. It is important to weave inclusivity into your values and align policy and procedures to reflect this. Incorporate inclusive behaviours, such as respect; and promote these values across your website and attraction materials. LGBT+ people are not likely to apply for jobs in an organisation that they feel is not inclusive.
LGBT+ also means inclusion for trans employees and is independent of sexual orientation. Although the Trans movement is associated with Pride and LGB movements.
Trans employees face marginalisation as LGB people do, although the barriers are unique to each individual. It is important to take action and make changes to ensure your workplace is trans inclusive. There are a number of ways to begin raising awareness and reviewing your processes to promote trans inclusion. For example, you might consider altering the employee dress code; boxing dress codes into women may wear and men may wear might force people to dress in a way that doesn’t align with their gender identity. Offering a gender neutral option gives the decision to employees and the freedom to express their identity as they feel comfortable.
Almost a third of non-binary people (31 per cent) and one in five trans people (18 per cent) don’t feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression. Stonewall
As we have already discussed, allowing employees to be their authentic selves at work will lead to a happier, more efficient workforce.
When maximising every individual’s potential, and ensuring everyone is happy and healthy at work, there is no one size fits all solution. Listen to your employees, draw from their knowledge and experience and implement best practise diversity and inclusion at all stages of the employee lifecycle. A diverse team is; innovative, productive and competitive, don’t miss out on talent. At The Clear Company, we have a range of toolkits, HR software and digital learning that can help to get you from getting started, to an in-depth D&I journey.