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Although the UK’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual population have been legally protected from homophobic discrimination in the workplace since 2003, there is still a prevalent rate of reported workplace harassment cases based on sexual orientation.
In what is perhaps the most comprehensive LGBT workplace study to date, researchers found that nearly one in five LGBT individuals have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues over the course of last year due to their sexual orientation.
To kick-start Pride month, we take a close look at the state of discrimination and harassment against LGBT employees in the workplace, and what HR professionals and managers can do to establish and maintain more diverse and inclusive working environments and cultures.
In their most recent LGBT in Britain Work Report, Stonewall in partnership with YouGov investigated the specific experiences of 3,213 LGBT respondents and their experiences of discrimination in the workplace. In addition, researchers also explored the extent to which LGBT staff still feel they have to conceal who they are at work.
The study painted a grim picture of what the workplace looks like for LGBT employees, with nearly one in five participants reporting that they had been the target of discriminatory comments or conduct from work colleagues over the course of 2017. And if that isn’t bad enough, one in eight transsexual individuals had been physically attacked over the past year by customers or colleagues due to their gender identity.
Meanwhile, 12 percent of black, Asian and minority ethnic employees said they had lost their jobs because of being LGBT, compared to 4 percent of white LGBT staff.
While many businesses are beginning to recognise the importance of cultivating and maintaining more diverse and inclusive working environments to improve productivity and overall business success, the statistics show that we sadly still have a way to go in minimising bias and shifting the work culture to be more inclusive of LGBT individuals.
Although change certainly doesn’t happen overnight, there are steps that you as an employer can take to be more inclusive in the workplace. As a result of their research, the Stonewall charity has published the following guidelines employers should follow in order to cultivate and develop LGBT-inclusive workplaces.
If you haven’t done so already, you should develop clear zero-tolerance policies on homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination and harassment, with clear sanctions for staff and customers who are in violation of such policies.
According to Stonewall’s survey, one in eight lesbian, gay and bisexual people wouldn’t feel confident reporting any homophobic or biphobic bullying to their employer, while one in five trans people wouldn’t report transphobic harassment in the workplace. For this reason, and in line with your anti discrimination policies, you should also actively communicate your equality policy to all staff and ensure that the route for reporting discrimination, harassment or bullying in the workplace is clear.
Although many people may not intentionally be homophobic, biphobic or transphobic, the reality is that most people are simply unaware that flippant remarks and office banter may be preventing a colleague from being who they truly are. As an employer, you should implement all-staff diversity and inclusion training which explains what anti-LGBT discrimination or abuse might look like, why it’s bad for business and how to challenge anti-LGBT attitudes among colleagues. Training should be comprehensive, providing staff with a clear understanding of multiple identities and inequality.
You should also ensure that managers are adequately trained to confidently adopt and implement a zero-tolerance approach to all homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse in the workplace.
Dress code is a workplace staple that many of us take for granted because we dress according to the gender identity we have been assigned at birth and still hold today. However, the Stonewall survey reveals that 31 percent of non binary people and 18 percent of transsexual individuals don’t feel comfortable wearing work attire which represents their gender expression.
Run awareness training sessions for all employees on transsexual inclusion, along with guidance about using pronouns and facilities. You should also develop a policy to support employees who are transitioning, including information on confidentiality, dress codes and using facilities, with related guidance for line managers.
Although many employers know that recruiting individuals from a variety of backgrounds leads to a creative and dynamic workforce, 18 percent of LGBT individuals who were seeking employment last year said they had been discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The reality is that this is not only detrimental to candidates and employees who are on the receiving end of anti-LGBT discrimination, but also to employers who must contend with recruitment and turnover challenges as a result.
In a candidate-driven world, it’s simply not enough to just commit to LGBT inclusiveness in your workplace – you need to shout about it and raise awareness among both prospective and existing employees alike. This would involve including statements and examples of your commitment to LGBT staff, equality and inclusion on your website. When advertising job roles, make sure that a commitment to diversity and inclusion in your workplace is clearly communicated.
In addition, you should develop clear policies around recruitment and promotion, and train your recruitment team to understand where discrimination against LGBT candidates can occur during the recruitment process, as well as what steps they can take to reduce bias.
In order to ensure that inclusiveness and diversity is properly monitored, you should collect diversity data on your workforce across pay and grade to identify any areas of discrimination in career progression based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Monitoring must be worded and formatted correctly. For example, when asking about gender, employees should be able to describe their gender in their own words.
You should also collect diversity data in your exit process and ensure employees leaving your company have the space to raise LGBT related issues. Staff involved in all diversity monitoring should have specific LGBT awareness training when collecting, analysing and reporting results.
In doing all of the above, you should continue to empower senior leaders to make a visible commitment to LGBT equality. This approach will ultimately demonstrate your commitment to inclusiveness, and result in a more dynamic and productive workplace.
To see the full report and accompanying guidelines, along with other tools to help you be a more LGBT inclusive employer, visit www.stonewall.org.uk
Are you short-staffed and struggling to find the right candidates? Here at Search, we recruit into a wide range of sectors, and our team of industry specialists are always on hand to both identify your recruitment needs and which people would be the best fit for your company. As an equal opportunities firm, we do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and ensure the businesses we work with share the same views before we refer our candidates to them. If you would like to find out more about how we can help you, then do not hesitate to contact us!