How can you support LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace?
The CIPD’s Inclusion at Work* research, which came out earlier this year, reported that LGBTQ+ employees are more likely to experience workplace conflict and harassment than their heterosexual counterparts. 40% of LGB+ workers and 55% of trans workers have experienced such conflict, compared with 29% of heterosexual employees. In addition, a higher proportion of LGB+ workers (16%) feel psychologically unsafe in the workplace compared with heterosexual workers (10%), while for trans workers, this figure is even higher at 18%.
This suggests that there needs to be a greater understanding of the specific experiences and needs of LGBTQ+ employees and an improvement in the handling of conflict and harassment. LGBTQ+ inclusion is so important for making sure everyone feels safe and comfortable in bringing their whole selves to work. So how can organisations build a supportive and inclusive culture which handles these issues with sensitivity?
Build awareness – education and training
The first step in building awareness is to educate everyone on what LGBTQ+ means. As an umbrella term, LGBTQ+ includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer people. Note that more sexualities can feature under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, hence the use of the plus symbol (for example: intersex people, pansexuality, asexuality, and people who are questioning their sexuality/gender identity).
Offering LGBTQ+ training in the workplace as part of equality and diversity training can be a powerful way to make everyone aware of LGBTQ+ issues.
Training should clarify the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. Assumptions should not be made about the gender of someone’s partner. Training should also explain the nuances across the different gender identity spectrums, particularly with regard to non-binary identities, as these identities may be the least well understood. A great explanation of LGBTQ+ terms can be found here: What Does LGBTQ+ Mean? (verywellmind.com).
Having LGBTQ+ policies in the workplace is a key step for setting the guidelines on how to be more inclusive and avoid discrimination. LGBTQ+ inclusion can form part of any Equality and Diversity policy. Having a separate policy for LGBTQ+ inclusion is an even clearer way to show your commitment to tackling discrimination in this area.
You should ensure your policies on parental leave, adoption, pensions and dress code are LGBTQ+ inclusive. Examples include making sure family policies are inclusive of different gender identities as well as different sexual orientations, that dress codes (if required) are gender-neutral, and you could consider having a policy in place that details the support you provide for an employee who would like to transition.
Creating an LGBTQ+ network can be a great way to support staff. A network means LGBTQ+ employees can meet in a safe space within their place of work to relate to one another. As a focus group, network members can also help you identify and improve upon issues affecting LGBTQ+ staff, so you can continually improve your approach. If there are non-LGBTQ+ people in your workplace who are passionate about or interested in LGBTQ+ rights, get them onboard as an LGBTQ+ ally; they can champion LGBTQ+ inclusion in the workplace and act as a source of support for LGBTQ+ staff.
Having robust inclusion strategies in place for LGBTQ+ staff makes sense from a business perspective as well as an ethical standpoint. This is because all employees will feel less stressed and more productive as respected members of a cohesive team.
If you’d like guidance on reviewing your equality and diversity policies or advice on how to set up specific LGBTQ+ policies, please speak to our employment and HR specialist team at Murrell Associates.
*The CIPD inclusion at work research can be found here: Inclusion at work: perspectives on LGBT+ working lives | CIPD