This year marks the 50th anniversary of the first UK Gay Pride Rally held in London on July the 1st, 1972. Since then, a lot has happened. Legislation has been passed and some undeniable progress has been made. That being said, underrepresentation and isolation at work continues to disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ employees, with one in five members stating they have been the target of a negative comment or conduct at work.

Is your organisation currently doing everything it can to support its LGBTQ+ workforce? A recent report carried out by the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) suggests that we all need to be doing more. 

2021 CIPD Report Findings 

The CIPD report, ‘Inclusion at work: perspectives on LGBT+ working lives’, published three main findings:

  1. LGBTQ+ employees experienced heightened workplace conflict. 
  2. LGBTQ+ employees are less likely to feel psychologically safe at work.
  3. Transgender policies and practices need targeted improvements. 

Whilst the month of June tends to encourage visible corporate support for LGBTQ+ issues, make sure that this LGBTQ+ History Month your organisation is also revising its policies and strategies to ensure all employees feel safe, equal, and included. 

Heightened workplace conflict

In contrast to 29% of cisgender (a term describing a person whose gender identity corresponds to their assigned sex at birth) heterosexual employees, 40% of LGBQ+ and 50% of transgender employees, reported experiencing workplace conflict. Common conflict issues included LGBTQ+ members feeling like they had been undermined or humiliated by their heterosexual cisgender colleagues. When conflict occurred, many also reported that the issue had not been fully resolved. 

The effective handling of conflict and harassment needs to become a top priority for organisations working to become more inclusive. Employees should feel comfortable speaking out on harassment, inappropriate behaviour, and offensive comments. They should know that any reports made will be seriously investigated and that any breaches found will be appropriately dealt with. Employers have a legal obligation to prevent and address discrimination, and should take a zero-tolerance approach to offences. 

Make sure that you have policies in place with robust guidance on how employees are expected to behave as well as the organisational mechanisms in place to report conflict. This may form part of your Code of Conduct, Anti-Harassment Policy, or be a standalone policy. Include instructional examples for managers on what actions may be taken in order to deal with incidents and make sure the policy is clearly communicated to all employees, including board members, and that they are readily accessible. 

Feeling psychologically unsafe 

LGBTQ+ workers are not only less likely to be satisfied with their job, they are also more likely to feel psychologically unsafe at work. Only 10% of heterosexual cisgender employees reported feeling unsafe, which rose to 16% for LGBQ+ workers and a further 18% for transgender workers. The CIPD report thus highlights the importance of creating an inclusive workplace culture that makes everyone in the organisation feel valued, and that they have a voice. 

As an organisation you can:

  • Encourage conversations around the value of inclusion and why diversity is important for an organisation to thrive. 
  • Ensure the support of senior leadership – their role in creating or changing a company’s culture is vital.
  • Carry out wellbeing pulse surveys and investigate any low scores. Re-evaluate your wellbeing programmes to make sure that they are inclusive or all genders and sexual identities. 
  • Encourage and promote all employee feedback, with the option of anonymity, and ensure any issues and concerns raised are taken seriously.
  • Consider setting up a LGBTQ+ organisational network. This can help provide a safe space for communities to meet up, exchange ideas, and create change. The network would ideally have a leader/ ambassador, and be made up of members from a diverse range of roles and seniority. Including a member of the board/ senior leadership to act as an overall sponsor can be extremely beneficial, helping push through the positive changes that require top level agreement. On top of this, creating tiers that require different levels of engagement within the network will encourage more people to get involved, especially if it may be a “side of desk” role.

Transgender policies and practices

Lastly, the third major point for improvement (as highlighted in the CIPD report) was regarding inadequate company policies when it comes to transgender employees. Out of 193 workers surveyed, 26% said they are not open about their gender identity at all at work. Whilst 90% of cisgender workers said they would offer support to a transgender colleague, only 61% of transgender employees said they felt thier heterosexual cisgender colleagues would help them. On top of that, nearly half of the transgender employees surveyed identified corporate Inclusion and Diversity training, trans-inclusive language in communication, and the guidance given to managers on how to support trans workers, as inadequate.

It is absolutely necessary that companies create structural support for transgender employees.  

Start by reviewing all HR systems and policies to ensure that they are inclusive of all genders and pronouns (this includes allowing for changes to be made on documents and records for employees who are or have transitioned). Then review and strengthen trans-supportive policies and procedures. This could include but is not limited to ensuring an inclusive dress code policy, inclusive health coverage, inclusive bathroom facilities, and supporting leave for transitioning employees. 

When it comes to inclusion training, make sure to clarify the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. Explain the nuances across the different gender identity spectrums, particularly with regard to non-binary identities as these are often the least well understood. If you don’t have in-house expertise, consider getting expert advice (which we can help with!) and seek anonymous feedback on any LGBTQ+ training you organise in order to identify areas for improvements. 

LGBTQIA+ LEGO Figurines

A Diverse and Inclusive workforce is a better workforce

Promoting diversity in your workplace is not only the right thing to do; it will also actively help your business to flourish. When employees feel included they are likely to be engaged. This higher engagement has a ripple effect on profitability, team morale and retention. Your company will also have a higher chance of coming up with fresh ideas and innovative solutions. If you’d like to read more, have a read of the Harvard Business Review, which states that more inclusive companies report 19 per cent higher revenue

For  more information, or guidance on how to promote LGBTQ+ inclusivity in your workplace feel free to get in touch: [email protected]. And also – happy Pride month!

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