How can inclusive employers ensure that their LGBT hires are treated fairly?

We all hope to be treated fairly when at work, but sadly this is still not the reality for a lot of the LGBTQ+ community in the UK. The Guardian reports that 34% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the UK still choose to not disclose their sexuality at work. The National LGBT survey (2018) undertaken by the British Government revealed that one in five respondents had a bad experience at work because they were LGBT. This and other surveys show that because of this, members of the LGBTQ+ community frequently decide to hide their private lives with fears of homophobia, exclusion and discrimination in the work space.

Fundamentally, it’s clear that more needs to be done to ensure that people feel physically and psychologically safe when at work, so what steps can you take as an inclusive business to ensure you treat LGBTQ+ employees fairly?

Diversity in the workplace

We already know why diversity is important in the workplace, with benefits ranging from access to broader perspectives to fresh ideas and innovative problem solving. However, it’s important to remember that diversity is not just a box ticking exercise and that the diverse employees that you hire must thrive in your establishment in order for you to reap those benefits. 

Simply put, you cannot become more diverse and fair through simply establishing a set of diversity and inclusion principles in a lengthy staff handbook. While using job boards such as LGBT Jobs can be a fantastic way to create a more diverse recruitment strategy, it’s important to go beyond this and ensure that your work environment truly lives and breathes these values if you want to attract, retain and benefit from a more diverse workforce.  

So let’s take a look at our top six ways to ensure your workplace is a safe, fair and welcoming environment for all.

1. Create an inclusive atmosphere

An ‘inclusive atmosphere’ may sound like an abstract term, but in essence, it means ensuring that all LGBTQ+ employees feel safe and welcome at work from the get go. A little goes a long way, but the most important thing is to ensure that staff – new and old – know, understand and are on-board with your diversity and equality values. Workplace ‘banter’ can be offensive and alienating, so it’s important to educate staff on what it really means to foster an inclusive environment and how each person can play their part in doing so. 

Some ideas on how to create an inclusive atmosphere:

  • Make sure your diversity and inclusivity policies are easily accessible
  • Make pronouns available to all in your onboarding documents as well as other communications
  • Take complaints seriously – send a clear message that discrimination will not be tolerated
  • Invite employees to attend LGBTQ+ networking events
  • Host diversity and inclusion events, inviting guests speakers to share their own experiences 
  • Consider building gender neutral toilets

2. Diversity and Inclusion Training

As discussed in what you need to know about hiring new staff, it’s crucial to have a set of established principles when it comes to diversity in the workplace. That being said, these need to be readily available, and most importantly, be ingrained in the attitude of the workforce. Setting up formal training for new members of staff will ensure that everyone is aware of these principles, how important they are to the values of the business and who to speak to if they have any issues. It’s everyone’s responsibility to prevent LGBTQ+ discrimination and support equality in the workplace, and by training and educating your staff these principles should filter throughout your organisation.

 3. Create LGBTQ+ friendly networks

It’s easy to feel a bit lost in a new job, but it can be especially difficult when trying to conceal your private life. By creating LGBTQ+ friendly networks, new staff can feel at ease knowing that they are not alone and support is readily available to help them settle in. What’s more, these networks are a great place for staff to share and discuss ideas, which can lead to positive progress in company policy. So, set one up and encourage staff to come together, make new friends and contribute to creating an equal and fair workplace. 

4. Extend employee benefits

If your company’s employee benefits don’t treat LGBTQ+ members of staff fairly, then that needs to change. Take time to ensure that the wording of life or health insurance gives the option to include same sex partners and provides medical support for transgender people. Microsoft were among the first to do this in 1993, joined by other big companies championing LGBTQ rights such as Coca Cola and EY. Taking measures like this will truly set you apart as an inclusive employer, which in turn will attract talented candidates. 

5. Communicate well

As the age old saying goes – communication is key. Find effective ways of conveying your company’s commitment to inclusivity and fostering respectful communication amongst employees. Make sure your commitment to LGBTQ+ equality is reflected in all your communications – from presentations to speeches, newsletters to team meetings. Be careful in the imagery you select to ensure that they don’t perpetuate any stereotypes. Be scrutinous of the language you use to make sure it does not cause any offence.

6. Listen and adapt 

Perhaps the most important of all these principles, is to remain open minded and respectful. That being said, it’s important to be mindful that as things develop your policies may need to be updated. Make sure you listen to feedback, implement changes and constantly evolve your strategies so that you are really meeting the needs of the LGBTQ+ community. Listen to your employees – formally through surveys or informally in meetings – whatever best suits. Find out what’s working and what’s not, and take clear action to address any issues.

So there you have it, our top tips for ensuring that all employees are treated fairly in the workplace. Dedicating time and resources towards creating an inclusive workplace sends a clear message to current and future employees that you are serious about diversity and that you want to have the LGBTQ+ community fully on-board. For more information, contact LGBT Jobs for further advice and to see how we can work together.


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