Over a third of LGBT (term used by Stonewall in 2018) employees hid their sexual orientation in the workplace, for fear of discrimination, as shown in a study conducted by the charity Stonewall in 2018 This is despite the fact that it is unlawful for organisations to discriminate against employees for any reason, which includes for their sexual orientation or gender identification as sexual orientation is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
Additionally, one in eight trans employees stated they had faced attacks from colleagues or customers and 18% of LGBT people who were searching for work said they had been discriminated against because of either their sexual orientation or their gender identity inside the past year. This shows that although it is prohibited, discrimination still occurs towards this community in the workplace.
Employees feeling like they have to hide aspects of themselves so as not to face scrutiny and judgement will only make for an unhappy workplace, which can cause significant issues. Harassment can often lead to poor performances or attendance at work, which can ultimately lead to dismissal without the recognition of homophobia or biphobia as the root cause. Employers and those in positions of authority within the organisation should therefore send clear messages of support for all diversity including employees who identify as LGBTQ+, to help employees feel more comfortable in the workplace. Employees are going to work better and more efficiently when they are happy and can be themselves, so it’s important that this occurs within the workplace.
Stonewall charity recommends organisations follow clear policies on aspects such as bullying, discrimination and harassment in order to protect employees and make them feel safe in the workplace. Alongside this, additional support should be provided detailing the policies for employees going through gender reassignment. An employee’s LGBT identity does not have to be disclosed, but once the organisation is aware, it is vital they do not ‘out’ the employee, as this breaches privacy rules. Alongside this, all policies including family and leave and health insurance policies should be fully inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, explicitly mentioning them.
It is also vital that other employees who do not identify as LGBTQ+ but are colleagues of those who do, are engaged and involved in actively ensuring inclusion for all. This can be through setting up network groups, spreading messages of diversity throughout the workplace, and ensuring that all employees share the same vision and expectations.
Particularly within the current-day Covid19 pandemic, it is vital that LGBTQ+ employees are supported. The Stonewall report showed that almost one out of five LGBT employees have been the target of some form of dsicrimnation from colleagues because of their sexual orientation. Just because they may now be working from home due to the pandemic, it doesn’t mean this stops, as in actual fact private messaging only makes it more covert and harder to identify. It is therefore imperative that anti-discrimination and bullying safeguards surrounding remote working are in place, perhaps starting with online training on LGBTQ+ inclusivity. Additionally, LGBTQ+ employees are more likely to experience poor mental health, which of course the pandemic may have added to. Engaging with these communities within the workplace and providing extra help and support where necessary is crucial in supporting your employees. This may mean a detailed look at mental health policies to check they are inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, and providing access to LGBT-inclusive EAP practitioners within your organisation.
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Article last updated: 17 June 2021
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