Creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace

The benefits of an inclusive workplace are well documented. Recent research suggests, however, that many employers still have a long way to go in creating a workplace where employees, particularly junior employees, feel safe disclosing and being open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

In 2023, the Office for National Statistics released data that shows younger people are more likely to identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB). For those aged 16 to 24, 9.2% (or 630,000 individuals) identified as LGB.  These proportions decrease as the age of the population increases, with the proportion of individuals aged 65 years and over identifying as LGB estimated to be 0.7% (85,000). 

Despite this, previous research by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows that fewer junior employees are likely to be ‘out’ at work than their more senior colleagues.

It’s ethical, it’s legal, and it’s productive

There are many reported ethical, legal and productivity benefits to creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace. 

Inclusivity can help all employees feel safe, be themselves, and thrive in their workplace. It can enhance self-esteem, health, and life and job satisfaction for LGBTQ+ employees. Proven inclusivity in the workplace can attract and retain talent, improve reputation, and bring diverse perspectives, enhancing creativity, innovation, and productivity.

As an employer in the UK, you are required by the Equality Act 2010 not to treat a person differently because of their sexual orientation or gender reassignment. This includes intentional and unintentional discrimination, which can be a one-off act or a result of a rule or policy. The provision extends to individuals perceived to have a particular protected characteristic and those connected to someone with a particular protected characteristic. 

Is your workplace inclusive?

If you haven’t already, there are steps you can take to improve LGBTQ+ inclusivity in your workplace. 

  • Build a culture for LGBTQ+ inclusion, including:
    • Take an individual approach. Understand that LGBTQ+ staff will feel differently from each other and have had unique experiences. Take time to understand any concerns, views, and feelings of LGBTQ+ staff.
    • Create a network.  Create an LGBTQ+ community that provides a safe space and support and is open to LGBTQ+ and non-LGBTQ+ staff.
    • Foster inclusive work relations.  Encourage conversations around the benefits of inclusion and understanding people’s differences.
  • Establish a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) policy and ensure it is communicated to your staff and acted upon.
  • Provide all staff with effective DEI training, ensuring that they are aware of sexual orientation discrimination and the action that will be taken if the DEI policy is breached.
  • Take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual orientation discrimination.
  • Review the success of initiatives to improve LGBTQ+ inclusivity regularly, adapt them accordingly, and reap the benefits!

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