Employees only give their best performance at work when they can be open and bring their true selves to the workplace. This can be especially true for lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) staff.
Yet sadly, research by the charity Stonewall found that 35% of LGBT staff have hidden the fact that they are LGBT at work because they’re scared of discrimination or homophobic abuse.
The Equality Act 2010 means it’s against the law to discriminate against anyone because of their sexual orientation. And as an employer, it’s crucial all your employees feel equal, safe and protected, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
But inclusivity is not just about the law. Employees who don’t feel supported in their workplace will be less happy, motivated and engaged - and less productive overall. An inclusive environment is key for a company’s reputation and staff retention, too.
Given this, here are some steps to take to have a fully inclusive workplace that helps everyone succeed to the max.
Empower LGBT staff by creating a staff network for people to meet and share their experiences - or encourage employees to set one up.
An employee network can be a great way to discover what LGBT employees feel are the challenges in the workplace and how they can be better supported - leading to positive changes in company policy.
They can also be great opportunities for staff to network, offer mentoring or be mentored and boost overall career development.
Your workplace can’t be LGBT-inclusive unless you have clear policies setting out your position on LGBT rights, with policies explicitly mentioning LGBT people.
Is LGBT inclusion baked into your equality and diversity policy? Are your policies LGBT inclusive on issues including parental leave, adoption and pensions?
Placing even more importance on this will put you in good company: according to US research, 91% of Fortune 500 businesses now have non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation (83% include gender identity).
Of course no one should go to work fearing negative comments, harrassment or discrimination which is where solid policies play a key role.
But on a day-to-day basis, think about whether company-wide inclusivity training would bring some benefits. It can often be a good way to raise awareness on common stigma and misconceptions - and how to combat them.
Championing a fresh outlook could be especially important depending on which sector your business is in. Some technical and engineering companies which are heavily male-dominated may find that outdated viewpoints still persist - and at RHL we now believe it’s time to challenge the ‘banter’ that can actually do harm.
Wider society celebrates and marks important LGBT dates and events in the calendar - does your company do this too?
Whether you mark these dates internally or get involved in the wider community, there are so many benefits from participating.
They’re a perfect opportunity to highlight employees who are LGBT role models, show that you value all staff - and send a strong signal to customers and clients that inclusion and diversity are important to you as an employer.
The most important way to support LGBT employees is to strive for an inclusive workplace culture. It helps everyone feel they can be themselves and know their employer values everything about them. After all, if your employees are able to flourish then so too can your business.
The charity Stonewall publishes free resources and toolkits to help businesses be more LGBTQ-inclusive. See https://www.stonewall.org.uk/best-practice-toolkits-and-resources