Significant strides have been taken over the past decade or two to support Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and plus (LGBTQ+) employees and create diverse and inclusive workplaces. These strides have allowed organisations to identify talent and increase innovation, as it is evident that individuals preform to a much higher standard when they are able to not just be themselves at work, but are confident that they are in a safe and inclusive environment.
Despite this, many individuals from the LGBTQ+ community are hesitant to disclose or promote their gender and/or sexual identity at work, due to the fear of facing homophobia, discrimination and microaggression. Often feeling they will be passed by for promotion and interviews based on their gender or/and sexual identity.
There are more steps businesses need to take, further than just complying with the law to support their LGBTQ+ employees and candidates in the workplace, some of which are as follows…
- Develop and communicate clear missions and aims for LGBTQ+ support in your workplace.
- Support all employees through having clear, accessible, user friendly two-way communication streams, and collaborative working methods, that allow for constructive feedback and proactive change
- Consider if you need to inform senior management or any other employees (remember it is illegal to disclose an individual’s sexual orientation or sexual identification i.e. transgender without their prior consent)
- Brush up on your data protection policies regarding updating an individual’s name, pronouns and gender, make sure all sensitive documents are kept secure
- Identify if there are documents where the name, pronouns and/or gender of an individual cannot be updated
- If your employee is going through any form of transition process, ensure you construct an appropriate timeline with your employee that supports what they would like to happen. This timeline may include aspects such as changing their name and/or pronouns at work and any time off needed
- This may require you to review your absence policy, ensuring that time taken off in relation to medical procedures that support gender re-assignment are treated equally to that of illness or injury
- Support other team members by ensuring they are educated and re-educated on both terminology and relevant policies and legislations. Key legislations could include:
- Equality Act 2010
- Gender Recognition Act 2004
- Foster a gender-neutral environment – establish bold organisational cultural changes by promoting unisex toilets and the use of partner rather than husband or wife.
- Develop LGBTQ+ support programs and champions. This can be done through mentoring, networking groups and seminar style sessions that all support open discussion and communication regarding improvements to inclusion and diversity within your workplace.
- Ensure all employees know the correct process for reporting any incidents of micro-aggression and discrimination. (LGBTQ+ based or otherwise) and ensure the response process is clear and proactive (make sure you follow up with the employee and team)
- Review your anti-discrimination policies, ensure these are strongly established in all recruitment and promotion practices
- Allow the employee(s) to take the lead regarding team communication unless otherwise requested
- Discuss with the employee if they would like to have an open dialogue stream with an employer about their gender or/and sexual identity? Who do they want to know and how would they prefer to go about this?
- Utilise collaborative working methods and constructive criticism to support annual reflection of any relevant processes – be proactive in finding solutions and methods that improve your ability to support LGBTQ+ workers
And last but not least, keep track of your successes! Monitor and celebrate your organisations Diversity and Inclusion progress by tracking the hopeful reduction in any discrimination-based grievances, make a point of highlighting diversity training completion rate, track LGBTQ+ hires and promotions and encourage employee satisfaction survey completion.
For more thoughts on how to support LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace, listen to our podcast “The HR Connection” – where we help you to understand the correct terminology and definitions, and how you can support the LGBTQ+ community within your workforce.