Insights for Organisations Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

How to Support the LGBTQ+ Community in the Workplace

Paul Brown
16.05.2022 Published: 16.05.22, Modified: 16.05.2022 17:05:09

Discrimination in the workplace can take many forms, such as microaggressions, glass ceilings, explicit, derogatory language and physical attacks. According to Stonewall, one in five employees in the UK have been subject to negative comments or conduct from colleagues due to being part of the LGBTQ+ community.

One in ten black, Asian and minority ethnic staff and one in eight transgender people have experienced physical attacks in the workplace. As a result, a large proportion of people choose not to disclose their sexual orientation to employers or express their gender through work attire. Some are reluctant to report acts of discrimination or bullying. That being the case, these shocking figures may not offer an accurate representation of the prevalence of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia at work, and the situation at hand is far dire than statistics reveal.

On a whole, we are beginning to see positive changes taking place in the professional world. An increasing number of Fortune500 companies are offering LGBTQ+ employee benefits, with 96% adopting non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation and 94% including gender identity. However, just 71% offer transgender-inclusive benefits. The UK is recognised as one of the best countries for LGBTQ+ rights in Europe, but there is more work to be done.

As a business, you carry a great deal of responsibility to set the foundations for an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace in the form of company policies, processes and initiatives. With so many issues to address, it can be challenging to know where to start. We’ve outlined some of the ways your business can support homosexual, transgender and bisexual employees and foster a more LGBTQ+ inclusive work environment.

How can an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace benefit both business and employees?

Research reveals that an inclusive workplace can improve employee satisfaction and lead to higher retention rates. According to Deloitte, 80% of talent look for inclusive companies when applying for a job and 72% would even leave their current job to find somewhere that actively promotes diversity. In this way, taking action to create an inclusive workplace can help reduce employee turnover and retain valuable talent. Diverse teams are also more productive and have better problem-solving abilities, with a blend of different perspectives, skills and open-mindedness.

An inclusive workplace also creates a better sense of community and fosters healthy work relationships, which can improve communication and help internal teams function more efficiently, therefore contributing to both employee wellbeing and increased business performance. To put a number on this, studies show that happy employees are 20% more productive than unhappy employees!

Read more about the meaning of diversity and the importance of inclusion in the workplace.

What can businesses do to foster a more inclusive work environment for LGBTQ+ employees?

There are a number of ways businesses can help foster a more inclusive work environment for LGBTQ+ employees and prospective talent, including:

1. Educate yourself and your employees

A business is responsible for setting the right example for its employees in every situation, be that safety at work or office conduct, and should be expected to provide appropriate training where required. The same applies to diversity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ employees.

To begin, business leaders should take the time to educate themselves on the importance of LGBTQ+ history and rights, and keep up-to-date with relevant political news and activism. One of the most important things to remember is that LGBTQ+ people are all unique, with different values and facing different challenges. It can be useful to listen to some more personal experiences, either listening to podcasts, reading blogs or even talking directly to community members about their stories and understanding their perspectives. This will help you understand each cause and use this to provide valuable awareness training for employees. We recommend starting by training your Human Resources departments and managerial roles to help eliminate unconscious bias and employee discrimination, and working from the top-down.

If you do not feel confident in your ability to educate employees on diversity and inclusion in the LGBTQ+ community, you should consider hiring an external expert to provide training or taking part in a course. MindOut offers online and face-to-face training to help businesses improve their professional and personal practices around LGBTQ inclusion.

2. Assess your hiring processes

While unbiased recruitment processes may not be able to ensure inclusivity in the workplace, they are essential for promoting diversity, which is a starting point. As a bare minimum, according to The Equality Act, job applicants must be treated equally based on sex, gender reassignment, race, disability, age, religion, sexual orientation and pregnancy, which takes homophobia, transphobia and biphobia into account.

Unfortunately, discrimination in recruitment is still prevalant with almost one in five LGBT people experiencing discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity while trying to apply for a job. Findings from the largest national survey of LGBT people show that transgender people have more difficulty finding employment. One responder said:

“I am unemployed and struggle to get work, prior to transitioning this was never an issue. I have tested this by applying to 30+ jobs announcing I am trans to which I received no interest. I did the same again but withheld the fact I am trans and suddenly I got interviews.”

Trans woman, bisexual, 35-44, North West

To combat this, the key is to implement a hiring process that reduces bias. There are a few ways you can do this:

3. Introduce inclusivity policies

The Equality Act 2010 bans workplace discrimination due to sexual orientation and requires businesses to take action to improve equality policy at work. The law covers discrimination in recruitment, terms and conditions, pay, work benefits, training, status, promotions, redundancy, transfers and dismissals.

It is crucial that your equality policies are cross-referenced with your other policies, explicitly referencing LGBTQ+ within the fine print. This includes harassment for LGBTQ+ discrimination, confidentiality, complaints procedures and family policies. For instance, employers must offer the same treatment for same-sex couples, whatever their legal status, and use neutral or LGBTQ+ inclusive language within contracts, such as ‘parents’ rather than ‘mother and father’, and ‘maternity support leave’ rather than ‘paternity’.

4. Create an inclusive and welcoming environment

It can also be useful to request anonymous feedback from your employees to find out what they would like to learn about and any questions they have, but also what your LGBTQ+ employees expect from you. It’s important that this is anonymous to allow employees to comfortably ask personal questions regarding bullying, personal experiences of discrimination or oppression. As a result, you can learn first-hand how to be an LGBTQ+ ally at work and understand how to create a welcoming environment.

Some ideas include:

5. Become an active advocate for the LGBTQ+ community

Once you have established your internal practices to support the LGBTQ+ community, you can begin to become an advocate for the LGBTQ+ community externally. If you have a large social media presence or influential professional networks, it’s important that you’re using this to support the movement and raise awareness for LGBTQ+ discrimination and rights.

Organising events, raising funds or donating to charitable causes is also a great way to show your support, such as Stonewall, LGBT Foundation and Kaleidoscope Trust. However, it is imperative that you avoid jumping on any bandwagons and ensure that you are actually taking action to provide value, and not being tokenistic.

How FDM supports the LGBTQ+ community

FDM is proud to be an equal opportunities employer: it enables us to attract, recruit, train and deploy incredible people. Our employee led groups provide a community for discussion, support and connection with others.

Our Pride Network aims to allow our people to feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves into work. Our mission is to create an open and inclusive environment through education and representation. 5% of our global (who chose to disclose their information in the last 12 months) identify as LGBTQIA*.

Pride is a space for everyone in the network to share with their community any media that interests them. Whether it be an article, an LGBTQ+ event you have attended or even just dropping in to post a discussion point. This is your space to be with a community in FDM that can support you as someone who identifies or is an ally.

Read more about FDM’s diversity and inclusion initiatives.