LGBTQ+ Inclusivity – Token Gestures vs Real Change

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Hannah Williamson

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02 Jun 2021

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Lego recently made headlines for introducing a new LGBTQ+ set, entitled “Everyone is Awesome”.

The new range includes 11 minifigures, each representing one of the coloured stripes of the pride flag. All but one of the figures has no specific gender, with the intention to “express individuality, while remaining ambiguous.”

Staff at Lego have applauded the move, but it isn’t this act alone that has made staff feel comfortable at work as an LGBT+ employee…

“I’ve been at Lego for six years and I’ve never hesitated to be myself here, which isn’t the case everywhere,” says a Lego employee, “when I joined Lego, I hoped it would be an inclusive place – but I didn’t know. People like me wonder, ‘will I be welcome here?’ And the answer is yes – but this set means that, now, everyone knows it.”

One act is rarely enough to shift an entire company culture. That doesn’t mean it’s pointless to act.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some steps you can take—no matter how big or small your business—to help make your workplace LGBTQ+ inclusive.

LGBTQ+ Inclusivity

The facts

This year, the CIPD produced a report on LGBT+ working lives. This highlighted several key areas where UK employers can improve.

The report shows that:

LGBT+ employees experience heightened workplace conflict

LGB+ and trans workers report higher levels of workplace conflict than heterosexual, cisgender workers. 29% of heterosexual employees say they’ve experienced workplace conflict in the last 12 months. This is compared with 40% of LGB+ employees.

LGBT+ employees experience job dissatisfaction and less psychological safety

85% of heterosexual workers reported ‘somewhat’ to ‘very good’ working relationships. This dropped to 80% for LGB+ and 75% of trans workers.

LGBT+ employees are more likely to report that work has a negative impact on their health

Good work should have a positive impact on wellbeing. However, there has been a decline in workers reporting a positive impact on their health due to their work in recent years. LGB+ and trans employees are slightly less likely to say work has a positive impact on their health than heterosexual workers (35% and 26% vs 38%).

Trans policies & practices are seen as inadequate

Trans workers were asked about the adequacy of various trans-specific policies and practices in their organisation. Areas that were seen as least fit for purpose were:

  • Inclusion and diversity training that includes gender identity (49% viewed this as inadequate)
  • Trans-inclusive language in corporate/marketing communications (48% viewed this as inadequate)
  • Providing guidance to managers on how to support trans workers (43% viewed this as inadequate).

The solutions

So, how do you create a workplace culture that is inclusive and accepting of everyone?

As a starting point you should do the following:

  • Create/update an LGBT+ policy. Highlight what your business does to promote inclusivity, and state that you won’t tolerate discrimination or abuse of any kind.
  • Provide diversity training. This can be done internally, or you can use an external speaker.
  • Offer equal employee benefits. Whatever benefits you offer, LGBT+ must benefit from the same perks as cisgender, heterosexual colleagues.

Discrimination due to sexual orientation, sex, and gender reassignment is illegal. These are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. The three points above will help protect employees who may suffer discrimination as a result of these characteristics. However, they don’t address the issues highlighted in the CIPD report.

So how can we tackle conflict, job dissatisfaction, mental health issues and inadequate workplace practices? Let’s look at each issue one at a time…

Workplace conflict

In your policies, outline what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour and the repercussions of displaying unacceptable behaviour. Provide guidance to managers on how to deal with conflict and how to report it.

Many employees will be afraid to escalate an issue for fear of negative repercussions. Encourage them to report incidents of conflict to managers or HR. If possible, create a peer support LGBT+ network. This will ensure support from colleagues when dealing with an incident.

Job dissatisfaction

Don’t shy away from conversations about inclusion and diversity. Doing so pushes individuals out of positive work relationships and can foster ignorance.

Workplace culture tends to trickle down from the top, that means you have a key part to play as an employer. If the senior leadership buys-in to diversity strategies it will encourage others in the business to do the same. The more vocal the support is, the better.

Finally, it’s important that LGBTQ+ individuals in the business have a voice. They should feel comfortable having their say. This will allow them to contribute towards company culture and provide suggestions to improve inclusion.

Mental health

If you don’t already, consider implementing a wellbeing initiative. Croner’s Employee Assistance Programme is a great way to manage staff mental health, find out more here.

If you’re unsure whether your employees are struggling, you can utilise an anonymous, voluntary feedback survey. This allows individuals to raise concerns privately and avoid intrusion from others.

You can provide support and training internally too. If you do this, make sure you take into account all perspectives from all groups. Challenges that you face may be entirely different to that of a trans employee, for example.

Inadequate policies & practices

This is probably the area where most improvement is needed.

Training should clarify the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. Don’t make assumptions about the gender (or sex) of someone’s partner. Explain the nuances of gender identity, and the various spectrums they fall on.

If you don’t have trans-specific policies, draft some. If you do have trans-specific policies, review them, and strengthen them where you can. If you’re uncertain how to do this, Croner can assist you with expert HR advice, 24/7.

Make HR policies gender neutral, and make sure family policies are inclusive of different gender identities. Other policies, such as dress codes, should be made gender-neutral too where possible.

I want to make a change, but I don’t have the time/money/resources

For smaller companies, it can be difficult to implement such significant change. How do you encourage a more LGBTQ+ positive culture when you’re struggling for time/money/resources?

As highlighted at the start of this article, you don’t need to make a grand gesture. Having the right attitude means you’re on the right track.

Many of the steps highlighted above don’t require you to spend any additional money, and are relatively simple to implement. Conducting a review of your policies and procedures can be time consuming, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.

If you really don’t have time, you can utilise Croner’s documentation team, who will conduct a full review of all your policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant and fit your purpose.

Expert support

If you need further support with any of the issues raised in this article, you can speak to one of our expert HR & employment law consultants today. Just call 01455 858 132.

About the Author

Hannah Williamson is a CIPD Qualified HR professional with over 10 years’ experience in generalist HR management working within the Manufacturing Industry.

Working for a Global manufacturer provided Hannah with the opportunity to work in America and across Europe supporting HR functions and the wider business.

Hannah is Croner’s Advice Manager, taking responsibility for overseeing the provision of advice to all Croner clients, bringing together our Corporate, Simplify and Association service provisions.

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