Surveys have shown that some workers feel it’s necessary to conceal the fact that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
This is because they are scared of workplace discrimination.
Other workers have admitted that they have been physically attacked by a colleague or a customer due to being LGBT; are subject to appropriate comments or have been ‘outed’ by colleagues without their consent. Worryingly, many employees do not report incidents because they believe that nothing would really come out of their complaint.
None of this is good for employees or the organisation. For employers, creating a workplace free from discrimination for all your employees is instrumental to a happy, successful and diverse workforce.
What can employers do to help LGBT employees?
Three key steps all employers can take include:
1. Have appropriate policies in place
In your equality policy, you should clearly state that any decisions concerning recruitment, promotion, training, dismissal or any other aspect of employment will be based on the needs of the organisation and not on any of the protected characteristics in the Equality Act 2010. These protected characteristics are sex, race, age, disability, gender reassignment, sexual orientation, married or civil partnership status, pregnancy or maternity, religion or belief.
You also make it clear that this commitment is something that all employees are expected to adhere to. Encourage any employees who are subject to any discriminatory behaviour to raise their complaint with their line manager. Remind them that they will not face reprisals as long as they are acting in good faith.
This policy should be written down in your Employee Handbook. It’s also important to ensure that it is reviewed on a frequent basis to see if it remains clear, robust and legally compliant. If you do not have an Employee Handbook or it has not been reviewed in a long time, get in touch with your Employment Law expert for bespoke drafting of your Employee Handbook.
2. Train your managers
Your managers should understand the policies you have in place and ensure that they are implemented correctly and effectively. They should have training to ensure they recognise the importance of an inclusive workplace and make recruitment and employment decisions based on non-discriminatory factors.
3. Nurture an inclusive workplace culture
Changing workplace culture will not happen overnight. But employers can put measures in place to adjust workplace practices and processes to ensure that all employees are not unlawfully discriminated against.
You can encourage open conversations at work so employees don’t feel the need to conceal their sexual orientation or gender reassignment. Warn people that any derogatory comments or conduct is not permitted. Remind employees that sometimes workplace banter can cross the line and they should give thought to whether they are causing others offense.
You can also run awareness sessions with employees on inclusion to tackle stigma and misconceptions. Make sure that your senior managers get involved too in order to lead by example and show that it is an important business value.
If you would like to discuss this further, contact your Ellis Whittam Employment Law expert for guidance.