Diversity and inclusion may be common phrases in the workplace but, for some employees, it may feel like their employer uses the right terms but doesn’t have a real interest in ensuring that the workplace is an inclusive place. An area where many employers may fall short is in making the workplace inclusive for the LGBTQ+ employees. A 2018 report produced by Stonewall showed that ‘more than a third of LBGT staff (35 percent) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination1’ and a CIPD report states that ‘40% of LGBT+ workers along with 55% of trans workers have experienced conflict and harassment in the workplace’2. These statistics demonstrate that there are any areas of improvement that employers still need to make if they are to have truly inclusive workplaces. So, what steps can employers take to improve their inclusivity?
Firstly, what does being inclusive really mean?…
The CIPD defines an inclusive workplace as one ‘where people’s differences are valued and used to enable everyone to thrive at work. An inclusive working environment is one in which everyone feels that they belong without having to conform, that their contribution matters and they are able to perform to their full potential, no matter their background, identity or circumstances’3. Can you truly say that, as an organisation, you see individual differences as a benefit? And if so, what do you do to ensure your culture reflects that and that your managers and employees support it?
Read on to see some areas which can help you to reflect on where your company has got to, and where improvements might be possible.
Create inclusive policies and procedures…
A comprehensive inclusion and diversity policy will help an organisation to instil inclusivity into the culture of the business. It will give employees an understanding of how the business expects them to treat each other and can focus attention on where improvements need to be made. A well written bullying and harassment policy is vital in showing clear examples of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour and will make employees aware of the consequences of not conforming to your inclusivity policies.
Other policies and procedures should also be reviewed, ensuring that gender neutral language is used and doesn’t discriminate against same gender partners or non-binary people. Examples of policies which may need reviewing are maternity, adoption and paternity policies.
Train and Communicate…
Employees need to understand their responsibility in making the workplace an inclusive one. During induction, and at other intervals, employees should be made aware of what behaviour is expected of them and what the consequences will be if they do not abide by the organisation’s standards.
An important area for training is to help employees to understand the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. This should include helping all employees understand that assumptions should not be made about the gender (or sex) of someone’s partner.
As well as training employees on how the business supports the LGBTQ+ community, it’s also important for employees to know, and believe, that issues will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. As such, training should include clear information on who they can raise a concern with, and how any issues will be managed.
An organisation’s attempts to increase inclusivity will be hugely impacted by line managers as they play a pivotal role in promoting inclusivity and ensuring that employees are treated fairly. They can also be instrumental in challenging inappropriate behaviour. Specific training for managers on what’s acceptable and what behaviour they should be calling out will be invaluable in making sure all employees are treated fairly.
Review employment practices…
Each business can demonstrate its inclusivity throughout the employment lifecycle. When advertising jobs, think about the language used, and whether it would attract a diverse audience. This can be shown in a range of ways such as making the job description gender neutral and by ensuring that any imagery used reflects a diverse range of people. You could consider adding a diversity statement to job descriptions to make the organisation’s policy clear from the start of employment.
Another area to contemplate is how appraisals, promotions and development are managed. There may be unconscious bias or a lack of clarity in how decisions are made, so ensure that the processes behind these are clear and well documented.
Feeding back from the source…
When you are making these changes, a good way to sense check your organisation’s approach is to get feedback from those who are most impacted by a lack of inclusivity. A way to help with this is to start a LGBT+ networking group within your organisation, or with other businesses in the area. This will enable you to get feedback from people who will know, first hand, what has helped and hindered them in organisations in the past. It will also allow you to gain a deeper understanding of potential issues in your organization that you have been unaware of. Stonewall have a very helpful area of resources which can inform your planning, which can be found here: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/best-practice-toolkits-and-resources
There’s a legal requirement to ensure that your business is not discriminating against individuals in the LGBTQ+ community, but, on top of this, there’s a real benefit in having employees who feel comfortable to be themselves in the workplace, without fear of repercussions or decreased opportunities… and that is what having an inclusive workplace is all about.
If you would benefit from advice on how to improve your business’ inclusivity, please get in touch with View HR to discuss how we can help.
This blog has been written by ViewHR. The ViewHR team are on hand to support employers with a range of HR matters. If you are an employer and would like support in this area, please contact a member of the ViewHR team today for an initial discussion: firstname.lastname@example.org | +44(0)1425 205390 | viewhr.co.uk. ViewHR are UK based and provide flexible HR support and guidance combined with employment law consultancy.
Our Guest Blogger:
Huge thanks to guest blogger Gemma for this very informative piece about why an inclusive workplace is so important and how to build a more inclusive working environment.
If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community and need support with your mental health, we deliver two support groups in Bournemouth and Weymouth. Follow this link for details.
Dorset Mind offers group support that can also help with your wellbeing. The group offers peer support and helps to reduce stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health. You can also check out further support for stress and mental health here.