Stonewall started the Workplace Equality Index in 2005 to raise awareness and partner with organisations across all sectors to build more inclusive workspaces across Britain. Over the last 14 years, the index has grown a huge amount with more and more organisations taking steps to make their companies better places for LGBT people to work.
The more people that have done so, the more we’ve seen the proof that people perform better when they can be themselves. Organisations with high-performing staff typically have inclusive policies and processes, benefits that apply to everyone, and a workplace culture where diversity is not just welcomed but championed.
Becoming an LGBT-inclusive workplace can start with small everyday actions, this could be pledging support to the community, perhaps doing something celebratory over Pride month, hosting LGBT networking events, or offering diversity training to staff.
But it’s important to remember that no workplace is the same. What works best for some people won’t be the right thing for every workplace, which is why it’s crucial that lesbian, gay, bi and trans staff are included – if they want to be – in the organisational changes, and that the challenges they face are addressed.
It may be tempting to think that LGBT people no longer face any challenges in the workplace, but sadly this is not the case. Our research has found that over a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination, and almost one in five LGBT staff (18%) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because they’re LGBT.
And for trans people in particular, the situation is worse, with 51% having hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination or abuse, and one in eight (12%) trans employees have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers in the past year. It’s absolutely vital that places of work, businesses and companies are active in supporting their LGBT employees and making them feel safe.
Lots of places are doing fantastic work in this area, and we were delighted to receive 445 applications to our Workplace Equality Index this year – our largest to date. We know that LGBT people work across all sectors, and it’s encouraging to see that a range of sectors have been among those making changes – from banking to healthcare, education to law, and retail to government.
This year, many of our Top 100 Employers not only made differences to impact the LGBT people working in their own organisation, but they became strong allies of the community. Lending their voices to campaign for reforms to the Gender Recognition Act, marriage equality in Northern Ireland and greater inclusivity in sport, has a huge impact on the wider lives and rights not yet won for LGBT people living across the UK.
People spend most of their adult lives at work, so if we can get workplace inclusion right, it would make a huge difference for so many LGBT people.
We’d strongly encourage any organisation – big or small – to think about how they can become a more LGBT inclusive workspace, and what changes they can make to ensure that their lesbian, gay, bi and trans colleagues feel comfortable and accepted for who they are.
Pete Mercer is head of public sector membership programmes at Stonewall