Throughout Pride month many organisations across the United Kingdom have emphasised the importance of supporting their LGBTQ+ employees, however research shows that there is still a lot of work to be done to truly achieve inclusivity within workplaces across the country.
In 2021, research conducted by the CIPD determined that 40% of LGBTQ+ and 55% of trans workers reported experiencing conflict and harassment compared to 29% of heterosexual, cisgender employees.
Further, a recent poll conducted by the Chartered Management Institute has revealed big differences in the way that businesses approach EDI. The report showed that LGBTQ+ individuals continue to experience harassment and bullying more commonly, as well as experiencing hostile, derogatory or negative attitudes in the workplace. Additionally, 65% of those who identified as LGBTQ+ confirmed that they felt overlooked for opportunities because of their identity and 64% considered that they had experienced discrimination.
In addition, research undertaken by Glassdoor found that 36% of employees in the United Kingdom felt that businesses only appeared to support LGBTQ+ employees during Pride month.
It is crucial for employers to recognise that EDI is essential year-round, and so with Pride month coming to an end, what can employers do to continue to support their LGBTQ+ colleagues and promote EDI within the workplace?
Before an organisation can start improving EDI within the workplace, it must first understand how inclusion is viewed and evaluate if its existing practices promoting inclusiveness are effective.
Organisations can assess inclusion in a few different ways, but perhaps one of the broadest and quickest ways to obtain information on inclusion within the workplace and across the workforce, is to create and undertake an EDI survey. This survey can be completed by all employees and will enable organisations to obtain information about the perceptions of inclusion across a cross-section of the workforce and identify where the organisation may be falling short.
If an organisation does not wish to create a bespoke EDI survey to tackle perceptions within the workforce, then the organisation can amend existing surveys to include questions on EDI or analyse existing data regarding the workforce to determine if there are any barriers to inclusion; for example, are there more cisgender and heterosexual employees in senior roles than LGBTQ+ employees?
Once an organisation has assessed EDI within the workplace and identified any barriers or areas for improvement, it needs to consider how it can take steps to improve EDI and make the workplace more inclusive.
Review and enforce policies and procedures
If an organisation has identified any gaps in its approach to EDI it should consider whether its policies and procedures are fit for purpose, or if these need to be adapted to be more inclusive of individuals and groups they belong to. Wording should be more inclusive and signal to all employees that the organisation is committed to fostering a diverse and inclusive workforce.
One way this can be achieved is by organisations making their policies gender-neutral wherever possible. Using “they”, “you” or “employee” instead of “he” and “she” can be a big step in the right direction. In addition to ensuring policies are gender-neutral, organisations should also review other contractual documentation and monitor official communications to ensure the continued use of gender-neutral terminology within the workplace.
Ensuring there are effective Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Equal Opportunities and Anti-Bullying and Harassment policies in place can be a good starting point for organisations developing their EDI strategies.
It is all well and good having policies in place that demonstrate the organisation is, on paper, committed to improving EDI within the workplace, but there is little point in having them in place if they are not consistently enforced. All employees should be made aware of these policies and know where to find them, and managers should feel comfortable and confident in enforcing them and challenging those who act in breach.
Train your employees
Even if an organisation has strong and effective policies in place, this will not always be sufficient to promote EDI within the workplace. Organisations should train all employees on their EDI policies to ensure that colleagues are aware that the policies are in force and know how to appropriately challenge those who act in breach.
Managers are often considered to be the front line when it comes to workplace problems, as they are working alongside their teams and build relationships within them. As a result, managers are key to organisations effectively promoting and championing EDI good practice. Managers should be trained to support all employees within their teams, and employees should feel comfortable in speaking to them about any issues which arise.
In addition, managers can play a key role in resolving issues at an early stage and prior to the involvement of HR. For example, if a manager notices or overhears an employee making homophobic or transphobic comments then they should be equipped to challenge their employees and remind them of what is and is not acceptable, without the need for an employee to raise a formal complaint.
That being said, it is not only managers who should have some level of responsibility. All employees should be given training on LGBTQ+ issues and should feel confident in challenging colleagues who make inappropriate and offensive remarks. Employees should be trained in such a way that they feel comfortable speaking out about these issues in support of their LGBTQ+ colleagues.
As well as training employees on internal policies and procedures, organisations should consider inviting local pride groups to deliver training on LGBTQ+ issues to their workforce to help increase their level of understanding.
Ensure employees have a voice
It is not simply enough for organisations to create and implement policies to promote EDI within the workplace; for a workplace to be truly inclusive, employees need to feel that they have avenues within which to raise any concerns that they may have, and to make their voices heard.
This expands beyond employees being able to raise formal complaints and grievances, and employees should feel able to speak to managers informally and know that they will be listened to and respected. Employers should also consider implementing more informal groups such as Employee Resource Groups or EDI Committees, to ensure that all employees have a safe and approachable channel through which they can make themselves heard and challenge behaviours within the workplace without fear of repercussion.
Organisations should also consider creating LGBTQ+ networks within their organisation, providing employees with a safe space within the workplace where they can share experiences and support and encourage one another. These networks should encourage everyone to get involved, not just those who identify as LGBTQ+.
LGBTQ+ networks can also play a huge role in assisting organisations in identifying any issues within the workplace affecting LGBTQ+ employees and can bring them to the attention of the organisation so that it can take steps to tackle them as they arise.
Support LGBTQ+ employees
There are many other smaller gestures which organisations can incorporate to support LGBTQ+ employees within the workplace.
One example is to encourage all employees to insert their pronouns into their email signatures and professional social media profiles. This has become more prevalent over recent years and can help members of the LGBTQ+ community feel more comfortable in stating their own pronouns, a step that can help to encourage people not to automatically assume the identity and gender of others.
Organisations can also support and celebrate LGBTQ+ history and events, such as celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month, Pride and Trans Day of Visibility, as much as they would celebrate any other important events throughout the year. Celebrating these events will boost awareness throughout the year and assist in promoting inclusion throughout the workforce and can also be used as learning opportunities for all employees within the organisation to refresh their knowledge, understanding and awareness of key issues facing the LGBTQ+ community.
If you would like advice on how to assess your organisation’s approach to EDI, and the next steps to a more inclusive workplace, please do not hesitate to contact a member of our employment law team who would be delighted to talk you through the process.