Let’s put our hearts into inclusion for the LGBT+ community

By Claire McCartney, Diversity and Inclusion Advisor at the CIPD.

A Government-backed national survey, launched in July and released yesterday, shows a worrying level of negativity towards LGBT+ individuals at work. It represents the largest survey of LGBT+ people in the world to date, with more than 108,000 responses from UK participants and sets in place an action plan to tackle discrimination across society.

The LGBT+ survey findings should be deeply concerning for organisations and a wake-up call on a number of fronts. They clearly suggest that much more work needs to be done to ensure that members of the LGBT+ community feel properly supported and included by their organisations and colleagues and are able to be themselves at work.

Key findings include:

  • One in five (19%) LGBT+ employees have not felt able to be open with colleagues about their sexuality at work
  • More than one in five (23%) experienced a negative or mixed reaction from others in the workplace because of being LGBT+
  • More worrying still, over three-quarters (77%) of people who had experienced a serious workplace incident related to their sexuality said they did not report it because they thought ‘it would not be worth it’ or ‘nothing would happen or change.’

The survey findings are reinforced by earlier research from Stonewall and YouGov (2017) which found that, despite some employers in the UK making progress towards inclusion in their workplaces, LGBT+ people still face discrimination, exclusion and barriers at work. In particular the research showed that many LGBT+ staff don’t feel comfortable enough to disclose their identity at work, and often those who do are subject to discrimination and abuse, with incidents ranging from offensive language from customers, to being outed at work without their consent. This underlines the need for employers to take a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination/ abuse at work and of including and supporting all employees.

Everyone, regardless of who they are and who they choose to love, should be able to be themselves and the workplace is no exception. We spend most of our weeks and much of our lives working, and the impact of feeling we have to hide our identity, or experiencing discrimination or abuse can have a profound effect on our careers and our well-being. It’s 2018 and some of the cultures, attitudes and behaviours that are clearly still present in some workplaces belong in the past.

There are a number of steps that organisations can take to change this situation and build inclusive cultures to positively impact the lives and well-being of all of their employees. As Stonewall suggests, many employers have taken steps to reduce homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying by creating and enforcing clear policies. Others are increasing their understanding of LGBT+ issues which starts with asking employees about their experiences and raising awareness about / and responding to matters affecting the LGBT+ community.

LGBT+ staff networks and visible LGBT+ role models and allies in leadership positions demonstrate that companies are championing a diverse workforce. Action to increase diversity in supply chains also shows organisations' willingness to use their influence to promote inclusion among their partners.

As the survey findings reveal, there are clear and damaging consequences for employers when people don’t feel supported or able to report inappropriate behaviour or serious workplace incidents. People will lose trust in their employers and incidents will go unreported. This will lead to an increase in undesirable behaviours, conflict in the workplace and a loss of valuable employees that do not feel supported or included. That is why it is so vital for organisations to commit whole-heartedly to developing inclusive workplace cultures.

Here at the CIPD we are committed to creating an inclusive workplace, where everyone is recognised and valued, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, and where barriers that prevent people from feeling at ease and respected are removed creating an environment where everyone feels like they belong. Our LGBT+ staff network has been driving and championing this agenda across the organisation, supported by external partnerships with Stonewall and enei to ensure that all of our LGBT+ staff, volunteers and members feel accepted without exception. As a celebration of our progress on this agenda, we are looking forward to taking part in London Pride Parade this weekend, visibly championing the agenda for more inclusive workplaces and societies.









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  • This doesn't surprise me at all. I suffered discrimination back in the late 1990's and thought that in most instances things had moved forwards. Fortunately it hasn't been an issue for me since then, however, my husband, after eight years exemplary service with a large Road services employer, has had a new line manager for the past seven months and been treated terribly since he found out about his sexuality.