Monday 21 January 2019 10:44 am

Workplaces need to be LGBT-inclusive so workers feel safe to be themselves

Today, we unveil our annual list of the UK’s top 100 LGBT-inclusive employers. It’s a diverse mix of private, public, and third sector organisations, with international law firm, Pinsent Masons, claiming the top spot.

We started the Workplace Equality Index in 2005 to raise awareness and partner with organisations to create more inclusive workplaces across the UK. Since then, we’ve seen so much tremendous progress towards LGBT equality that some people might think our work is finished.

Unfortunately, our recent research revealed that more than a third of lesbian, gay, bi and trans staff (35 per cent) have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination.

Shockingly, one in 10 black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT employees have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year because of their LGBT identity.

No one should ever feel unsafe at work or be worried about being themselves. But this isn’t the experience for some LGBT people, and it’s why LGBT inclusion at work is still so crucial.

Ditch the tick box exercise

Employers are waking up to the fact that, in order to succeed, they need their staff to feel confident to be themselves at work. Having an open and diverse working environment leads to higher levels of motivation, creativity, and productivity.

This is something that every company should want from its staff. It’s good for employees, the business, and customers.

Businesses with high-performing staff typically have inclusive policies, benefits that apply to everyone, and a workplace culture where diversity is not just welcomed, but championed at all levels.

Diversity and inclusion practices require thoughtful action. It’s not a “tick box” exercise, and cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. Companies that are the most successful at this actively involve their LGBT staff to address the challenges they face.

Leaders need to listen, understand, and use their power to collaboratively drive change, not just expect LGBT staff to solve everything themselves.

Walk with pride

No matter what sector you’re in or what the starting point is, there are straightforward actions that anyone can take to become an LGBT-inclusive employer.

The businesses featured in the Stonewall top 100 have not just shown that this is possible, but that it has a real impact on the lives and wellbeing of their employees.

Organisations like Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service host LGBT role model events and engage with local LGBT community groups. JLL released a supportive video on National Coming Out Day talking about inclusion, while the British Army worked with the Royal British Legion to support establishing a national LGBT branch that provides direct support to veterans.

Pledging support during Pride or Trans Day of Visibility, hosting LGBT networking events, profiling role models in the workplace, or offering diversity training to staff are all examples of ways to be an inclusive employer.

We spend most of our adult lives at work, so if we can get workplace inclusion right, it would make a huge difference to so many LGBT people.

Getting people to use the right language, understand the issues, and be empowered to challenge inappropriate behaviour all help to create a culture where diversity is celebrated and inclusion means your team works better because of their differences, not in spite of them.

Whether you’re a senior leader, manager, or colleague, we all have a part to play in making sure that our workplaces and communities are places that accept and support LGBT people – without exception.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.