In response to a recent survey by the Government Equalities Office (GEO) into the issues facing LGBT+ individuals in the UK, the British government have pledged 4.5million improve the lives of those in the LGBT+ community. With this in mind there are a number of measures employers can take to support affected staff in the workplace.
Naturally the first opportunity for employers to prevent discrimination will occur during the hiring process. To make the application process more welcoming for LGBT+ individuals application forms must not contain any questions relating to an individual’s sexuality or gender identity. Although there may be a need to determine applicants gender in certain instances, employers should consider how this may impact certain members of the LGBT+ community and afford applicants the option to select ‘other’ in these scenarios.
In a separate study conducted by Crossland Employment Solicitors, one in three UK employers claimed they were less likely to hire a transgender individual. Employers should understand that individuals should not generally be denied employment due to a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, as those that do could find themselves having to answer in front of a tribunal. To safeguard against this, it always advisable to have multiple interviewers present to avoid bias and base hiring decisions on a predetermined checklist of skills and experience.
Perhaps the largest problem facing LGBT+ employees at work is the threat of bullying and harassment. This can occur at the hands of fellow colleagues or third parties and it is therefore important to have a clear policy on this matter, with a particular emphasis on the dangers of workplace banter. It is vitally important that employers have a clear and reliable reporting method in place for LGBT+ staff who feel they have been the victim of discrimination, bullying or harassment. All matters should be treated seriously and dealt with in a considerate and professional manner, which will in turn make staff more likely to report any incidents in the future.
Consideration should also be paid to how existing uniforms and dress codes could discriminate against certain members of the LGBT+ community, in particular those who have undergone gender reassignment. Although this can often be a sensitive topic, recent Acas guidance has reiterated the need to allow individuals to dress in accordance with the gender they identify with, meaning that forcibly denying this could be considered as discriminatory. The same principle should also be applied to bathroom and changing facilities and employers should consider introducing gender neutral facilities wherever possible.
During their employment individuals should not be excluded from any events or denied promotion opportunities simply because they identify as LGBT+. Instead, employers should work to foster a culture of inclusion and equality and one way of doing this is to appoint a designated Stonewall representative within your workforce who can act as an ambassador for LGBT+ individuals in your organisation, helping to ensure your company is LGBT+ friendly.
Although many may be hesitant due to the personal nature of sexuality and gender identity, failing to address discrimination towards LGBT+ staff at work can be a costly error for employers. However, those who take the opportunity to do will be rewarded with a more harmonious and productive working environment.