No tokenism: here’s how you can really help LGBTQ+ staff

Kate Palmer - HR Advice and Consultancy Director

June 01 2022

It’s pride month. So, remember to check off these HR essentials to support your LGBTQ+ staff.

It’s easy to post a rainbow flag on social media but this act alone isn’t going to help the fight for equality. You don’t want to make a public gesture if you don’t have the supportive environment to go with it.

To create good relations with your staff, better retention, and avoid legal risk, you need to go beyond tokenism. Here’s how to get started…

1. Learn about LGBTQ+ employment rights

First, make sure you know your legislation. There are certain laws in place to protect staff from discrimination. The main law you need to know is the Equality Act 2010. This law protects people from discrimination because of their:

  • age
  • sex
  • race
  • disability
  • religion
  • sexual orientation
  • gender reassignment
  • marriage and civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity

The law applies to all workers, not just employees. It’s important your staff know their legal rights and your workplace upholds these rights. Or, you risk facing discrimination claims down the line.

The Equality Act 2010 outlines the types of discrimination against protected characteristics:

  • Direct discrimination – treating someone unfairly
  • Indirect discrimination – workplace policies or a working environment that discriminates against or excludes
  • Harassment – humiliating or degrading someone
  • Victimisation -  treating someone badly for making or supporting a discrimination claim

As you can see from the above, there are different ways that someone can experience discrimination. It doesn’t just happen directly. You could indirectly discriminate without realising. For example, it could be something as simple as how your system is set up. You might not allow staff to update their details - but this might prevent trans staff from being able to use their preferred name.

Another thing to consider is whether your policies are inclusive of LGBTQ+ staff. This is why it’s important to…

2. Review your policies

Review your workplace policies to make sure there are no inclusion barriers. It’s key to look at your policies on parental leave and adoption, and other family policies. Make sure they’re inclusive of all gender identities and sexualities.

You should also have a policy on equality and diversity that outlines:

  • the Equality Act 2010
  • your attitude towards equality and discrimination
  • the work environment you want to create
  • your zero-tolerance for discrimination and what will happen if anyone discriminates i.e. disciplinary action

You can offer more support by having a separate policy on LGBTQ+ inclusion – and practice what you preach. Have a process in place so if there is an incident of hate speech and discrimination, staff know how to report it.

Make sure the language you use in your policies is inclusive too. Which leads us to the next point…

Need help crafting a policy?

Your HR experts will create watertight policies and contracts to keep you safe from legal risk.

Learn more

3. Mind your language

The language you use is important – not just in your policies, but in how you communicate at work.

People use non-inclusive language every day. Here are some tips so you don’t fall into the trap:

  • Don’t use gendered greetings like ‘hey guys, ladies, gentlemen’

This excludes people who don’t fall into a gender binary. It’s better to say ‘hi all, folks, friends, everyone’.

  • Don’t invite people’s ‘girlfriends’, ‘boyfriends’, ‘wives’, or ‘husbands’ to work events

Never assume that someone is heterosexual. It’s best to say ‘partner’ or ‘spouse’.

  • Don’t use gendered job roles and phrases

Such as ‘best man for the job’ ‘mankind’, ‘chairman’ or ‘barman’. Instead, say ‘best person for the job’ ‘humankind’, ‘chairperson’, or ‘bartender’.

  • Don’t refer to someone’s ‘sexual preference’

Never refer to someone’s sexuality or gender identity as a lifestyle choice or preference. Instead, say ‘sexuality’ or ‘sexual orientation’.

  • Don’t use the gendered pronouns he/she

Instead, use the neutral ‘they/them’.

4. Back up your words with training and processes

You might have a policy and use the right words – but words are just words. To make a real difference, you need to make sure staff hear and understand your policies. So, it’s a good idea to back your words up with diversity training and robust processes.

Diversity training helps make staff become aware of their own assumptions and prejudices. It stresses the importance of equality and diversity, and can also help you to:

  • boost awareness
  • build staff morale
  • stay legally compliant

And if staff feel victimised, how will you help? Make sure your staff know the processes you have in place to support them and that you will back up your words with action.

Need help crafting a policy?

Your HR experts will create watertight policies and contracts to keep you safe from legal risk.

Learn more

Need to update your policies?

From watertight policies to the workplace culture, make every aspect of your business inclusive. To free yourself of doubt or risk, get your company documents crafted by HR professionals.

And if you need advice on how to make your workplace LGBTQ+ friendly, get in touch to speak to a Peninsula adviser. Whatever your query or concern, they’ll make sure you’re always one step ahead.

To deal with a discrimination claim or grievance, you must take steps to support staff and protect yourself from legal risk. Discover the best HR practices for managing investigations and grievances in our upcoming Face2Face workshop. Just give us a call on 0161 827 8561.

And if you’re not yet a Peninsula client, get a quote to start accessing unlimited HR support today.

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