LGBT inclusion in the workplace is fast becoming a priority for organisations of all sizes across the UK. This includes SMEs as well as big businesses, as LGBT inclusivity offers a distinct competitive advantage for all organisations.
As an umbrella term, ‘LGBT’ includes lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Note that more sexualities can feature under the LGBT umbrella (for example: intersex people, pansexuality, asexuality, and people who are questioning their sexuality/gender identity). This umbrella includes allies too!
As you can see, the LGBT umbrella is inclusive to many different sexualities and gender identities. So too are there many ways we can ensure LGBT people are supported and included in their places of work, some of which are easy for SMEs to adopt.
The benefits of LGBT inclusion in the workplace
The benefits to an LGBT inclusive workplace extend beyond that of making sure employees of all sexualities and gender expressions feel safe and valid, though of course this is the primary reason. LGBT inclusive workplaces benefit businesses too.
A study in the US by Out Now titled ‘LGBT 2020 – LGBT Diversity Show Me the Business Case’ found that the US economy could save $9 billion annually if organisations implemented more effective inclusion policies for their LGBT staff. This is partially attributed to avoiding costs from stress and ill-health associated with LGBT staff who need to hide their identity at work or experience discrimination. The study also cited the customer loyalty and buying power of the LGBT market. Additionally, customers are likelier to leave businesses who have cases of discrimination made public.
So, having robust inclusion strategies in place for LGBT staff make sense from a business perspective as well as a moral standpoint. This is because all employees will feel less stressed and more productive as respected members of a cohesive team.
Strategies for LGBT inclusion in the workplace
Here are some key LGBT inclusion strategies that SMEs can consider adopting for a more LGBT-friendly workforce:
Review your policies for LGBT inclusion
Having LGBT policies in the workplace is crucial for setting the guidelines on how to be more inclusive and avoid discrimination. LGBT inclusion should be a core part of your Equality and Diversity policy; having a separate policy for LGBT inclusion is an even clearer way to show your commitment to tackling discrimination in this area.
Also, make sure all your policies are LGBT inclusive, for example your policies on parental leave, adoption, and pensions.
Provide LGBT training
Offering LGBT training in the workplace as part of equality and diversity training can be a powerful way to educate everyone about LGBT issues. Training helps ensure your policies are heard and understood across the organisation.
Related article: How to implement diversity training in the workplace
Set up an LGBT network
For growing SMEs, creating an LGBT network can be a great way to support LGBT staff. A network means LGBT employees can meet in a safe space within their place of work to relate to one another.
As a focus group, network members can also help you identify and improve upon issues affecting LGBT staff, so you can continually improve your approach. There are some great examples of workplace LGBT networks over at the Global Diversity List.
Appoint LGBT allies
Are there non-LGBT people in your workplace who are passionate about or interested in LGBT rights? Get them onboard as an LGBT ally; they can champion LGBT inclusion in the workplace and act as a source of support for LGBT staff.
Incorporate gender-neutral language
Gender-neutral language avoids bias towards a particular gender. Using ‘they’ instead of ‘he/she’ in contracts and other company documentation is a good step towards this, as is monitoring ongoing communications for gender-neutrality.
There are gender neutral options within myhrtoolkit so employers can choose from a range of default gender options or add gender information for an employee. Of course, the right option should always be confirmed with the employee before setting.
For more information about how to incorporate gender-neutral language into the workplace, see this guide on inclusive language from Harvard.
Create unisex toilets
Whenever possible, there should be a gender-neutral bathroom option, particularly if you provide singular toilets. Unisex bathrooms are more inclusive for trans and non-binary people, who can feel intimidated when having to use single-sex toilets. Beyond this, unisex toilets are also cheaper to build and cut down waiting times for women significantly.
Celebrate LGBT history and events
Celebrating LGBT History Month, Pride, or Trans Day of Visibility just as you would other important days in the calendar. This will be a great boost to LGBT awareness and inclusion throughout the year.
You can use these dates and milestones as learning opportunities for all staff. Involve LGBT and non-LGBT employees and celebrate important days and events to continuously spread awareness of your policies.
Looking for further guidance on how to manage and include diverse employees in your organisation? See our guide to managing diversity in the workplace.