Workplace equality: supporting LGBTQ+ employees at work

July 19, 2021

Ensuring your business is inclusive of LGBTQ+ employees is not only the right thing to do but it makes a great deal of business sense too. Having a diverse workforce attracts top talent and helps to create an environment where everyone is comfortable regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation. 


Although businesses have made strides in improving diversity and inclusion within the workplace, there is still a great deal of work to be done. Driving diversity and inclusion requires a top-down approach which cannot be solely the responsibility of HR, it must take place at all levels of a business.


A good place to start is to review your organisation’s policies and procedures. Does your business have an equality and diversity policy and if so, is it inclusive of LGBTQ+ employees? Any equality and diversity policy should include a zero-tolerance stance on discrimination within the workplace, as well as detailing support for those transitioning. Internally, diversity policies and strategies should be communicated to employees, ensuring you set out goals and intentions going forward.


Of course, any efforts made to improve diversity and inclusion will be useless if those in charge are not on board. Start at the top and make sure the leadership team are involved in all decision making. It may be a good idea to involve a third party who can ask the difficult questions and help to put together a plan of action on how to tackle any issues. 


A simple way to educate the wider workforce is to provide them with relevant training on how to be an ally to their LGBTQ+ colleagues, and managers should enforce learnings from this. Behaviours such as assuming the gender of a colleague’s partner or using the incorrect pronouns to refer to someone are easily overlooked within a working environment, but they are microaggressions and should be challenged. 


Developing support groups or networks for LGBTQ+ employees is also a great way to support staff. Not only does having a network of LGBTQ+ staff create a safe space for those who need it, the group can also help business leaders to identify issues that need work so the approach to inclusivity can be improved. 


If you haven’t already addressed equality and diversity within your organisation all of this may sound intimidating. If you don’t know where to start, there are some simple things that can be done immediately to help LGBTQ+ employees feel supported in the workplace:


  1. Be open to change
  2. Never assume somebody’s gender identity or sexuality
  3. Listen to your LGBTQ+ employees if they express concern and take appropriate action when necessary
  4. Make the use of gender-neutral terminology the norm throughout communication  
  5. Make at least one toilet within the workplace unisex


Creating a gender-neutral environment should be top of the list to start changing behaviour within a workplace. For instance, using gender-neutral language such as ‘they’ instead of ‘he’ or ‘she’ or using ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’/’boyfriend’ or ‘wife’/’girlfriend’ in an everyday setting means bias towards a particular gender is avoided. This is a simple thing that will soon become habit. 


Nobody is expected to know everything, but LGBTQ+ inclusivity is something that every business should be promoting. If you need a hand, our team are here to help. Give us a call on 01509 861262 or email us at hello@colaw.co.uk to speak to one of our experts!

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