Employing and supporting LGBT workers
Tips for creating an LGBT inclusive workplace
By taking practical steps to effectively include lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) staff in the workplace you'll demonstrate your commitment to respecting the identities of your LGBT employees. Outlined below are some actions you can take as an employer to help value and respect your LGBT staff.
- Understand your staff - getting to know your staff will help ensure you effectively cater to any needs LGBT employees may have. Staff who are better understood will be happier and more productive. See engaging with staff.
- Learn about LGBT issues - increase your understanding and awareness of issues unique to LGBT people, such as gender reassignment. Ask your LGBT staff about issues in the workplace that they find challenging and ask them to suggest ideas that could help improve the working environment for all.
- Get senior management support - have senior staff within your organisation help implement diversity initiatives and actively communicate their support for LGBT inclusion and other diversity activities.
- Evaluate your business values and culture - does your business have a culture and set of values that enable diversity and equality to thrive? If not, you may to need rewrite your business values so that they focus on an inclusive and diverse workplace for all. Diversity can help to attract talent and foster innovation.
- Revise workplace policies - review your workplace policies and ensure these policies explicitly mention how you as an employer support LGBT people within your organisation. You could also develop LGBT specific policies - eg a policy on transitioning at work with guidance for employees who are transitioning, line managers and human resources. Your workplace policies should establish a strong sense of anti-discrimination so that all employees know what is not tolerated in the workplace. See set up employment policies for your business.
- Look out for signs of problems or issues - identifying signs that staff are under stress and not happy at work can help you deal with problems at an early stage before they become more difficult to resolve or manage. As soon as you suspect bullying, harassment or discrimination in the workplace you should take action to deal with them. See dealing with bullying and harassment claims.
- Outline your strategy - clearly set out how you are going to develop a more diverse workplace - eg by taking lawful positive action in recruitment. Identify how you are going to promote diversity in your workplace and how you are going to make all staff feel included. A simple plan of where you want to be and how you're going to get there will give you a clear understanding. See communicate your business strategy and gain employee buy in.
- Develop an LGBT network - you could set up a network group specifically for LGBT employees. They can help advise you on things that work well for them in the workplace and areas that may need a new approach. You should also encourage staff who don't identify themselves as LGBT to support the LGBT network. These members of staff can work with the LGBT network to champion diversity in the workplace. The LGBT network can help implement diversity initiatives and build awareness - eg through talks and events. Staff can also show their visible support for their colleagues - eg with LGBT allies mugs or lanyards.
- Consult with staff - you should speak regularly with both LGBT and non-LGBT staff about what inclusion looks like in your business, how you should address it and how staff can help nurture it. This should be an ongoing process where you look at the action you have taken, assess the impact with staff feedback and make improvements where necessary. See engaging with staff.
- Communicate your LGBT policies - let your staff know that your policies are LGBT inclusive with proactive internal communication - eg LGBT specific campaigns, as part of employee inductions, updates on policies or highlighting through equality and diversity training. See writing and communicating staff policies.
- Promote your organisation as LGBT inclusive - ensure that your LGBT inclusive information is accessible on your website especially on pages where you advertise job opportunities or have staff testimonials for you as an employer. Communicate your LGBT good news stories on social media - eg sharing employee stories or reporting on LGBT workplace initiatives.
- Become a diversity champion - a variety of schemes are run by organisations such as Stonewall Diversity Champion programme, Diversity Mark NI and others.
Benchmark your LGBT efforts
Stonewall's Workplace Equality Index is a free benchmarking tool for employers to measure their progress on LGBT inclusion and equality in the workplace. Participation is free and enables you to compare your performance with organisations in your region and sector. You will also receive in-depth feedback. See benchmark your business performance. Other organisations may be able to offer similar benchmarking tools.
Further LGBT employer guidance
For further information and guidance for employers employing and supporting LGBT staff see:
Equality Commission Employer Helpline028 90 500 600