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Study Explores LGBT+ Employees Experiences

New research (Feb 2021) from the CIPD has confirmed that LGBT+ employees experience higher level of work-based conflict, and almost one in five transgender workers feel psychologically unsafe at work.

The CIPD’s recent report, Inclusion at work: perspectives on LGBT+ working lives confirms that while workplace inclusivity is fundamental to good, fair work and positive employee outcomes, many organisations have been slow to make headway to support their LGBT+ workforces.

Unfortunately, LGBT+ employees are more likely to experience workplace conflict and harassment than their heterosexual, cisgender counterparts. In particular, 40% of LGB+ workers and 55% of transgender workers have experienced workplace conflict in the last 12 months, compared with 29% of heterosexual, cisgender employees. When conflicts occurred, many reported that their issues hadn’t been fully resolved. Close to half (44%) of LGB+ workers who had experienced being undermined or humiliated said this had not been resolved, and almost four in ten said this had only been partly resolved (38%). Close to a quarter (23%) of transgender workers said they had experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, 16% of LGB+ workers feel psychologically unsafe in the workplace compared with heterosexual workers (10%). For transgender workers, this figure is even higher at 18%.

All of this suggests that employers’ handling of conflict and harassment towards LGBT+ workers must improve. It is further clear that employers need to develop a greater understanding of the specific experiences – and needs – of their LGBT+ workforce.

All of this news is obviously disappointing to hear, and disappointing to hear while we remain in a pandemic, where the majority of workers remain working from home, many of whom feel lonely and isolated – particularly those within the LGBT+ community.

The current status quo therefore must change, not just for the LGBT+ community but for all. There is no more an important time to do this as we seek to recover and thrive after the pandemic. Recommendations for all in this area therefore include the following:

  • Reviewing and ensuring that anti-discrimination policies and practices are fit for purpose, well understood, and carried out throughout the organisation. These should set clear expectations of what is and is not acceptable behavior, with practical examples, and provide robust guidance to managers on how to report and deal with incidences of conflict. A zero-tolerance approach to discrimination is fundamental for all employers regardless of size. Employers have legal obligations to prevent and address discrimination and should take a zero-tolerance approach to this.
  • Create visible leadership in this area, supportive and knowledgeable about the difficulties that LGBT+ workers may face at work. Reciprocal mentoring is encouraged, to enable both groups to learn from each other. Gaining true buy-in and support from senior leadership is vital for building more inclusive workplaces.
  • Provide training to enable the entire workforce to recognize where conflict exists or may exist and the value of equal opportunity, diversity, and inclusion. Understanding people’s differences, why they are important, and why they should be protected is key and will enable the creation of positive and inclusive work relationships.
  • Encourage the reporting of any and all forms of conflict and ensure that all such matters are properly and seriously investigated.
  • Offer support through the use of LGBT+, and allyship, networks. These can be used for LGBT+ workers to discuss difficult matters with other like-minded people. Appropriate training is of course necessary here, particularly for signposting purposes as network members should not act as counselors or dispute resolution experts. Such networks also allow LGBT+ workers to collectively raise important issues and suggestions to improve inclusion and diversity within the organization.
  • Leverage OutBüro’s (www.OutBuro.com) LGBTQ Employer Branding platform to share your organization’s strides and process with current and prospective employees. Utilize its employee reviews to create an open dialog while demonstrating your organization takes their feedback seriously and is striving to be a welcoming workplace where all are respected equally.

Employers are therefore encouraged, off the back of the CIPD’s report, and as prompted by LGBT History Month, to improve their understanding of challenges faced by their LGBT+ workforce, to combat all possible opportunities for conflict or prejudice in this area, and thereafter to celebrate their diverse and inclusive workforces. The fight for LGBT+ rights and equal opportunity is clearly not over yet; we all have an important role to play to ensure that everyone is treated equally and fairly.