Be proud of diversity!

Be proud of diversity!

This weekend is Pride Cymru and as the city celebrates diversity and individuality, we take a look at how businesses can embed values that ensure ongoing support for members of the LGBT community in the workplace.

There have been some shocking statistics in the news recently, indicating that while more and more organisations are aware of the need for inclusive environments, there is still a lot more that can be done.  According to Stonewall's 2018 survey, 35% of LGBT staff have hidden their sexuality at work out of fear of discrimination.  The Trades Union Congress has revealed that almost 70% of members of the LGBT community have been sexually harassed at work.

While inclusive practices may be a work in progress for many businesses, it is illegal to discriminate against anyone due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or transgender status. LGBT employees are protected from this under the Equality Act and the Employment Rights Act.  The consequences of an employer not getting this right can be severe – discrimination compensation, including compensation for injury to feelings, is uncapped and the employee does not need a qualifying period of service for protection. 

In our view, creating inclusive environments means employers can hire the most capable individuals to broaden their productivity and profits, and to increase the overall skill set in the work place.  Businesses should examine any current barriers to LGBT individuals and assess whether anything further can be done. 

We explore below a number of different ways an organisation can build on to help establish a diverse, inclusive and supportive work force.  Creating an inclusive culture and working environment does not need to be costly or complicated.   Sometimes the smallest of gestures can help and won't go unnoticed to those it means something. For example, flying a LGBT flag or putting up a poster promoting inclusivity can really make the difference to some and to show that the organisation celebrates diversity.

While these small steps can make some progress, there is plenty more that can be done to really embed diversity. Detailed below are some points to consider to help ensure that everyone is supported:

  • run a diversity committee – to be developed and run by staff members as a platform to provide peer support between staff.  Its aim could be to champion diversity and inclusion and to challenge any areas that need improving.
  • train staff in mental health and provide equality and diversity training
  • ensure managers encourage input from everyone – spread the message that the organisation really value what people say and make sure everyone has the same opportunities. Essentially, ensure senior members of the business champion diversity and inclusion – encourage an "open door" policy so that staff feel able to talk to managers about any issues they are experiencing.
  • In addition to the "open door" policy, think about running anonymous questionnaires to get a true understanding of how the staff are feeling and whether there is anything more that can be done.  It is often best to tackle any issues at an early stage to prevent them from escalating.
  • provide access to counselling hotlines
  • build messages into your employer branding materials to show prospective candidates that the organisation is welcoming and inclusive. 

These are a just a few suggestions on how to promote an inclusive working environment but can really make a difference. For more information, please get in touch with Claire Knowles or Rachael Russell in the employment team.

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