Does business have a role in reducing hate against LGBTQ+?

The right to be Out and enjoy life is enshrined in the 1948 Universal Human Rights Declaration. Yet for too many, the struggle is ongoing, as delegates at the 2020 This Is Us conference heard.

Pride flag on drawing board with people making plans
Even in the UK, arguably among the most progressive nations on measures like same-sex marriages, people who are LGBTQ+ experience a lower quality of life and lifetime earning potential.A representative survey of the country’s estimated 920,000 LGBTQ+ community from the Office for National Statistics shows the largest differences in personal well-being were seen in anxiety, especially for people who identify themselves as bisexualThree in every ten (30.1%) reported their anxiety as high. This compares with two in every ten people (19.5%) who identify themselves as heterosexual or straight.

Why is wellbeing worse for LGBTQ+ people?

Speaking at the This Is Us virtual conference, Quinn Roache, LGBT+ and Disability Policy Officer at the TUC, called out statistics from TUC research, Still Just a Bit of Banter, which reports seven in ten people who are LGBTQ+ have experienced sexual harassment at work. Even more shocking, is that one in eight LGBT women have been seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work. The latest figures from police forces in England and Wales on sexual orientation-motivated hate crime again highlight the fears many people who are LGBTQ+ have to live with. Hate crimes again LGBTQ+ increased by 19% in the 2019/20 reporting period (to 15,835). Transgender identity hate crimes were up 16% (to 2,540). In her opening remarks on day one of the This Is Us conference, LGBTQ+ campaigner, Jacqui Gavin MBE, Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Advisor at Cambridgeshire Fire & Rescue Service, said that the last 12 months had been the most challenging in a long time. She cited regressive tendencies at the extremes of societies, aided by social media platforms, that are stoking hate against the LGBTQ+ and people in other groups with protected characteristics. “It has had a profound impact on LGBTQ+ people. Today more than ever we must stand together and progress together.”

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Why is LGBTQ+ awareness relevant for employers? 

One of the challenges people who are LGBTQ+ face at work is reporting harassment when it happens. The TUC has made recommendations for government. If taken up, these would change the current reactive duty for employers to a preventative duty.The TUC, which represents 5.6 million workers in 48 unions, is seeking to make it mandatory for employers to protect workers from all forms of harassment (including sexual harassment) and victimisation. This would create and clear and enforceable legal requirement for all employers, as well as help bring about cultural change in the workplace.The change would put the onus on employers to create workplaces that are safe and healthy for everyone. Trans ambassador Katie Neeves of Cool2bTrans, speaking at the This is Us conference, gave examples of court judgements around the cost – emotional, financial and reputational – of where employers have been found wanting.The issue is also important for the future workforce and talent attraction, recruitment, retention and performance. The number of people identifying as LGBTQ+ is rising, especially in younger age groups. In 2018, an estimated 94.6% of the UK population aged 16 years and over identified as heterosexual or straight: a continuation of the decrease seen since 2014, when 95.3% of the population identified themselves as heterosexual or straight.

What can employers do to support LGBTQ+ employees?

Panellists at the This Is Us conference also discussed the role of inclusive language in creating healthier workplaces for people who identify as LGBTQ+. James Sutton, Senior Manager, Digital Content & Campaigns, EMEA – Herbalife Nutrition, spoke about the dangers of using discriminative language that could lock out potential employees during recruitment. These include gender-coded language and ensuring job and people specifications are clear and focus on what the job is.The TUC’s Quinn Roache also outlined the difference between positive discrimination and positive action. Positive action is embedding policies and practices to ensure access to the widest possible talent pool. It is about promoting or recruiting the best person for the job, regardless of the background. TJ Richards, PMO & Stakeholder Outreach Manager/National Co Chair Embrace Network, Santander, added that language and practice around recruitment and progression also addresses the need for greater diversity of thought and to avoid the danger of recruiting in your own image. Santander has mandated gender-equal shortlists for senior roles, which is seeing 70% of successful candidates being women.

Personal pronouns at work – starting the conversation

Perhaps one of the most high-impact actions employers can take is to add personal pronouns – she/her, him/he, they/them, zie/zi/xe, or name alone – on LinkedIn profiles and email signatures, and respect those of others. Katie Neeves noted how personal pronouns are a particular issue for people who identify as non-binary. Saski, LGBT+ inclusion Consultant, Presenter, Speaker, said, “this is for everyone and not limited to gender-diverse communities. It shows an element of thought.”“Using personal pronouns this way is so important – the trade union movement is behind it,” said Quinn Roache. “Everyone should be asked to do this in real life and everyone can help start this dialogue. It gives everyone permission to do this.”

Looking to embed a more inclusive culture in your global workforce? Join us for a lively, interactive webinar that covers global mobility and talent management perspectives as organisations adjust to the new normal across UK & Europe, ME, Americas, APAC and Australia/New Zealand on Tuesday 29 October, 2pm. Are you Fit for the Future? Register here

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