Supporting LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace

5 min read

Thursday 17 Jun 21

Here at Farillio, we believe that everyone has the right to be their true, authentic self at all times, including at work! Whilst we’re sure that many other businesses, big and small, share our view, unfortunately the reality is that many LGBTQ+ people still deal with harassment and discrimination in the workplace (1 in 8 trans employees have been attacked by a colleague or customer). Not only do LGBTQ+ people struggle to find work in the first place, but when they are employed they often deal with micro-aggressions and prejudice. It is vital that all employers and employees do more to drive a culture of acceptance and social change.

This pride month, we are celebrating the amazing LGBTQ+ members of our Farillio community by putting together some of our best tips to help employers do all that they can to foster a welcoming, safe and inclusive working environment. After all, happy employees mean a healthier, more productive workplace!

Use inclusive language

Using more gender neutral terminology can go a long way for staff that don’t feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity at work. It’s therefore important not to make assumptions either way about a fellow member of staff and be cautious of what you say during water-cooler chats so as to not isolate or disrespect a member of your team.

The National LGBT Survey by the Government Equalities Office found that 19% of people didn’t disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity with any of their colleagues.

It’s the things that we take for granted that matter here. For example instead of assuming that your male colleague has a wife, use the word ‘partner’ instead. It’s also a good idea for employers to think about updating any policies to use more inclusive language e.g. ‘parent’ rather than ‘mother’ and ‘father’.

Use preferred pronouns

If a colleague has a set of preferred pronouns that they make you aware of, use them! Don’t overthink things too much and if you make a mistake, apologise and correct it. There’s no need to feel embarrassed or flustered; it’s the effort that counts!

If an employee officially changes their name, be sure to change any staff documentation that may refer to them as their ‘dead name’. Name changing processes can often take a long time so it’s also important to respect their new identity in the meantime.

Some companies even opt to have preferred pronouns included in email signatures. This is a great way to show that your company is mindful of gender identity and is moving in the right direction in terms of inclusivity!

Open the dialogue and listen

Perhaps if your LGBTQ+ colleagues are open to it, ask respectful questions about what you could do to make them feel more comfortable and listen to their lived experiences. It’s important to understand that LGBTQ+ people might not all feel supported by the same action and some might not want to talk about it either, and that’s ok too! Don’t take it personally, everyone moves at their own pace.

The most important thing here is for employers to create a safe space for it to be spoken about openly, respectfully and non-judgmentally. Employers should endeavor to make employees feel comfortable enough to come straight to their managers if they have concerns about any work-related issues affecting them e.g. gendered uniform policy.

Offer support

If an employee is undergoing gender reassignment surgery and they approach you about this, you may wish to appoint another senior member of staff to assist them and support them through it. This can be a good way to keep up to date with their wellbeing and understand whether any reasonable adjustments need to be made.

Employers may want to update their sick leave policy to include LGBTQ+ employees who are transitioning.

Educate staff and have inclusive policies

It’s important to reiterate that your business has a zero tolerance policy for discrimination, harassment or bullying as well as having it reiterated in a firm policy which goes out to staff when they are newly onboarded. We have a Farillio template for a Harassment and Bullying Policy which outlines the laws around this which you can access here. You can also read our guide on equal opportunities and diversity in the workplace here which explains the law further.

You could also hire an inclusivity specialist to host workshops for your entire workforce to attend. If you do this, remember that your efforts shouldn’t end there. Education is an ongoing process and with new hires joining teams regularly, we recommend workshops should take place annually at a minimum.

If they’re comfortable, it’s also a good idea to seek feedback from any LGBTQ+ members of the team to gain an insight into their experience within the company and whether they have any suggestions for processes going forward e.g. onboarding etc. Communication is key here and inclusive, welcoming attitudes start at the very top level.

Revisit your hiring processes

You can ensure diversity by writing it into your policy too. You can find a great Equal Opportunities Policy template here.

In addition, there are some great bias checking tools which you can find online that help shed light on any implicit bias’s you may hold or have learned over time. We like this one from Harvard University but there are lots online to choose from. Whilst not perfect tools, these can help with fairer hiring processes because if you’re more aware of biases, you can check yourself when they subconsciously influence your thinking.

The language used in job descriptions also matters to encourage LGBTQ+ people to apply if they’ve got the right skill set for the role. Avoid using gender-coded terms, and opt for neutral terms where you can.

We hope these suggestions make for a more inclusive LGBTQ+ friendly workplace. To all of the talented, brilliant LGBTQ+ members of our Farillio community, this month we celebrate you!

Happy Pride!

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