New research 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.
On top of this, the recent judgment from actress Seyi Omooba’s claim against Leicester Theatre Trust also confirms that the LGBT+ community can be attacked at large, and often through the use of social media, whether directly or indirectly. Ms Omooba was dismissed and subsequently dropped by her former agents when the following Facebook post emerged:
"I do not believe you can be born gay, and I do not believe homosexuality is right, though the law of this land has made it legal doesn't mean it’s right."
All of this news is obviously disappointing to hear, particularly during LGBT History Month, which should be celebrated to recognise the actual progression that has been made for the LGBT+ community over the last 20 years, on both a legal and societal footing. It is further 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 behaviour, 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 recognise 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 counsellors or dispute resolution experts. Such networks also allow LGBT+ workers to collectively raise important issues and suggestions to improve inclusion and diversity within the organisation.
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.