All employees should feel comfortable enough to be themselves in the workplace, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. These tips aim to help employers create a more inclusive work environment.
1. Send a clear message from the top
Being inclusive goes beyond just following laws or guidelines. Make it clear that diversity is encouraged in the organisation. Don’t assume that people know where you stand on LGBT+ issues.
Businesses have the power to influence society, so back up your message by supporting the LGBT+ community. This might mean donating to local LGBT organisations and groups, volunteering, or creating LGBT-inclusive advertising. Through actions like these, you can help create a culture of acceptance.
2. Educate yourself and your team
Learn about the entire spectrum of LGBT+ identities. You might not encounter every type of LGBT+ person in your company, but understanding each sexual orientation and gender identity and recognising that all are important is a fundamental step towards LGBT+ inclusivity. Scheduling a diversity and inclusion training session might be a good way to start on this.
Understand that people can experience multiple discrimination due to a crossover of different factors like gender, sexuality, physical ability, class, and skin colour. Make sure that none of these factors interfere with employees’ ability to thrive in your business.
Recognise that gender identity and sexuality are separate notions. Transgender or non-binary employees may need very different supports to gay or bisexual employees. For instance, transgender employees are often particularly vulnerable to invasive questions, rumours and discrimination.
3. Company policies fully inclusive of LGBT+ people
Policies should explicitly mention LGBT+ people. This includes pensions, health insurance and policies around family, bereavement and leave. Consider offering adoption assistance and parental leave for both partners, as well as transgender specific medical coverage for all employees.
Keep in mind that LGBT+ employees may need additional support before travelling, since other countries may not be as supportive of LGBT+ people. Make sure policies regarding working abroad take LGBT+ employees’ safety and wellbeing into account.
4. Communicate your values
Work towards making workplace communication more inclusive. Get in the habit of using gender-neutral language when you don’t know someone, and don’t make assumptions about the gender of employees’ partners. Challenge transphobic, homophobic, and biphobic language.
Give employees the option to use the gender-neutral prefix Mx. and acknowledge and respect the pronouns employees choose to use. Make sure any forms or documents that ask about gender include a non-binary gender option. Install gender neutral bathrooms in the workplace.
5. LGBT+ inclusivity: an on-going and participatory process
Talk with your employees, both LGBT+ and non-LGBT+, and discuss what inclusivity should look like in your company. Develop a strategy together and ensure that the views of your employees are represented.
Follow up and track your progress. You’ll be able to see the improvements that will take place over time, and other companies might learn from your journey to be more inclusive.