LGBTQIA+ in the Workplace

I am a solicitor and I identify as a lesbian.

When asked about my experience “coming out” I am fortunate enough to say that my experience has largely been a positive one; because I was unequivocally accepted by my friends, family and latterly by my work colleagues.

Unfortunately, however, my experience has not been the same within the wider community and I was the victim of prejudice in 2018 when I joined a local church and started regularly attending Baptism meetings. After introducing my partner to the church, I was isolated by the church leaders and invited to attend a “crisis meeting”. During this meeting, I was likened to a “bank robber” as a result of “experiencing same-sex attraction”. I was told in no uncertain terms that if a “bank robber attended church, they would baptise him, but tell him that his way of life was wrong”. This saddened me greatly considering this church had publicly released a mission statement stating that it, as an organisation, welcomed members of the LGBT+ community. This was not my experience.

My reaction to this was to continue to be Baptised into my faith, but then try to find people who shared my beliefs in a positive and loving way. I am pleased to say that this weekend, for example, I am attending an event by Steve Chalke, a Christian pastor, called “In the name of love”. The purpose of this event is to challenge those prejudices and beliefs that members of the LGBT+ community cannot also be part of the Christian faith.

As someone with differences, it is most important to feel welcome, safe and free from prejudice. So as employers, how can we ensure that anyone identifying as part of a minority group feel safe and included in the workplace?

Here are my tips for creating a happy workplace environment:

  1. Speak the same language;
  2. Allow people to be themselves;
  3. Give people a voice.

A huge part of breaking down taboos is speaking the same language. Taking the time to educate ourselves and come to understand how people identify is the first step towards acceptance. Whilst the Equality Act 2010 has been great in recognising the need to protect individuals based on their gender and sexual orientation, is the law accurately reflected by your employee’s actual personal experiences?

Equal Opportunity monitoring is a good way of anonymously analysing data to ensure that minority groups are not discriminated against, but a lot of this work goes on “behind the scenes”. Some larger firms have thought about creating diversity and inclusion boards, which I think is a fantastic way to give minority groups a platform to voice their experiences, share in the governance of their organisations and advise upon ways in which their employers can ensure a continued happy and healthy working environment.

By way of information, Stonewall has created an extremely helpful guide for employers which I would like to share with you here as part of step one above – “speak the same language”:

https://www.stonewall.org.uk/best-practice-toolkits-and-resources

If you would like any further advice on inclusion and the Equality Act 2010 in respect of your organisation, please contact me at imogen.hamblin@thrivelaw.co.uk

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