An inclusive workplace is one where employees all feel valued, supported, regardless of their sexual orientation, and where the various conscious and unconscious barriers there might be to achieving this are identified and removed.
In an inclusive workplace, employees are protected against discrimination, harassment and unfair treatment, and feel that their sexual orientation does not have any negative impact on their experiences at work.
Why do it?
There are several reasons why creating an inclusive workplace for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) employees is a good idea. First, these employees are specifically protected against discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, so by creating an inclusive workplace you are reducing the risk of expensive tribunal claims.
An inclusive workplace will also help recruitment and retention, which impacts your bottom line, and will ensure the best employees are promoted internally, which clearly helps your business performance.
Inclusive workplaces result in improved team working, fewer grievances and disputes, more motivated and engaged employees who therefore perform better and are absent from work less often.
Policies and procedures
Having policies and procedures which are inclusive in respect of sexual orientation is an important step in creating an inclusive workplace. Your equal opportunities policy is obviously key, and should provide clear guidance for employees and managers on unacceptable behaviour and appropriate support.
But there are a number of other policies and procedures which can be relevant. Your disciplinary policy could specify that discrimination because of sexual orientation is an offence. If you have a policy on data protection, details about how to handle data around sexual orientation should be included.
Your bullying and harassment/dignity at work policy should address the issue of bullying/harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, and again make clear what behaviour is unacceptable and state clearly how concerns should be raised and what action will be taken.
Education and training
Equality awareness training is beneficial for all employees and should specifically address LGB issues. Training could be included as part of induction but refreshers on a reasonably regular basis can also be helpful. Good training will ensure that employees understand what types of behaviour or language might be considered offensive; understand what their rights and their responsibilities are; and give them useful information and understanding about the issues faced by LGB colleagues and how to support LGB colleagues in the workplace.
Recruitment and promotion
Having a workplace which is inclusive for LGB employees can help with recruitment and retention of good employees, but to do this you need to ensure that your procedures and practices around recruitment and around internal promotion are inclusive and do not discriminate.
As well as including an equal opportunities statement in advertisements, ensure managers who are responsible for recruitment and promotion decisions are trained in conscious and unconscious bias, and what a fair selection process looks like in terms of questions being asked in interviews and on forms.
An important part of creating an inclusive workplace is monitoring whether the actions you are taking are actually working. Monitoring sexual orientation amongst not just those applying for jobs, but also those applying for internal promotions, those raising grievances and those leaving the organisation will help you work out whether the actions you are taking are working, and identifying where there might be an issue you need to address.
If you would like more guidance on developing an inclusive workplace, do get in touch.