LGBTQA+ Workplace Policies All Businesses Should Have
Equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) policies are not currently a legal requirement of businesses in the UK, but they are good practice, and can help defend your company against unfair dismissal claims.
But EDI policies are more important than a mere tick box exercise or an opportunity to embed inclusion within your company. They give your company a tangible role in changing society and promoting the equity of marginalised groups.
At the bare minimum, all companies should have an equality, diversity and inclusion policy, and most do. But these policies are rarely tailored to the organisation, and often copy pasted from generic online templates. These policies won’t adequately represent your organisation’s commitment to inclusion and will appear to be lip service to prospective employees who might benefit from good EDI practises.
In this article, we’ll examine 4 essential EDI policies all companies need in order to protect their LGBTQA+ staff.
(It’s also worth noting here, that LGBTQA+ people are likely to identify with other protected characteristics, such as race and disability. Therefore, no suite of policies protecting LGBTQA+ staff is complete without a comprehensive disability and anti-racism charter!)
1. Equality and Diversity Policy
Starting out with a generic template for your EDI policy is fine (especially if you’re a small business), as long as you expand on its contents and tailor it to your organisation.
Most generic templates will include:
A statement outlining your organisation’s commitment to equality.
A commitment to not discriminate on the grounds of any protected characteristics.
An outline of the type of work environment your establishment aims to create.
All in all, pretty bland stuff.
To make this policy better, we need to do the following:
List the 9 protected characteristics of the Equality Act 2010 and give definitions of each, making sure these definitions are both legally sound and community led. This is because the law isn’t always up to date with the most appropriate terms referring to each protected characteristic. For example, the protected characteristic of ‘gender reassignment’ is generally considered to be offensive and outdated, with many calling for this to be changed to ‘transgender’ instead.
Talk about what you as a company will do to minimise barriers to inclusion for each group. It might be enough to refer to another policy here. For instance, you could go into detail about how you’re reducing barriers to inclusion for LGBTQA+ identities, or you could link to your Pride at Work policies (more on that later!).
Include a clear and transparent complaints procedure for reporting incidents of discrimination, including the consequences of discrimination for the offending employee.
List the contact details of the person in charge of EDI at your company. This provides accountability for any incidents and gives anyone with suggestions a clear point of contact for having their voice heard.
Include review dates and stick to them! EDI is changing rapidly – terms and definitions are flexible and are constantly being updated by communities. For this reason, you should aim to review your EDI policy every two years.
By adding these details, you’ll have created a robust and flexible EDI policy that truly represents your commitments to inclusion and serves as a solid foundation for your corporate responsibilities moving forward.
2. Pride at Work Policy
Having a robust EDI policy is the bare minimum an organisation needs in order to support the LGBTQA+ community in the workplace. If you want to truly uplift your LGBQA+ staff, you should have a Pride at Work policy too.
Why is this necessary? Well, if you don’t have a Pride at Work policy, you’re ignoring the key differences and challenges that your LGBQA+ colleagues face on a day-to-day basis. When we fail to account for these differences, we can make choices that fail to include others adequately.
For example, one of the elements a Pride at Work policy should include is a discussion of working abroad. For some LGBQA+ staff, it might not be possible to travel and work in certain countries due to their sexuality – homosexuality is still illegal or significantly discriminated against in many countries. If you fail to account for LGBQA+ diversity, you could be putting your staff at risk.
Therefore, a Pride at Work Policy should cover the following areas:
A reminder of the Equality Act 2010 and a definition of the protected characteristic of sexuality.
Definitions of the 4 types of discrimination, examples of each in relation to sexuality and the employment consequences of discriminating against anyone due to their sexuality.
A personal guarantee from senior leadership that they are committed to LGBQA+ equality in the organisation.
Data about how many LGBQA+ staff the company employs, based on voluntary polling. (Ensure that your company employs enough staff that statistics about sexuality will not out anyone. If you only have 10 staff and you publish data implying that 1 in 10 of your staff is gay, you might inadvertently out that 1 employee!)
LGBQTA+ diversity dates the company will commit to celebrating and how these will be celebrated. (It’s not enough to change your logo to a rainbow or go to Pride in London! Appropriate celebrations will uplift the voices of your LGBQA+ employees, through training, education, events hosted by community figures and donations to LGBQTA+ organisations, among others.)
A discussion of how your company’s employee benefits align with your commitments to LGBQA+ equality. Each benefit should be listed with an explanation that the company/provider is also committed to and shares your views on LGBQA+ inclusion.
A commitment that, when traveling abroad for work, LGBQA+ employees will be posted to locations that will not put them in danger due to their sexuality (see above for more detail on this). This won’t be applicable for all organisations but is necessary if your work requires employees to travel abroad.
LGBQA+ organisations that the company works with to ensure their policies and procedures are aligned with their commitment to LGBQA+ inclusion. It’s better to work with grassroots and local LGBTQA+ organisation if you can – these organisations generally reflect the communities they serve in a more equitable manner and will be better tailored to your local area.
A discussion of intersectionality. LGBQA+ employees are likely to identify with more than one protected characteristic and may face further marginalisation because of this. The experience of being LGBQA+ and Black, for instance, will be different and unique to that of their White LGBQA+ colleagues. Therefore, it’s important to mention that the company recognises this, and is committed to understanding and accommodating the experiences of all LGBQA+ employees.
A commitment to investing in training about LGBQA+ issues in the workplace, and when this training was last undertaken.
Information about your LGBTQA+ Staff Network.
The contact details of the person in charge of writing and maintaining your Pride at Work policy, making clear that employees can contact this person for suggestions.
A Pride at Work policy that encompasses all of these elements will put your company head and shoulders above your competitors and will show your LGBQA+ employees and prospective candidates that you truly care about uplifting their voices and protecting them in the workplace.
3. Trans Pride at Work
You may have noticed that our Pride at Work policy referred to LGBQA+ staff. Astute readers may have been wondering where the T was! This wasn’t a typo – transgender staff have unique needs that will overlap with their LGBQA+ colleagues in many ways but vary enough that it’s worth having a separate Trans Pride at Work policy.
In truth, most of the elements discussed in relation to the Pride at Work policy will be applicable here, simply needing changing from ‘LGBQA+’ to ‘transgender’. However, just because the above template is able to be repurposed, doesn’t mean it should be merely copy pasted.
You do still need to consider each point in relation to your trans staff. For example, let’s consider employee benefits.
If you offer your staff a free gym membership, you may have selected a gym that aligns with your commitments to protecting LGBQA+ staff. Great! However, that doesn’t guarantee that your trans staff won’t face harassment in the changing rooms and toilets of said gym, or that the gym is equally committed to trans inclusion.
Therefore, while it’s fine to apply most of the same elements of your Pride at Work policy to your Trans Pride at Work policy, you should ensure that they are relevant and applicable.
There are also some extra elements you need to include:
A discussion of GDPR as it relates to transgender employees. GDPR protects transgender employees by ensuring data cannot be shared without express consent. For trans staff, this means it is illegal to share an employee’s trans status, their gender history, previous legal gender or name in an official business capacity without the staff member’s consent. Staff, trans and cis, should be aware of this, and the consequences of breaching GDPR.
Information about your Transitioning at Work policy (discussed below).
A commitment to maintaining an inclusive dress code. Even if your business doesn’t explicitly have a dress code, there are still expectations about how employees should dress, and these vary based on the gender of the individual. You should state that employees are free to wear the uniform or business dress that best reflects their gender identity.
A zero-tolerance attitude towards discrimination. Trans people face extreme levels of harassment and discrimination in society. It’s important that you make clear your zero-tolerance approach to transphobia, and the consequences of transphobic discrimination for the offending employee.
A commitment to bathroom inclusivity. One of the key areas where trans people face discrimination is accessing the bathroom. You should let employees know that they are free to use the bathroom that best reflects their gender identity. (If you are a larger corporation, consider installing gender neutral bathrooms in your office building!)
These elements, in conjunction with those listed in the Pride at Work policy, will ensure your business is advancing the human rights of trans people, at a time when the trans community is facing unprecedented levels of discrimination, media backlash and legislative attacks.
4. Transitioning at Work Policy
Finally, your LGBTQA+ suite needs a Transitioning at Work policy.
A Transitioning at Work policy will enable transgender staff to feel safe living authentically in their gender identity, and provide a clear and actionable process for employees, managers and HR to follow when an employee needs support in their transition journey.
We need to make clear that there is no one way to transition. Transition may be social, legal and/or medical. Some trans people don’t need to transition, and the process of transitioning is not the defining factor of whether someone is or is not transgender.
Therefore, a Transitioning at Work policy needs to be flexible, and employee led.
Here are some key elements to include:
Restate the protections that trans employees have under the law. This will include the Equality Act 2010, GDPR and the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) 2004. The GRA allows binary trans folks to get a new birth certificate fitting their gender identity by issuing them with a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC).
Very few trans people have a GRC, because the process of obtaining one is expensive, time consuming, generally degrading and overly medicalised. The GRA also fails to mention non-binary/gender non-conforming folks. It is illegal to ask whether someone has a GRC in an employment context.
You should mention the GRA in your policy but make clear that obtaining a GRC is not a requirement for changing a name and ID via deed poll and will not be a barrier to living authentically in the workplace. HR systems can be updated without the employee undergoing the GRC process.
Contact details for the HR lead on this policy and the training they have received. Ideally, the person in charge of delivering this policy throughout the company will have received extensive awareness training about transgender issues in the workplace (and wider society), be well versed with appropriate terminology and sensitive in their approach. You could hire an external consultant who specialises in this area (and is ideally trans themselves) to help with the implementation of this process.
A clear process beginning from the point of disclosure until a) the employee requests the process ends or b) the employee leaves the company in which the employee will be supported in their transition journey. This will be the process to be followed by the employee and their manager to help inform their team of the relevant information, update HR records, implement relevant training and provide ongoing pastoral support for the employee. This process should be entirely flexible and led by the trans employee themself.
For instance, an employee might wish for their manager to help draft an email explaining a change in pronouns and gender presentation to be sent to their team, and wish for no further assistance, in which case the process can be ended.
Another employee may wish for regular meetings with their manager to discuss ongoing changes and accommodations during their medical transition.
This process will be different for every employee and require a great degree of sensitivity and flexibility on the part of management and HR.
It’s a good idea to seek consultancy from experts on your Transitioning at Work policy to ensure you’re taking the needs and concerns of trans staff fully into account. Having a robust and flexible Transitioning at Work policy will truly set you apart amongst your competitors and allow you to fully support your gender diverse staff.
In this article, we’ve examined 4 essential EDI policies all companies need in order to protect their LGBTQA+ staff.
Not all of the elements of each policy will be applicable to all companies, and some will need to add additional elements over time, or as the company grows.
Remember, as important as having these policies is, it is more important that you refer to them (and update them) regularly! Don’t file them away on a shelf to gather dust but make them accessible to all employees.
Having these policies should be a point of pride – let the world know about them!
For any questions or guidance about writing these policies, get in touch with Rose Diversity Training today at www.rosediversitytraining.co.uk.