While there have been many positive responses given by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people in relation to experiences at work, a recent survey confirms there is more still to be done.
The question is, are the current plans enough to make a difference?
Back in July 2017, recognising that LGBT people face barriers to full participation in public life, the Government Equalities Office (GEO) launched the largest national survey of LGBT people ever conducted. The aim of the survey was to strip away the barriers that LGBT people face so that everyone can go as far as their hard work and talent can take them, regardless of sexual orientation or identity. The survey asked a number of questions about LGBT people's experiences of living in the UK, including in the areas of personal safety, healthcare, education and employment.
While the results of the survey confirmed a number of positive responses, particularly regarding the United Kingdom's own good record on progressing LGBT rights, there were still a number of concerning findings, including:
- more than two thirds of LGBT respondents said they had avoided holding hands with a same-sex partner for fear of a negative reaction;
- approximately two in five respondents had experienced an incident because they were LGBT, such as verbal harassment or physical violence;
- discrimination, harassment and bullying disproportionately affects LGBT people when compared to heterosexuals and continues to be an issue in the workplace;
- 11%of LGBT people had experienced a negative reaction in the workplace due to someone else disclosing that they were LGBT, without their permission. 9% had received a negative reaction in the workplace as a result of inappropriate comments or conduct; and
- that where a serious incident had been experienced at work, 77% of the respondents involved had chosen not to report it, largely because they thought nothing would happen or change.
As a result of the survey, in July 2018, the GEO published its LGBT Action Plan: Improving the Lives of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender People to push forward the government's agenda in this area. From an employment and HR perspective, the action plan seeks to ensure that:
- LGBT people can be themselves in the workplace so they can do their best work and get on in life;
- employers will be provided with free training materials to support inclusion and tackle discrimination in the workplace;
- action is taken on sexual harassment in the workplace, with a particular emphasis that LGBT harassment is included within equal opportunities and/or anti-sexual harassment policies and guidance issued by ACAS;
- a working group of employers is convened to progress LGBT equality at work, and to develop targeted interventions to improve the experiences that LGBT people have at work at all times; and
- the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy is reviewed to strengthen how bullying, harassment and misconduct is tackled in the workplace, and for private employers to use this as a best practice guide.
The question that remains, though, is when and how will LGBT people actually see the benefit of the action plan? Well, the action plan is certainly a good starting point. Progress has definitely been made since the late 90s, with greater workplace protection being afforded to LGBT people. With this action plan, the GEO further commits itself to tackle the continued issues that LGBT people face in the workplace, and in society generally, before the end of this Parliament. There is allocated funding available until March 2020 and it is hoped that additional information will soon follow to give this action plan the detail and commitment that it deserves.