Most employers understand the need to comply with equality law but, the business case for LGBTI inclusion should not be underestimated or forgotten about.
Workplace diversity is now accepted as a positive aim, with acknowledged business benefits. It depends on a number of factors, including organisational culture, management practices, interpersonal relationships, respect and support.
To achieve diversity, discrimination must be banished. However, the concept of diversity within an organisation does not always cover all types of 'diversity' equally. Some 'Protected Characteristics' might be regarded as the poor relation of other more long-standing and better recognised characteristics such as race and sex. In 2015, EU-wide reports confirmed that almost 60% of EU citizens see discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity as being widespread.
It's worth remembering that only in the 2000s did employment laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace evolve to where they are today.
Good Practices Report
As a result, in October 2016, the European Commission published its Good Practices Report to its study on The Business Case for Diversity in the Workplace: sexual orientation and gender identity (the Report).
The aim of the study was to provide examples of the type of practices organisations can and should adopt to promote Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual and Intersex (LGBTI) inclusion in the workplace and to help managers, HR professionals and consultants go about it. The Report also highlights the many advantages in promoting LGBTI inclusion, including having a happier and more productive workforce and an improved financial position as a result of lower turnover rates and recruitment costs.
The Report's conclusions include:
- the presence of LGBTI-supportive policies (LSPs) and workplace environments fostered a more engaged workforce, with LGBTI employees more likely to go above and beyond their job description, reporting a greater commitment to their jobs. LGBTI employees also report greater job satisfaction;
- while there may be initial costs to enacting LSPs, such as extending health benefits to same-sex partners, these costs are likely to be minimal and a healthier, more committed workforce will make greater contributions to the workplace thus offsetting the initial costs;
- customers and job-seekers who value LGBTI-inclusive practices, organisations with LSPs are more likely to be seen as better companies from which to buy products from or for whom to work, therefore increasing their customer base and pool of perspective employees; and
- a supportive workplace climate allow LGBTI employees to feel comfortable in disclosing their sexual orientation at work, which in turns improves psychological health and wellbeing in the workplace
A number of organisations already successfully promote LSPs, some of their top tips are as follows:
- commitment at the top - when top management shows its commitment this is an inspiration for others in the organisation to follow and ensures LGBTI employees feel supported and included
- diversity and inclusion policies - organisations which have adopted diversity and inclusion policies, including stand-alone policies for those transitioning their gender, makes them the preferred organisation for future talent and suppliers
- training activities - implementing diversity, culture and unconscious bias training sessions is a crucial part of shaping the culture of an organisation. Moreover, it enables a more systematic and structured approach to the sharing of knowledge and awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion
- internal LGBTI networks - establishing an employee network can often be the first step in working towards inclusion of the target group, and are thereafter often the centre point of LGBTI activities within an organisation