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Adzuna asks: How can organisations be LGBTQ+ inclusive?

How can organisations be LGBTQ+ inclusive? What does it mean? And why does it matter?

We’re working hard at Adzuna to create an inclusive culture for all – it’s something we’re passionate about as a business. But we also know that we still have a lot of work to do and we’re committed to doing better. So to find out more about the steps we and other companies can take, we sat down with inclusion and belonging specialist Joanne Lockwood (she/her), to delve into the details of how organisations can become more LGBTQ+ inclusive, HR policies to consider, and much much more.

Joanne Lockwood is the founder and CEO of SEE Change Happen, a Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging Practice with a specialism in providing Transgender Awareness and support to organisations and businesses. Her mantra is Smile, Engage and Educate and she passionately believes that “people are people” and, no matter who they are, deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. You can find out more about Joanne’s work over at SEE Change Happen.

Take it away, Joanne!

 

What steps can SMEs take to be LGBTQ+ inclusive?

The first step to take is to understand why LGBTQ+ inclusivity is important and what being inclusive means to an organisation. Key questions to ask are: How can you get it on the radar? Who’s going to champion it? And is the culture such that it can be talked about?

The challenge within smaller companies is having a senior, visible member of the LGBTQ+ community, or somebody within the organisation with a passion for being an ally and enough of an internal megaphone, that can lead on LGBTQ+ inclusivity. It can be a chicken and egg situation, as having a senior LGBTQ+ leader who can take the role requires an existing inclusive culture where that person feels secure enough to be fully themselves at work. This can be a particular challenge within smaller companies with less mature organisational structures. 

However, an immediate step all organisations can take, regardless of size, is to ensure they have a positive stance on LGBTQ+ employees. That means ensuring the awareness of good language, having respect campaigns, having the correct policies in place, and introducing anonymous reporting processes. Other positive steps include having a positive public statement on a company’s website, supporting LGBTQ+ inclusivity through social media, ensuring branding and other materials are always LGBTQ+ considerate and positive, and making sure any imagery includes queer people.  

Organisations should also consider setting up staff forums or opening up conversations about LGBTQ+ inclusivity, bringing in speakers to create awareness, and taking steps to incorporate LGBTQ+ culture into the wider company calendar, such as (authentically) celebrating Pride Month.

Why is this important? Focusing on inclusion is not only key from a brand and reputational perspective; creating a psychologically safe environment for LGBTQ+ people is the law as well as a critical step in protecting the mental health of any LGBTQ+ employees.

 

Are there any particular HR policies employers should look to implement?

It’s not good enough to be purely inclusive, it’s about proactively welcoming a diverse workforce and being anti-discriminatory.

Organisations should include a baseline EDI policy within their employee handbook, talking about obligation within law, what they stand for, as well as drawing out the corporate redlines defining what is, and what isn’t acceptable.

This means defining what is discrimination, harassment, or victimisation at work. For example, what is acceptable (or unacceptable) language, what is a micro-aggression, what constitutes harassment, and what is bullying?

The employee handbook should also outline what someone should do if they are a victim, how they can escalate any concerns or complaints, and how any infringements on acceptable behaviour will be handled. Similarly, it should include detail on what to expect if you’re a perpetrator and the consequences, for example if you may be dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct. Outside of employee to employee interactions, the handbook should also detail what to do if a client or customer is a victim or perpetrator and how the escalation process works in these instances.

Discrimination at work policies should also extend to cover remarks or actions outside of the office, for example comments made on social media. The Maya Forstater employment tribunal case is a good example of how employers are increasingly taking action based on social media comments made outside of the workplace, but also shows the complexities at play. Similarly, the estate agency Savills recently suspended an employee over racist football tweets and companies should think about if their policies and responses to online hate are the same for racist, sexist, homophobic or transphobic comments, or whether their policies are creating a ‘hierarchy of hate’ where some offensive comments or actions are treated more seriously than others.

Other HR policies to consider include ensuring health care and pension rights are LGBTQ+ inclusive, introducing mental health support, as well as defining transgender inclusion and transition at work guidelines.

 

 

How can employers ensure hiring is LGBTQ+ inclusive?

First up, it’s important to get the basics right: defining the company stance on inclusivity, outlining corporate redlines, and implementing the appropriate EDI policies. 

When it comes to hiring, ensure those responsible have had training and are aware of some of the problems LGBTQ+ people face, for example discrimination, or having to out themselves on forms and in conversations when discussing family members, partners, children etc. It’s also key that any employer branding and recruitment marketing for roles is LGBTQ+ positive and explicitly inclusive.

Hiring managers also need to consider all people when crafting forms, questionnaires or interview questions, by focusing on sensitive language that is inclusive for all. For example, by ensuring all gender identities are catered for on forms through options such as:

  1. “Gender: male/female/non-binary/prefer not to say”
  2. “Does your gender identity align with that assigned at birth: yes/no/prefer not to say”

It’s also important to think about the barriers for trans people and how their gender identification may not match how they present or their stated identity. This includes being aware that trans people may not have ID or educational/professional certificates that match their presentation or stated identity. As such, steps like reference checking or asking about employment history or qualifications need to be taken sensitively. 

To tackle this, employers should ask open questions in an inclusive way, e.g. “did you have a different name at birth or during your previous employment?” and give candidates the option to flag any inconsistencies that may come up via a private discussion. Companies should also be prepared to make reasonable adjustments on a case-by-case basis; the best way of gauging what’s needed is simply by asking a candidate if they need any particular steps to be taken.

It should also be easy for candidates to highlight any information that may be sensitive. It’s crucial to maintain privacy and confidentiality between stages of the hiring process, for example protecting someone’s trans status by limiting disclosure on a need to know basis. 

Finally, don’t make any assumptions. For example, just because somebody is married it doesn’t mean that they are either gay or straight, they could be still be bisexual or pansexual. 

 

What about pronouns / gender neutral language?

Pronouns are for all. They’re about identifying yourself as an ally to all and making sure people understand their responsibility as allies to the LGBTQ+ community. 

But they can also have a bigger impact and be about wider inclusivity: using pronouns also helps those with non anglo-saxon names avoid being mis-identified, while pronouns from other languages can help indicate if someone is a non-native English speaker.

Where possible, companies should invite people to share pronouns on their HR records, email signatures, social media profiles and Zoom/Teams tags. Organisations may wish to create an awareness campaign on why pronouns are important to some and how someone can indicate allyship by including and being explicit about their own pronouns to normalise and create safe spaces.  

Using gender neutral language is also important. Where possible avoid gendered titles, roles, prefixes and salutations within communications. Recognise that “ladies and gentlemen” is outdated and excludes non-binary people – “Sir/Madam” likewise – and that it’s problematic when someone assumes or incorrectly assigns a gendered title to someone. Companies should also encourage an awareness of the connotations of words such as “guys”, “mate”, “love”, “duck”, “honey” and how patronising they can be to many.  

Companies can take broader steps to encourage allyship by implementing allies training. This should cover all the identities in LGBTQ+, not just the ones which are easiest to define or most obvious. It’s also about improving understanding of LGBTQ+ history around oppression, criminality, hate crime and all the people who have had their sexuality erased throughout history.

The great thing about focusing on gender neutrality is that it’s about creating inclusive spaces for all, and therefore benefits women and other minorities as well as LGBTQ+ and non-binary people. Our language tends to imply the default of privilege and using gender neutral language balances these perceptions. 

 

Is having an LGBTQ+ champion a good idea?

Everyone should take personal responsibility to be an LGBTQ+ ally/champion, but it’s also a good idea to have someone who can be a focus point and can coordinate Pride, training, awareness or other events from an LGBTQ+ perspective. This person can be an ally if an LGBTQ+ person is not able to step into the role. If being an LGBTQ+ champion is a work-time activity, it should be part of their job description and not ‘extracurricular’. However, it’s important to note that nominating an LGBTQ+ champion is not about deferring responsibility to one person and creating a culture of allyship should still be about collective responsibility

For organisations that haven’t assigned a particular person to the role, the responsibility for LGBTQ+ inclusivity still exists and should be held at the senior level. If you haven’t delegated it, you should own it!

 

 

Finally, what are the key dos and don’ts?

  • Don’t out people
  • Don’t judge my sexuality by my partner (or lack of)
  • Don’t assume (the sex or gender of one’s partner, or if people have children, etc.)
  • Don’t focus on passing (i.e conforming to the dominant privilege. This doesn’t work for non-binary people and people shouldn’t be validated by conforming. It’s important to celebrate people for who they are, not how they make you feel)
  • Don’t ask about surgery or hormones
  • Don’t burden LGBTQ+ people with questions
  • Don’t confuse gender identity with gender expression (for example, don’t assume somebody who is non-binary looks or acts a certain way)

 

  • Do research
  • Do learn and listen
  • Do advocate
  • Do be a good friend
  • Do get my name, gender and pronouns right
  • Do be visible as an ally and amplify/stand-up for all LGBTQ+ people

 

Useful resources to learn about key cultural dates:

LGBT+ History Month – February

International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) – May

Pride Month – June

Transgender Awareness Week – November

Transgender Day of Remembrance – November

For a fuller calendar of LGBTQ+ awareness days, check out The Pride Shop.

 


Interested to learn more about creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive culture? Head over to SEE Change Happen where you can find more links and resources from Joanne.