David Price, CEO and workplace wellbeing expert at Health Assured, discusses how companies can offer support for LGBTQ+ mental health in the workplace
Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ people often experience disproportionate levels of prejudice and bullying at work and elsewhere. And this can cause poor mental health.
The Equality Act 2010 made sexual orientation a protected characteristic. This means the LGBTQ+ community are protected from discrimination as a result of their sexuality, however, the experience is often different.
Homophobic bullying in the workplace is prevalent, even if it’s not entirely deliberate. Microaggressions like using ‘gay’ as a negative term for something you don’t like is just as much bullying as directly singling someone out. And people can be subconsciously passed over for promotion or pay rises purely based on their sexuality.
Attitudes are changing, but slowly. There are ways to accelerate these changes though and ways to make sure you’re unconditionally supporting the LGBQT+ employees in your organisation:
- Foster a positive work environment: by putting LGBTQ+-supportive policies in place, you will be sending the signal to your team as well as potential employees that you operate in a positive and diverse climate, promoting fairness among all employees. When employees feel that their work environment is more inclusive, fairer and supportive, they tend to be happier, healthier and more productive.
- Establish a support network: An internal support network or forum is a great way to show a commitment to diversity, and give people who need it a voice for their concerns. For example, to support LGBTQ+ people at work, Barclays established ‘Barclays Spectrum’, an internal network of colleagues who challenge homophobia, biphobia and transphobia in the workplace.
- Embrace changing attitudes: emphasise your own workplace’s positivity toward changing attitudes by, for instance, moving toward gender-neutral language. Gender-neutral language avoids bias towards a particular gender. Using ‘they’ instead of ‘he/she’ around the workplace is a step in the right direction.
- Get involved!: Look for sponsorship opportunities at local LGBTQ+ events such as Pride parades and National Coming Out Day. Or why not use LGBT History Month as a springboard to join the Stonewall inclusive workplace programme, or start organising regular fundraising or volunteer opportunities for your team members?
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