Shattering the glass closet: how social landlords can be better LGBT employers

HouseProud’s Graham Welch tells us his top five ways to create an inclusive workplace for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender staff
1. Reassure your recruits

Potential recruits will be looking for signs that they are welcome in your organisation. A simple mention in your recruitment advertising that you welcome applications from all sections of the community can act as the most basic reassurance. Joining Stonewall’sdiversity champions programme sends a much stronger signal, as does advertising vacancies in the LGBT media.

You can also train managers about the law and challenge any assumptions they may have about the kind of work LGBT staff might or might not be good at.

2. Make sure your policies are up to date

Make sure your equality and diversity policy is up to date: sexual orientation, civil partnership and marriage and gender reassignment are all covered by the 2010 Equality Act. Do the same with all your pay, benefits and leave policies, making the wording clear that they apply to LGBT staff. In particular, your anti-bullying and harassment policy will also need to make it explicit that you will not tolerate homophobic bullying.

Don’t forget that anyone who supplies you with benefits, such as private health, should provide services equally too.

3. Train your staff

Almost all organisations have some sort of equality and diversity training for staff at induction. However, often these don’t cover issues around homophobia. If yours does, you’re off to a good start with your new LGBT recruits. Just as importantly, you are making all new staff aware that homophobic bullying and harassment are unacceptable.

Managers can be given more specific training on how to implement policies fairly, support LGBT staff and spot bullying and stop it.

4. Know your staff and monitor their development

If you monitor your staff’s sexual orientation, you will be able to see how your LGBT employees fare in comparison to their colleagues – from application to exit. This will also allow you to act if they are not progressing. LGBT staff sometimes get stuck in a “glass closet”, where they feel uncomfortable about moving up as they feel they have to come out each time. If they can see out senior staff, they may feel more comfortable about being out themselves.

Asking staff to declare their sexual orientation to HR is not the same as expecting all LGBT staff to be “out” at work.

5. Create staff networks

Staff networks can be helpful in allowing you to listen to LGBT employees and support them. Don’t force a network on your LGBT staff, though – ask them if they want one first. A network that is perceived to be HR-led is a network that is going nowhere.
If you do set up a network, get a member of your executive team to champion it. Getting straight allies on board can also help raise the visibility of the network.

Graham Welch is chair of L&Q’s LGBT staff network and the co-founder of House Proud, anational network for LGBT staff in housing.

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