June is Pride month, dedicated to celebrating LGBTQ+ communities and gay rights. But where did Pride originate from, and why should it matter to you? How can you implement or improve diversity and inclusion practices in your workplace to account for LGBTQ+ employees?
Pride is celebrated in June, marking the Manhattan Stonewall Uprising in 1969, a pivotal protest that aided the campaign for equal rights. This event led to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) and the first ever Pride march to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ issues.
In the UK, Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1998 prevented local authorities from ‘promoting homosexuality.' This act included a ban on funding for educational materials relating to the matter.
Only in 2004 when the Civil Partnership Act was passed were same-sex couples legally permitted to form unions similar to marriage. Marriage itself was not permitted until 2013.
In 2008, it became illegal to encourage homophobic hatred, and it is no longer illegal for teachers to speak about gay relationships at school. But what about LGBTQ+ legislation in the workplace?
The Equality Act 2010 outlines sexual orientation as a protected characteristic, alongside nine others such as race, gender reassignment, and religion. Treating someone differently based on these characteristics is classed as unlawful discrimination.
One case that shows this discrimination in action is Ditton v C P Publishing Ltd 2006. The claimant, Mr Ditton, was homosexual. The company appointed him to a role through an agency, although his employment only lasted eight days. During this time, a company director subjected him to verbal harassment relating to his sexuality. When they dismissed him, the company claimed it was due to the claimant not being “psychologically balanced”.
Eventually, an employment tribunal claimed he had been dismissed solely because of his sexual orientation - they awarded him £77,000 for loss of earnings and £10,000 for injury to feelings due to the harassment.
Discrimination isn’t always as overt as dismissal or hate speech - it can show itself in microaggressions too. People might make comments or ‘jokes’ without knowing they are offensive to members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Whether it’s clear or subtle discrimination you’re looking to combat, here are some steps you can take to ensure your employees feel safe and that your workforce is educated about these issues:
Create or update your policies
Do you have a designated LGBTQ+ policy? If not, implementing one is the first step in outlining your commitment to preventing homophobia and being an inclusive workplace. You can include this within your Equality and Diversity policy.
In addition, all your existing policies - for instance, around issues like paternity leave - should be equal for LGBTQ+ people.
Invest in staff training
Educating your staff on issues such as microaggressions, the different types of discrimination, unconscious bias, and pronouns will help to make them more aware of these things when they occur in the workplace. It will create a more understanding and respectful workforce whilst making LGBTQ+ staff members feel safe.
Create an LGBTQ+ network
Creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ staff to discuss issues together means they will feel supported and heard. They may feel more comfortable sharing concerns when surrounded by people who understand their experiences.
Introduce workplace champions
Inviting staff interested in LGBTQ+ issues to be workplace champions will show them that you’re interested in inclusivity. This person will act as a source of support and guidance for other LGBTQ+ people.
I'm an employment law expert and can give you sound guidance on drafting or updating your policies, training, and everything else you need to make your workplace as inclusive as possible. Get in touch to set up a call.