Importance of a Commitment to Supporting LGBTQ+ Employees


Pride season is well and truly upon us. The sun is shining. Rainbow flags are flying. LGBTQ+ people across the UK are celebrating the freedoms and equalities they have spent decades fighting for. London’s iconic Pride parade is just around the corner with over a million people expected to attend.

Without question LGBTQ+ awareness and inclusion has drastically improved. Award-winning programs including Pose, RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye have placed queer culture at the front and centre of mainstream media. In the business world, key figures from Lisa Wainwright, CEO of GB Basketball, to David Hynam, UK CEO for BUPA, are championing LGBTQ+ inclusivity from the top-level of some of the UK’s most influential organisations.

This time of year is a joyous occasion for many. For the first time in the United Kingdom, there is a generation of young people who are far more aware and able to openly express the spectrum of their identity. A recent research piece by Kamarama and Gay Times found that 64% of 18-24 year olds do not identify as ‘entirely heterosexual’.

It’s Not All Rainbows

However this freedom of expression is not available to billions of people. 72 nations still criminalise homosexuality, with 12 countries continuing to impose the death penalty. Many of these are major players on the world’s economic stage. 

Even within the UK, which is often considered a leading figure of LGBTQ+ inclusivity, there is still a lot of progress to be made:

  •  of LGBTQ+ people think their workplace lacks commitment to diversity
  • 7 in 10 LGBTQ+ people have been sexually harassed at work
  • 58% of young LGBTQ+ people are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity at work because of fears over discrimination
  • 31% of ‘out’ LGBTQ+ people even admitted they went ‘back into the closet’ when they started their first job. This figure rises to 41% among 18-25 year olds
  • 12% of LGB people and 21% of trans people would not feel confident in reporting homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying in the workplace
  • 31% of non-binary people and 18% of trans people do not feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression
  • 10% of black and ethnic minority LGBTQ+ people have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year
  • 13% of LGBTQ+ people aged 18-24 have attempted suicide in the last year

Impact of ‘Pink-Washing’

Many businesses utilise pride month to promote visibility of the queer community. Although these initiatives may be well intentioned, they are often met with scepticism and their actual impact can be minimal. 

The incredible growth in the LGBTQ+ population is driven by younger generations. 20% of millennials and a staggering 31% of centennials make up the community. These generations are far more passionate about purpose-led brands and can easily sniff out those who are only in it for profit. 

If you do not actively work to support the community year round, your efforts are likely to be brushed off as ‘pink-washing’. 72% of the LGBTQ+ community think the way that LGBTQ+ people are presented in advertising is tokenistic.

Importance of an LGBTQ+ Friendly Workplace

The human cost of discrimination is staggering. It is clear that a thoughtful and considered strategy of LGBTQ+ inclusivity is vital for every business. These approaches must not only consider target audiences but also work to continually support employees. In order to have a sincere and lasting impact, they must be embraced throughout a company.

71% of LGBTQ+ people would stay loyal to a company that was supportive of the community, even if purchasing that company’s products was less convenient or more costly. In addition, a report by the ‘Investment Association’ found that an inclusive workplace can raise productivity by 31% and sales by 37%.

Being diverse and inclusive as a workforce also means your business will be better representative of society as a whole. This allows for greater diversity of thought and more informed decision-making. So whether you’re a high-level board member or just starting out, even the smallest gestures of inclusivity could be life-changing for an LGBTQ+ employee.

Steps to Create an LGBTQ+ Supportive Workplace

Ensure Policies are Fully Inclusive

The first key stage is to set-up policies that specifically outline your businesses position on LGBTQ+ rights. These can range from pensions to family and leave policies. You should make sure your policies explicitly mention LGBTQ+ people.

Enforce these Policies

Having the policy on its own isn’t enough. You need to ensure that you have clearly outlined what is and what isn’t acceptable behaviour. Procedures should be established to deal with people who violate these policies. Everybody must take any allegations of harassment or discrimination very seriously.

Provide Training

Although these policies are crucial for a business regardless of its size, the vast majority of people won’t sit down and read them. Training can help employees understand what the policies involve, why LGBTQ+ rights are so important and what their individual responsibility is. 

Create Networks

LGBTQ+ employee networks are powerful tools for workers to share experiences. They can create opportunities for mentoring and networking. They may even lead to company policy updates that positively impact entire businesses. Employees involvement in these kinds of networks should factor into any regular appraisals.

Encourage employees to come together and provide them with the facilities to make the process as simple as possible. In addition to a network for LBGTQ+ employees, you can encourage allies (heterosexual and cisgender people who support LGBTQ+ rights) to get involved and offer their support.

Maximise Communication

It is vital that you foster respectful communications between employees. You also need to effectively communicate your firm’s commitment to inclusiveness. From newsletters to presentations, this can be achieved through all of your communications. Also ensure that any images and examples you use are inclusive and do not perpetuate stereotypes.

Extend Benefits

Ensure that the specific wording of benefits such as life insurance never excludes same-sex partners. You should also provide support for the medical needs of transgender employees. Doing these things will truly highlight your workplace as LGTBQ+ friendly.

Support Events

Pride parades and festivals are incredible opportunities to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community. Offering support at these events sends a clear message to your stakeholders about your views and the stances you want to take. This support can be shown year round through events such as National Coming Out Day in October.

Adapt and Evolve

This is perhaps the most crucial stage. The struggle for LGBTQ+ equality will not end anytime soon. Your practices and policies need to change with the times. Companies with a history of supporting the LGBTQ+ community are constantly updating their programs. The most effective way to do this is listening to your LGBTQ+ employees. Find out what is working and what other support they could be offered. So listen to them and change as necessary.

What Should I Do If I Experience Discrimination or Harassment on a Coople shift?

Every Coopler should feel safe and supported no matter where they are working. Coople is an equal opportunity employer and is dedicated to supporting diversity in the workplace. We take a hardline approach against any forms of harassment or discrimination on a shift. If you unfortunately suffer a negative experience, it’s important to report it to us as soon as possible.

You can do so via our Coople Incident Form or contacting our Customer Care Team directly. No-one should be made to feel uncomfortable because of who they are.

jack dobinson

Although there has been major progress in recent years, discrimination is alive and well. In addition, workplaces are not always as LGBTQ+ friendly as they could be. The good news is that it is relatively easy to make significant changes. Pick an area to start with and take action. A few small steps can make a big difference regardless of the size of your business.

Jack Dobinson
Marketing Executive