Karen Holden: Tackling harassment of LGBT persons in the workplace

Karen Holden

The lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community is subjected to bullying and harassment in the workplace on a devastating scale. A survey of more than 5,000 LGBT people in the UK, published by Stonewell in April 2018, found that more than a third hid their sexuality for fear of discrimination while at work.

One in eight lesbian, gay and bisexual individuals would not feel confident reporting instances of bullying to their employer; this increases to one in five for trans people.

Workplace discrimination can be managed by making it clear that the organisation’s ethos is built on a commitment to fostering a diverse work force. An employer can help to reduce homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying by creating and enforcing clear policies, as well as expressly stating support for diversity among employees.

Discrimination is a problem that must be tackled from the outset. All employers should make it known that they are opposed to any such behaviour. This, combined with positive reinforcement around the benefits to having a diverse workforce, will help cement the message that discriminatory behaviour will not be tolerated.

Employers and senior staff should allow and encourage staff to be themselves at work in order to create an inclusive, supportive workforce and get the best from everyone. Staff networks and visible LGBT role models and allies, especially in leadership positions, will help to demonstrate that organisations are championing diversity.

To reduce bullying and discrimination, employers must have clear policies and staff handbooks addressing grievances, discrimination policies and disciplinary processes so that these commitments are clear to all staff.

This equality should be demonstrated to every member of the workforce, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, gender identity or perceived sexual orientation; everyone should be treated equally and fairly.

Karen Holden is founder at A City Law Firm