Paul Nowak, in TUC’s recent Being LGBT+ at Work report, believes that everyone should feel safe at work. However, this is not the case for many members of the LGBT+ community as homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still very much prevalent in UK workplaces. He further adds that he was told by people that they feel grateful if even basic needs are met.
In addition to Paul Nowak’s statement, Maria Exall (TUC president 2022-23) said that as TUC’s first LGBT+ president, this report has been “sobering”. Maria further adds, “In my lifetime, the world of work has changed immeasurably for LGBT+ people – in no small part due to the efforts of trade unions and trade unionists. But as this report shows, there is far more that needs to happen to ensure safety and dignity for all LGBT+ people at work.”
LGBT+ Workers Have Low Expectations
One of the key findings in this report was that members of the LGBT+ community have very low expectations from their workplace. A teacher that was interviewed by TUC even said that they were lucky not to have faced bullying in their current workplace. They added that they “feel guilty for how easy they have it here.”
This is especially in the case of trans and non-binary employees, as employers are not well-informed enough to provide support. Ella, a work coach, told TUC that while she has experienced biphobia at work, it is nothing compared to what some of her non-binary or trans colleagues have faced.
Another person who spoke to TUC, Sandra, said “Managers assume people are trans warriors – that if they’ve decided to transition then they’re totally fine, confident, ready, it’s easy. And for the staff – it’s hard to show that uncertainty, the turmoil, the everything that they’re feeling. So, the managers’ view is – just get on with your work.” Sandra further explains that asking someone for their name is not the end but the start of their journey.
Policies are Appropriate but not Sufficient
Incorporating workplace policies for LGBT+ employees is something that has been widely spoken about. And in most organisations, employers are trying to make the workplace more inclusive. However, the people who were interviewed by TUC say that while the policies and procedures are all appropriate, they are not sufficient.
Beyond policies, LGBT+ employees feel there is a lot more that employers can do. Incorporating the right facilities, especially for trans and non-binary staff, is the topmost need for LGBT+ employees. Additionally, having gender-neutral clothing and dress policies would be appreciated.
Interviewees also felt that there needed to be ways to tackle stereotypes at work, and also deal with being misgendered. It is not just policies that make the workplace more inclusive but the perceptions that people hold that can determine true inclusivity. Heather, a costume designer, says it’s “eurgh” dealing with stereotypes when asked what her “husband” does and she needs to correct people by saying “my wife..”
Unions Can Help Raise Expectations, TUC suggests
The TUC suggests that since policies are not sufficient, organisations need to take more action to create inclusive workplaces. Some of the recommendations include taking immediate action against bullying, creating space for diversity and inclusion initiatives, and updating digital systems to include all genders and pronouns.
TUC also urges unions to get involved with different workplaces to ensure LGBT+ workers are understood and represented appropriately. Additionally, unions should consult with LGBT+ members to create policies that are truly for them, so that their concerns are sufficiently addressed.
You can find the whole report by TUC here