Valerie Bond
Posted on 6 Jul 2021

Employment Update: Pride is not just a month

The fact that June's 'Pride month' has now come to a close, does not mean that we can forget about the clear message behind it, and the need to strive for further inclusivity in respect of the LGBTQ+ community. In this article, we look at the progress that has been made so far, as well as the path ahead.

What is Pride?

The first Pride event took place in June 1970, a year after the Stonewall Uprising which protested against police brutality of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pride has now evolved into an annual event which takes place each June. It represents the importance of equality and fair treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals; something which needs to be addressed consistently and constantly throughout the year.

Progress so far

A Report published by Stonewall in 2020 reported that a record number of employers had submitted to the 2020 Workplace Equality Index, demonstrating an increasing awareness of the importance in addressing issues of gender discrimination and harassment.

The Report found that 85% of employers who responded to the survey already had in place work-related guidance aimed at managers, on how to support employees who are transitioning. Certainly, the evidence demonstrates that an increasing number of employers are ensuring that necessary policies and procedures are in place to protect and enshrine equality in the workplace.

The current situation

There have been several recent cases on the topic of LGBTQ+ rights. This includes the case of Forstater v CGD Europe and others UKEAT/0105/20, (covered in an earlier update) , which concerned the question of whether a belief that biological sex was immutable, such that trans women could not be women in that sense, was capable of protection under the "philosophical belief" characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. In this instance, we saw a tension between two conflicting protected characteristics. In the event, the Employment Appeal Tribunal found that a belief that biological sex was immutable was capable of constituting a protected philosophical belief, a decision which has frustrated and angered the trans community.

In addition, the decision to allow New Zealand's transgender weightlifter, Laurel Hubbard, to compete in the Tokyo Olympics on the women's weightlifting team, has sparked widespread controversy. Some believe that she should be given the same opportunities to compete as any other female weightlifter, whereas others argue that she will have an unfair advantage over her cisgender competitors.

As demonstrated above, issues of gender equality are complex cannot always be resolved with a simple "yes" or "no" as to how things should be managed. Quite often, there are competing interests, such as in the case of Forstater. However, there are many things that individuals and employers can do to ensure that all members of the LGBTQ+ community feel included and safe to be themselves.

What still needs to happen

A lot has been done to reduce discrimination and hostility, but many individuals are still having to face such experiences on a daily basis, both in and outside the working environment.

Whilst 86% of gay and lesbian respondents to the Stonewall Report said they were comfortable being themselves in the workplace, only 35% of trans respondents felt the same. Similarly, 65% of lesbian and gay respondents were comfortable coming out to their colleagues, whilst only 27% of bi respondents were. This emphasises that, whilst a lot has been done to make members of the LGBTQ+ community feel safe and comfortable, there are still gaps in certain areas.

Furthermore, negative behaviour towards LGBTQ+ individuals is still prevalent, with 35% of trans people saying that they had experienced negative comments or conduct from colleagues relating to their gender identity in the last year. This increased to 44% for disabled trans individuals. Employers need to ensure that they create a safe and supportive environment where any harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender will not be tolerated and clear avenues are visible for reporting concerns.

Key considerations for employers

Employers need to ensure that all their policies, particularly those relating to harassment and victimisation, are fully up to date and explicitly prohibit homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. In addition, routes for reporting such incidents should be made clear and easily accessible to all members of staff to create a culture where individuals feel that they are able to raise concerns and that those concerns will be addressed.

Stonewall has provided guidance on creating more inclusive workplaces and what can be done to support the LGBTQ+ community.