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To achieve LGBT+ inclusion, businesses must continue to learn and evolve

LGBT+ History month (February) provides the chance to learn about the history of the movement, express solidarity with those still without rights around the world, reflect on the progress that’s been made and consider the opportunities ahead to create an even more inclusive and equal society.  

In the last decade there’s been real progress with more inclusive policies and initiatives implemented across different businesses and a greater celebration of the LGBT+ community with events and milestones recognised throughout the year.

However, while there has been progress made especially in recent years to create a culture of belonging, there are still actions employers can take to ensure all LGBT+ colleagues feel able to bring their full selves to work. 

Working towards LGBT+ inclusion:

Twenty years on: the continuing fight for LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace

Top employers for LGBT+ inclusion in 2022 listed by Stonewall

There's still much to do on LGBT+ inclusion

Elevate your LGBT+ employee resource group  

Employee resource groups (ERG), employee-led groups which aim to foster a diverse, inclusive workplace, are vital for creating a sense of belonging for diverse communities at work. They can provide a personal and professional support network, and give colleagues a voice and platform to raise awareness and educate peers on issues the community may face. 

For many diverse groups, an ERG can have a huge impact on their confidence and ability to feel comfortable in the workplace. Employers can look at how they can facilitate and support these groups and whether there are actions they can take to enable them to be even more successful.

For example, could there be more senior sponsorship or engagement from leaders in the business? Could there be more regular communications on ERG activity? These can be simple but key ways to amplify the impact of ERGs and help encourage people to participate or offer support.   

Don’t just celebrate the major months and milestones 

LGBT+ History month and Pride month are two of the biggest dates in the LGBT+ calendar. Many employers advocate for the community by updating company logos, putting on events, sharing personal employee experiences and showcasing actions being taken to support LGBT+ colleagues – but we must remember that there are 10 other months in the year. 

Commitments to LGBT+ inclusion should be just as strong throughout the whole year. To achieve a more consistent approach, businesses can consider how often they are reviewing their policies, looking at how inclusive their company benefits are, and how frequently they are providing opportunities day-to-day and also more formally to talk about issues facing the LGBT+ community.

Ensure your policies use inclusive language   

Businesses should amend the language in all policies so they have inclusive wording and, if they’re uncertain on where to start, there are external organisations such as Inclusive Employers that can help highlight where policies exclude the LGBT+ community and advise on appropriate changes.

There isn’t a one size fits all approach to getting this right. Creating guidance documents for managers and employees on how to support LGBT+ colleagues during significant life events can really help facilitate conversations and subsequently enable more people to understand these experiences and provide better support for employees.  

Adapt your working space to include a gender neutral facility  

By having at least one gender neutral facility, employers are providing those who are non-binary or transgender with a place where they feel comfortable and safe.

For example, in offices that have more than one set of toilets, employers can consider repurposing a set of facilities to be gender neutral and accessible to their entire workforce.  

Businesses need to continue learning  

At National Grid we know we don’t have all the answers but we’re continuing to learn and evolve to ensure our efforts to create an inclusive environment reach all corners of our business, working closely with our Pride ERG and allies to amplify the work they’re doing.

In the last year, we’ve seen more colleagues sharing pronouns in email signatures, opened our first block of gender-neutral toilets in our head office, hosted sessions for members of the LGBT+ community to share their experiences and provide feedback on our culture, and we’re reviewing policies to ensure they’re inclusive of LGBT+ colleagues.  

Like many businesses trying to take steps that will achieve long-lasting positive change, we know that there is more to do. By taking some of the actions outlined in this article, sharing ideas and best practice externally, and keeping this issue high on the agenda, employers and HR teams can accelerate the pace of progress and have a real impact on achieving LGBT+ inclusion. 

 Hayley Creighton is senior diversity and inclusion specialist at National Grid 

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