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LGBTQ+ employees have lower wellbeing at work, report reveals

LGBTQ+ employees fear backlash against identity at work, said Stonewall -

LGBTQ+ people have a significantly lower wellbeing at work than heterosexual employees, a report by WorkL revealed.

A survey commissioned by the employee experience platform found that heterosexual employees’ wellbeing risk is 30%, while for people who identify as LGBTQ+ the risk is 38%.

This has increased from the last time this survey was conducted, in 2022: a further 2% of respondents claimed that their wellbeing at work is at risk.

The results also revealed that the LGBTQ+ community in Ireland has a significantly higher risk of wanting to leave their job: 38% compared with the LGBTQ+ global average of 32%.

A spokesperson for Stonewall told HR magazine that LGBTQ+ employees’ wellbeing is lower due to fear of how their identity will be perceived at work.

Read more: Psychological safety lessons from the LGBT+ community

They said: “All of us deserve to be able to bring our full selves to work, but our research shows that more than a third of LGBTQ+ staff (35%) still have to hide who they are for fear of discrimination or backlash.

“That’s why it’s vital that all employers undertake meaningful work to promote LGBTQ+, and show visible leadership for LGBTQ+ staff, to ensure all staff thrive as themselves at work.”

Katherine Parsons, head of diversity, inclusion and belonging at ISS UK and Ireland, agreed that the reason for LGBTQ+ employees having lower wellbeing at work is because of the strain of having to conceal identity at work.

She told HR magazine: “Concealing your LGBTQ+ identity at work is mentally taxing.

“From policing pronouns to guarding personal details, the strain is palpable without feeling psychologically safe.

“This ongoing struggle extends to interactions with clients and stakeholders where there is a constant need to 'come out' again.”

Read more: LGBT+ graduates want to be out at work

Parsons advised employers to create an inclusive culture for LGBTQ+ employees that doesn’t just focus on policies but goes further to foster belonging and respect.

She continued: “Inclusivity fosters wellbeing, allowing everyone to thrive authentically, in every aspect of their professional lives.

“Employers can start by listening to the needs and experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals and implementing non-discriminatory policies. Beyond that, it's about creating spaces where everyone feels seen, heard and valued. 

“Providing education on LGBTQ+ issues, promoting visible support and fostering allyship among employees are crucial steps.

“Ultimately, it's about cultivating a culture of empathy, understanding and acceptance, where LGBTQ+ employees feel safe to bring their whole selves to work.”

WorkL’s Happy At Work Test crowdsourced employee experience data from over 300,000 individuals across the UK, Ireland, Australia, Canada and New Zealand before 1 December 2023.