LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall last month called for employers to replace the term ‘mother’ for 'parent who has given birth'. This caused controversy on social media and among news outlets, raising questions over whether the new term would be applicable to same-sex couples who have not biologically birthed a child.
HR magazine spoke to people professionals and diversity and inclusion specialists to find out if HR could do more to create an inclusive culture that supports same-sex parents in the workplace.
Diversity and inclusion consultant, Toby Mildon told HR magazine if HR teams want to be more inclusive of same-sex parents, they should look at the language they are using in their policies and processes.
For example, he said: “Talk about both mothers and fathers and use more inclusive language like parents, as this recognises that families come in all shapes and sizes.
“HR should also double check how equitable their policies are. For example, if parental leave is the same across the board, and if benefits, such as family leave or parental coaching are open to everybody.”
Mildon said finding parents in your organisation who can act as role models for other employees would be extremely powerful and a step in the right direction.
“HR must be mindful of making sure the role models reflect the diversity of relationships and families.
“For example, if there is somebody in your business who is a parent through surrogacy, or in a same-sex relationship, or has adopted a child, they can demonstrate that somebody else can start a family and work in your business.”
Kingsley Macey, chief people officer at insurance company Zego, said businesses should strive to create a culture of inclusivity where everyone belongs and can flourish.
He told HR magazine: “Organisations and their departments should be relentless in changing and pushing boundaries in diversity and inclusion if they are to build a truly successful business.
“Same-sex couples are, and should always be, offered the same level of equality as opposite-sex couples and included in parental leave policies.”
Macey said organisations could also look to partner with recognised and trusted diversity/LGBTQ+ providers to audit their business and implement actions or improvements where needed.
“This could include setting up forums and safe spaces for these communities, giving communities a platform, storytelling and encouraging role models at all levels to raise awareness of LGBTQ+ within the workplace.
“Better communicating updates to workplace policies and parental leave guidelines, could also come as a result of the partnership” he advised.
John Palmer, senior advisor at the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas), told HR magazine workplaces should have an open and inclusive culture that respects staff diversity and equality.
He advised: “One way that HR can help is to ensure they have representatives, champions or staff groups that are organisation equality advocates.
“For example, HR can create and involve LGBT+ staff networks in decisions around parental leave to help ensure their policies support a variety of co-parenting arrangements.”
Palmer said a good equality policy should have also have a clear complaints process so that any bullying, harassment or victimisation related to someone’s parental or relationship status will be taken seriously and acted upon.
Caroline Butler, head of HR strategy, reward and employee relations at Hertfordshire County Council, said all family policies should apply equally to same-sex partners as mixed.
Speaking to HR magazine, she said: “This includes all leave types available and time to attend antenatal appointments, etc.
“At Hertfordshire County Council, we have very active LGBTQ+ network and carers network that welcome all employees.
“As a local authority we welcome same-sex foster carers and adoptions, as the fundamental principle is providing a stable and secure environment for a child where they can grow, not about an individual’s sexuality.”
Butler said as a HR community it is their responsibility to provide a working environment where all parents and carers feel supported and can thrive in the workplace and to do this it is vital our benefits and family friendly policies apply to all.