It should go without saying that everybody has the right to feel safe and included at work. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case – especially when there’s not a focus on driving diversity and creating policies against discrimination.
SEEK’s 2021 P.R.I.D.E Report gives an eye-opening account of the current outlook for LGBTIQA+ workers in Australia. According to the research, LGBTIQA+ employees are more than twice as likely to experience discrimination in the workplace, compared to their non-LGBTIQA+ counterparts.
Thankfully, there are ways for workers to tap into their workplace’s diversity and inclusion (D&I) policy, or get the conversation started if it hasn’t been considered yet.
1. Learn how a diversity and inclusion policy works
Each company’s take on a diversity and inclusion policy will be slightly different, but they should all share the same goal; to create a safe and inclusive workplace for all. This means protecting minority groups against discrimination, promoting equity, and actively celebrating differences across communities.
Unfortunately, there’s still a major gap in resolving issues of discrimination. The report found that 57% of LGBTIQA+ employees who have experienced or witnessed discrimination said these issues were rarely or never resolved. Only 8% of LGBTIQA+ employees even made a formal complaint to HR or their manager to begin with.
CEO of The Equality Project, Jason Tuazon-McCheyne, says that not resolving these issues is ultimately costly for the business.
“[LGBTIQA+ workers] call in sick more often, our mental health is impacted negatively and we cannot present our full selves at work…this diminishes our effectiveness and output, costing the business,” he says. “Ultimately, a business where these impacts are felt and not resolved will lose that employee.”
Director of Leaders For Good, Kerry Boys, says that having a diversity and inclusion policy in place is only scratching the surface.
“Too many organisations have a D&I policy that lives in a folder but is never seen,” she says. “More important than the policy is how we embed diversity and inclusion into organisations.”
2. Find out if your workplace has a D&I policy
It’s not always immediately clear whether your company has an active diversity and inclusion policy. Even if it’s not discussed, there may be indicators that your company has considered creating a diverse and safe environment. For example, if your workplace has non-gendered bathrooms, includes pronouns in email signatures, or has welcoming signage, such as a small rainbow flag.
If you’re unsure, Tuazon-McCheyne recommends checking any induction materials that your company might have, or asking your HR or general manager about it. They should be able to give you guidance as to where to find it, and how to enact it if you have an issue you want to raise.
3. Start the conversation in your workplace
Even if you do discover your company has a D&I policy, you may find it isn’t extensive. In the report, 73% of Australians said sexual orientation isn’t even covered under their workplace’s diversity and inclusion policy. People expect better – 32% of respondents think their employer has a lot more to do to support its LGBTIQA+ employees.
If your work has a D&I policy that could use improving, or doesn’t have one at all, Boys suggests that communicating the importance of diversity and inclusion to your company is a good place to start.
“As well as highlighting the fact that it’s the right thing to do, [explain that] diverse and inclusive organisations are more innovative, people are more engaged and [companies] are more easily able to attract talent,” she says.
“Additionally, there are financial benefits with diverse and inclusive organisations outperforming the market by 35%.”
If you’ve been personally affected by discrimination in the workplace, beginning these conversations can be difficult. Boys says that it can be helpful to lean on additional support.
“Having these conversations can be challenging, and it can be useful to talk things through with someone close to you first,” she says. Many larger companies will also have an Employee Assistance Program you can call for advice, Boys adds.
4. Take a positive approach to diversity and inclusion
When a business actively celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion, it has a tangible positive impact. Knowing what your workplace’s D&I policy includes, how it functions and importantly, how to access it, is a first step toward embracing positive change, not only for the workplace but for employees as well.
As Boys says, “D&I is a chance to learn about yourself and others and make real change.”
Source: Independent research conducted by Nature of behalf of SEEK, surveyed a nationally representative 1,200 Australians featuring both LGBTIQA+ and non-LGBTIQA+ respondents. Published July 2021.