“Strength lies in differences, not in similarities” Stephen R. Covey
The onus on employers to create inclusive workplaces has never been stronger since the 2010 Equality Act was passed. This Act, which merged several pieces of existing legislation into one, has paved the way for diversity and inclusion to be discussed at board level in organisations throughout the UK.
While progress has been made, employers across the UK both large and small face challenges in implementing the Equality Act within their workplaces. While there has been movement on gender and ethnicity in the workplace, trans individuals have felt that there has not been nearly enough headway on employer and employee attitudes in the workplace. Indeed, individuals who identify as trans or nonbinary have a higher unemployment rate, and continue to face discrimination within workplaces.
A March 2016 survey by Totaljobs of over 400 trans individuals found that:-
· 60% had experienced transphobic discrimination
· 53% felt the need to hide that they are trans from colleagues
· 40% received no reaction and 10% received a negative reaction from colleagues when they transitioned
With talent shortages being felt across the market, are employers missing out on an opportunity to hire potential talent?
The Equality Act has highlighted that it is no longer enough for firms to simply do the minimum required to adhere to the law. High profile examples such as Caitlyn Jenner, and ongoing story lines in soaps such as Hollyoaks and Eastenders illustrate that gender identity is an issue that firms must embrace through training of employees and updating employee guidance. Furthermore, for employers to make effective decisions they must have a range of perspectives to call on – including from the trans community. Clearly, there is no one size fits all approach, but support is there for employers who wish to take more of a hands on approach to diversity within the workplace.
“Almost all decisions… are taken under uncertainty. Even if there is a range of known plausible outcomes, distributions of these outcomes are unknown. This makes it especially important that decision makers are exposed to a range of views, with open debate that includes perspectives that challenge prevailing wisdom.” Mark Carney, March 2016
From a positive perspective, diversity is an issue that everyone can have an impact on because it is about who is hired for a job; who is appointed on boards; and who is promoted in the workplace.
UK employers however have much work still to do to embrace diversity fully. The same Totaljobs survey reported that:-
· 43% received support from HR when transitioning
· 21% employers had no provision for trans employees
· 45% had policies that promote equality for trans employees
· 36% had left a job because the environment was unwelcoming
The focus on trans issues have also played a part in the Scottish political scene with the party leaders of the major political parties in Scotland taking part in a hustings last month. Leader of the SNP and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon said;
“I want to see a renewed focus on areas such as education - both for young people themselves and those responsible for their emotional and educational wellbeing. Enabling young people to make informed choices about their gender and sexual identity is about supporting them to be themselves so that they might fulfil their potential.”
On April 27th 2016 Change Recruitment Group hosted 'LBGT: Diversity Beyond Gender Targets' breakfast seminar. To see the slides from the breakfast follow this link.
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