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6 Tips To Make Your Policies LGBTQ+ Friendly

Photo Credit: Canva
Photo Credit: Canva

6 Tips to make your Employee policies   LGBTQ+ friendly 

Pride Month, which is celebrated in June, is a time to honour the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) community. It’s a time to celebrate their history, culture, and the ongoing fight for LGBTQ+ rights. However, there is a pressing need to come together and make it a year round celebration by including individuals and communities such as these in all walks of life. 

Why is LGBTQ+ inclusion important for the workplace? 

LGBTQ+ employees face a number of challenges in the workplace, impacting their well-being and hindering their ability to achieve their full potential. People who identify with the LGBTQ+ community often face resistance from employees and management that hold conservative views. Biases can lead to harassment, feeling closeted, microaggressions and lack of representation at organisational level to name a few lack of awareness and insensitivity towards LGBTQ+ issues worsens this. 

Creating an LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace isn’t just a tick in the box, it is part of building a successful, forward-thinking community, business and society. Inclusive workplaces ensure all employees feel safe, respected and are able to fully contribute. Benefits of LGBTQ+ inclusion includes and are not limited to:

  • Increased creativity and innovation
  • Stronger relationships with clients and customers
  • A more positive reputation in the community

Many organisations are just navigating this space and ⁠there is often no clear non-discriminatory, inclusive policy that explicitly protect LGBTQ+ rights. 

Here is an 6-point guide to help you make HR policies more LGBTQ friendly:

Ensure that the policy is  non-discriminatory: 

Every employee has the right to work in a professional environment where their knowledge, skills, and abilities are the critical factors in their success – regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. A beginning for a zero-tolerance environment is to have a non-discriminatory policy in place. This also means following a non-discriminating approach in all areas such as recruitment, training, leaves and holiday policy.

Quick tips:   

  • An example of a basic clause that can be used  is “Everyone must be treated with respect regardless of race, sex, gender identification, sexual orientation, national origin, native language, religion, age, disability, marital status, citizenship, pregnancy, or any other characteristic protected by law.”
  • Stay informed of best practices and continuously update your training programmes to reflect these. 
  • Be flexible about preferences related to dressing and grooming to allow persons of different genders to be themselves. Men who dress like women get a lot more bullied or teased or humiliated as compared to a woman who dresses like men. Let the nondiscriminatory policy take necessary action at such times.

Offer inclusive benefits: 

There are definitive steps you can take to create a safer workplace for LGBTQ+ persons.  Healthcare is a big area of concern. For example, healthcare plans can include gender-affirming care coverage, including gender-affirming surgery, mental health, transgender health care, inclusive fertility and family-building benefits, and social support in the workplace.

Quick Tips:

  • Written policies can include specific references to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression as categories of protected classes.
  • Include benefit information for same-sex spouses and domestic partners.
  • Offer mental health resources that are sensitive to LGBTQ+ issues.

Training and education to create awareness:

To create work environments that are truly inclusive of all employees, it is crucial for leadership to implement LGBTQ+ awareness training programmes and other initiatives that address biases. Ensuring a comprehensive understanding of various gender identities and sexual orientation, will break down stereotypes and misconceptions, and create a more welcoming environment. It will help employees develop a sense of empathy and understanding, reducing discrimination and prejudice. Allow people to have healthy boundaries. Jokes, sarcasm and demeaning words is not a healthy practice and can only be overcome with the right understanding and knowledge of the subject.

Quick Tips:

  • Promote LGBTQ+ employees in your company and showcase their career success stories. This can inspire others and demonstrate that your company is a welcoming place for LGBTQ+ talent.
  • Allies are also people who are often outside the LGBTQ+ community. ie; people who are heterosexual, but trying to make the world more inclusive for people who identify as LGBTQ+. The organisation can actively encourage LGBTQ+ allies who can be influential and powerful voices to fight homophobia and transphobia. They personally advocate equal treatment.
  • Conduct regular diversity and inclusion training that covers LGBTQ+ issues.

Use Gender neutral language: 

Beyond being the right thing to do to help your employees work at their best, there are laws to protect employees from discrimination based on gender expression. Eg; create a policy to allow employees to use preferred pronouns. Provide assistance if they need to change information in records etc. 

Quick tips:

  • Avoid gender-specific terms and use ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband’ or ‘wife.’
  • Include pronouns in email signatures and encourage employees to do the same.
  • Include “gender-diverse” and/or “nonbinary” as gender options apart from male and female.
  • Adopt inclusive language in job descriptions and titles, so your business can attract a wider pool of talent, create a more inclusive work environment, and challenge traditional gender norms.

Offer support networks:

If an LGBTQ+ employee chooses to come out at work, it’s important to create a safe and inclusive environment by prioritising open communication and active listening. Address any specific concerns they have and facilitate them to share their preferred pronouns. Respect their confidentiality and only disclose information on a need-to-know basis. Provide resources and support networks, such as LGBTQ employee resource groups or external organisations. By fostering a culture of acceptance and support, HR can play a vital role in promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Quick tips:

  • Keep the approach gender neutral across all policies & processes such as Equal Opportunities to include LGBTQ+, PoSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment at the Workplace) to include all genders/gender identities, Parental leave (rather than maternity or paternity), avoid using gendered language or imagery in job postings and recruitment materials. Focus on skills and qualifications instead,
  • Consider offering gender-neutral restrooms for employees who don’t identify with the traditional binary genders.

Support LGBTQ causes actively:

Authentic representation is a simple, effective way to build a more inclusive work environment. Go beyond showing LGBTQ+ community members during Pride Month and extend that visibility year-round.  It’s important to make sure you avoid tokenism or stereotypes. Tokenism can occur when an entity only makes symbolic efforts—that give the appearance of supporting underrepresented groups—without truly supporting those values. Eg; Sometimes companies use marketing campaigns featuring their LGBTQ+ employees to appear inclusive without implementing any real change. While showing support publicly looks good, it is important to also offer real support, by actively making them feel like a part of the organisation by addressing their grievances and concerns.

Quick tips 

  • Encourage leadership to participate in LGBTQ+ initiatives and show visible support.
  • Partner with LGBTQ+ organisations and support community events and causes. 

Gender inclusivity ultimately helps retain a diverse talent pool 

Creating gender-neutral employment policies represents a powerful illustration of how business leaders can build fair work environments for all employees. It’s about fostering a culture of respect and understanding where everyone feels welcome and valued.

A gender-inclusive culture helps to break down gender-based power structures that lead to marginalisation and exclusionary practices. When companies create an inclusive work environment, they are better positioned to recruit and retain a diverse pool of talented employees, including women. It can result in increased employee engagement, job satisfaction, and productivity, which can ultimately lead to better business outcomes.

This approach isn’t just about words; it’s a fundamental way in how organisations must function, making sure that every employee — regardless of gender or gender identity — feels respected, valued and empowered to do their best work.

It requires a change in approach to include policy development, training and education, leadership commitment and creating a supportive and inclusive work culture. In a crux, if you want to survive in today’s global economy, it is critical to foster an inclusive culture in your workplace.

Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.

Want to make your HR policies more inclusive? Write to us at contact@yellowspark.in