Pride – is the public sector reacting to the rainbow?

Pride – is the public sector reacting to the rainbow?


The first weekend of July marked a celebration of inclusivity and belonging – with the Pride parade taking to the streets of London for the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall rising.  

Penna is marking the Pride Jubilee with a special series of blogs looking at which industries they work in have made progress on LGBTQ+ inclusivity, and where there is still work to be done.

There is much to celebrate regarding progress on LGBTQ+ rights in the workplace. In 2000, LGBT people became free to serve openly in the Armed Forces, the 2003 Employment Equality bill made it illegal to discriminate in the workplace on grounds of sexual orientation and 2010’s Equality Act made ‘gender reassignment’ and ‘sexual orientation’ protected characteristics.

A progressive and action-focused inclusion and diversity agenda in organisations has time and again proven beneficial for productivity and innovation, with employees demonstrably more efficient and creative when they feel they can be their true selves. Yet research has shown that equality and inclusivity in the workplace for LGBTQ+ people is still some way off.

The charity Stonewall’s 2018 Work Report surveyed over three thousand LGBT UK employees on their workplace experiences. The report found that ‘more than a third of LGBT staff have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination’. Playing into the wider diversity and inclusion debate, Stonewall found that ‘One in ten black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT staff (10 per cent) have been physically attacked at work in the last year because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity, compared to three per cent of white LGBT staff’. The trends on display demonstrate a worrying need for UK employers to increase inclusion and education efforts.

In the first of Penna’s Pride articles, they're looking at the public sector. 

The 2010 Equality Act had a cross-sector impact, but elements of its provision made special mention of the public sector. The Public Sector Equality Duty (PSED) makes ‘the need to eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations between different people when carrying out their activities’ a legal requirement within the public sector. 

A 2013 review of this duty by an independent committee found that the PSED was not yet ‘achieving the aims that government had in mind in introducing this legislation’, and the 2018 Stonewall rankings of the top 100 UK employers found only 34 of these were public sector organisations. Fast forward to 2019 – it still seems more must be done by the sector to increase belongingness and diversity, particularly for LGBT employees.

It’s interesting to see that locality plays a part in the amount of negativity LGBT people can face in the workplace. Where 16% of the LGBT workforce surveyed had experienced ‘negative comments or conduct from work colleagues because they are LGBT’ in large cities, this increased to 22% in small/medium towns and cities. Such correlations have a natural impact for local government leaders. Authorities with smaller metropolitan areas, and the district council network, have a part to play in education within their communities and, indeed, within their own Council workforce, which are often one and the same. 

Some public sector institutions are addressing this, and have made commitments specifically related to their LGBTQ+ workforce. For instance, the Civil Service is committed to ‘role model best practice in establishing working environments that are inclusive for LGBT staff in accordance with the Civil Service Diversity and Inclusion Strategy’. Employee working groups are another measure fostering belonging in public sector institutions, with GCHQ and MI6’s Kaleidoscope LGBT community signposted on their recruitment website. This group works ‘closely with Stonewall… making positive changes to promote an inclusive work environment, where you can feel completely open about your sexual orientation’. Further external promotion of the public sector’s support of its LGBTQ+ workforce would make a marked difference for both employees and communities served.

From the NHS to local authorities, the public sector is experiencing a chasm between reduced budgets and increased resident reliance on services. The need for innovation in the sector to meet demand while saving money is clear. A representative workforce could help with this, with a Deloitte study demonstrating ‘When teams had one or more members who represented a target end-user, the entire team was as much as 158 per cent more likely to understand that target end-user and innovate accordingly.’ 

An increased focus on diversity and inclusion would not only help with this, but also increase reflectivity between the public sector workforce and the people it serves.

Nearly one in five of Stonewall’s survey respondents ‘who were looking for work said they were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity while trying to get a job in the last year’. 

As recruiters to the public sector, Penna work with clients and candidates to ensure a fair and representative attraction, hiring and onboarding process and passionately champion fairness.  

If you would like to talk to Penna about Diversity and Inclusion in your organisation please email or call 020 3849 2777.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

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