3 Simple Ways Law Firms Can Support LGBTQ+ Employees
Creating an inclusive workplace is incredibly important to me – it’s not just a tick box exercise. Not only is supporting our team members the right thing to do, but it’s also essential to our ability to deliver excellence in legal services to our clients.
I’m proud that this attitude runs throughout our organisation, and I’m passionate about encouraging other businesses to follow our lead in creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. So, here’s how other law firms can do the same.
1. Create a safe, welcoming space
We believe our team should reflect the diverse communities we serve, and as such, we place diversity and inclusion at the top of our agenda.
We see it as our obligation to promote social and economic justice and make it our mission to truly understand the challenges faced by the communities in which we operate. We can only do this successfully by making sure our team is able to bring their own unique perspectives and experiences to the work we do, and by creating a safe space for them to do so.
So, it’s essential to encourage team members to bring their true selves to work and actively promote open, honest conversations in which they can listen to one another and importantly, be heard.
2. Introduce inclusive policies
Much more progress needs to be made in the workplace so that every person that identifies as LGBTQ+ feels accepted for who they are at work.
There are significant differences between LGBTQ+ workers’ job quality, compared with their heterosexual colleagues. LGBTQ+ employees are more likely to report that work has a negative impact on their health and are more likely to be dissatisfied with their jobs.
Research by TUC shows that LGBTQ+ people’s working relationships are a cause for concern. Nearly 70% of LGBTQ+ workers have been sexually harassed or assaulted at work and many have not told their employer, in some cases due to fear of being ‘outed’ at work. Meanwhile, 41% of LGBTQ+ graduates go ‘back in the closet’ when starting their first job.
This suggests that employers’ handling of conflict and harassment must improve, and companies must develop a greater understanding of the specific experiences and needs of LGBTQ+ employees, particularly when it comes to building awareness and taking action in policies and practices.
At MSB, we have clear and specific LGBTQ+ policies in place to help address these issues and to create an open and inclusive culture so that all employees feel comfortable at work. For instance, our LGBTQ+ Anti-Bullying and Harassment Policy defines harassment and highlights all types of harassment that are not tolerated.
Creating and enforcing clear policies such as these is vital to driving and sustaining inclusive workplaces. As a minimum, employers have legal obligations to prevent and address discrimination and should take a zero-tolerance approach to this. By allowing staff to be themselves in the workplace employers can create an inclusive, supportive workforce and get the best from everyone.
3. Practice what you preach
LGBTQ+ allyship and support can never be tokenistic – authenticity is essential, and actions speak much louder than words.
Consider the activities, initiatives and causes you can get involved in, educate yourself as an employer and ensure you bring your team along with you. Having a firm in which each and every team member is on the same page, understands your values and shares them is a key ingredient to success.
At MSB, we introduced our Equalities Committee a number of years ago, with representatives for BAME, women, social mobility, disability and LGBTQ+ communities, to help drive our work towards equality, diversity and inclusion forwards.
We are also recognised for our work in this space – we are proud to be the only law firm to have achieved the Navajo charter mark as a symbol of our support for the LGBTQ+ community.
We have adopted progressive policies to ensure our LGBTQ+ colleagues are supported, such as paid leave to transition and same-sex maternity, paternity and adoption leave.
We have also partnered with Open Media for its ‘Open and Proud’ campaign for a number of years, celebrating LGBTQ+ individuals on billboards across the country during Pride Month.
For us, commitment to our LGBTQ+ community is about more than simply raising money, it’s about instilling a strategy and an ethos long-term. Our initiatives are driving our future policy, and are driving our business forward.
We are committed to creating a working environment in which everyone is valued, supported and empowered to reach their potential. After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal?