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Safe Spaces at Work: Comprehensive Checklist for LGBTQI+ Inclusivity

In today's diverse workplace, fostering an environment where everyone feels respected and valued is crucial. Those in the LGBTQI+ community are not the only ones responsible for fostering such an environment. All organisation members should be involved in developing, facilitating, and maintaining an inclusive workplace.

LGBTQI+ Inclusivity in the Workplace

Everyone in our community should be able to go to work feeling safe, recognised, and heard. All employees have the right to be treated fairly regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or age. An inclusive workplace culture offers numerous advantages to an organisation, such as promoting staff retention, encouraging diverse talent and creative thinking, promoting idea sharing and innovation, stronger relationships, and access to a broad talent pool.

Understanding LGTBQI Needs and Concerns at Work

Many LGTBQI+ individuals feel they have had to change or hide their behaviour at work to avoid harassment or discrimination at work. They might feel unable to be themselves among colleagues and as a result, may decide to leave a job due to disrespectful and harmful treatment.

How to Promote Inclusivity for the LGBTQI+ Community

There are plenty of ways an organisation can promote inclusivity for LGBTQI+ people.

1. Celebrate and Recognise

Some LGBTIQ+ individuals recognise memorial days, events, and anniversaries. Make it part of your organisation’s calendar for employees to celebrate and commemorate one or more Australian events. The organisation could have a morning tea or lunch, wear a colour, wear a pin, make a donation, and use the opportunity to educate staff on the importance of being an inclusive organisation. Consider the following:
  • Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras: February
  • Transgender Day of Visibility: 31 March
  • LGBTQ Domestic Violence Awareness Day: 28 May
  • International Day Against Homophobia Biphobia and Transphobia: 17 May
  • LGBT Pride Month: June
  • International Non-Binary People’s Day: 14 July
  • Wear It Purple Day: 28 August
  • Bi Visibility Day: 23 September
  • International Lesbian Day: 8 October
  • National Coming Out Day: 11 October
  • Asexual Awareness Week: October
  • Intersex Awareness Day: 26 October
  • Transgender Awareness Week: 2nd week of November
  • Transgender Day of Remembrance: 20 November

2. A Non-Discrimination Policy

If the organisation doesn’t already have one, introduce a non-discrimination policy to increase awareness and eliminate tolerance for discriminating individual choices for sexual orientation or gender identity. The policy should be clear, have specific examples of prohibited behaviour, and present the penalties for violation and the grievance procedure for an employee who experiences discrimination. Anti-discrimination policies should have other resources to support its implementation to be effective. This could include a confidential whistle-blowing avenue and support services that are LGBTIQ+ specific for those who may experience discrimination.

3. Using Inclusive Language

Using the correct terminology for LGBTIQ+ people to feel safe and welcomed is often left aside. Inclusive language avoids biases and words and slang that may discriminate against certain groups of people based on characteristics such as their race or ethnicity, disability status, sexual or gender identity, religion, and socioeconomic level.
Inclusive language acknowledges diversity, conveys respect and is sensitive to differences. It promotes equal opportunities and allows those using it to resonate with their audience by expressing themselves impartially. On the contrary, exclusive language can hurt and alienate people, making them feel they aren’t part of a group or team.

Some people identify themselves with more than one pronoun, such as she/they or he/they. Using someone’s correct pronoun(s) shows respect and portrays a sense of inclusion. Sharing pronouns can make a big difference in the inclusion of trans and gender-diverse people and can signal colleagues that they understand and respect pronouns. This can be done by wearing a pronoun badge, introducing yourself with your pronoun/s, or adding your pronoun/s to your email signature.

Using people-centric language that focuses on the person and reflects people's individuality means avoiding classifying or stereotyping anyone based on their association or identity with a group or culture. It means not excluding people or making people feel invisible by language choice, which includes expressions that disparage or trivialise a person. For example, opt for inclusive language such as ‘partner’ (not ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’) to refer to someone’s significant other.  

The following are examples of exclusive language that assumes people are either male or female and they choose their sexual orientation: guys, ladies and gentlemen, both male and female, mum and dad, husband and wife, and sexual preference, among others. 

To start, ensure all corporate and internal communications are using inclusive and respectful language. Ensure diverse representation at all levels of a large organisation, in corporate materials, on the website and social media, and in marketing campaigns and products or services.

4. Gender Neutral Workspace

Having at least one unisex toilet at the organisation can boost an employee’s sense of safety and comfort if they identify outside of a gender binary. A gender-neutral bathroom can be as simple as changing the signage but can make all the difference to staff and customers.

5. Staff Education and Training

Many organisations believe community awareness of the LGBTQI+ community is much higher today than it was ten or even a few years ago, so staff training is unnecessary. However, awareness often doesn’t translate into safe workspaces.  

While most employees want to treat colleagues respectfully, they may not know what to say or do. Altius Group has a Diversity and Inclusion Committee. The Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Committee is a committee of Altius Group team members from across the country. The Committee provides a forum for developing high-level advice to Senior Leadership Team members on all matters of significance related to diversity and inclusion issues that impact service provision, outcomes, and the reputation of the Altius Group. The D&I Committee has three Pillars of Purpose: 
  • Education
  • Policy
  • Celebration 

Reminding staff of what discrimination looks like and how they can act inclusively can go a long way in providing an inclusive environment.  

6. Regular Reviews

Providing a safe, inclusive workplace is not a set-and-forget system. Even if the organisation made extensive changes six months ago, the organisation may no longer be considered inclusive. The process must be ongoing, and one way to keep the system alive is through employees' feedback as an anonymous or identified staff member. Altius’ organisational consultancy teams conduct regular D&I audits to triage feedback and ensure it is acted on. 

Remember, management and staff in an organisation can’t be expected to know it all. Organisations such as Altius Group can provide the expertise to help review the actions taken and provide organisational development, advice, and recommendations. We have assisted hundreds of organisations across Australia in a variety of industries to become more inclusive and know which strategies have the greatest impact. Having expert assistance available can provide staff members of an organisation with confidence and reassurance that they’re on the right path to a more inclusive and safe working space. 

Contact us here, or call 1800 258 487 for more information.

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