The LGBT+ Community in the Workplace: Be An Ally


Discrimination in the workplace

The importance of education

The importance of LGBT+ allies

The role of the employer

Protect your people


February has been LGBT+ History Month here in the UK since 2005. The initiative strives to educate schools and businesses by providing free resources to help organisations celebrate, and Usualise LGBT+ lives in their full diversity.


Discrimination in the Workplace

Stonewall, a charity that supports 'lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and ace (LGBTQ+) people everywhere’, conducted research alongside YouGov to create the LGBT In Britain: Work Report.

The 2018 research shared some troubling statistics about discrimination in the workplace, and here are just a few:

  • One in eight trans people (12%) have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year because of being trans.
  • More than a third of LGBT staff (35%) have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT at work in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination.
  • One in eight black, Asian and minority ethnic LGBT employees (12%) have lost a job in the last year because of being LGBT, compared to 4% of white LGBT staff.

These three statistics cement the importance of the work of charities like Stonewall and the reason LGBT+ History Month remains essential.

Let’s summarise what these statistics tell us:

  • There’s an increased threat of being a victim of violence in the workplace.
  • Many people cannot be their authentic selves for fear of facing discrimination.
  • Being part of a minority ethnicity increases the chances of discrimination.

Enhance Your Sustainable Wellbeing Strategy


The Importance of Education

The snapshot we’ve provided from the report is argument enough for the need for education since discrimination is often born from a lack of knowledge and not always from something worse.

People can learn, and many are eager to do so, and through knowledge sharing, they can change their behaviours and perspectives. Employers must encourage this learning by providing resources and leading by example to establish a culture of equality and inclusion.

As part of our February Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Initiatives, Sodexo Engage’s Head of DE&I, Claire Coleman, and DE&I Champion, Abbie Watson, hosted a ‘Positive Conversations’ webinar featuring Marcia Griffiths. Marcia is an Event Services Manager and Head of DE&I for Circles UK & Ireland – part of the wider Sodexo family.

As a female, black, lesbian, who is now and always has been very active in the Pride community, Marcia shared her thoughts and experiences in the workplace. Out of everything Sodexo Engage employees learned from Marcia, without a doubt, the key message was the importance of being an ally.

Allies aren’t just personalities more inclined to be inclusive. They’re people who’ve taken the time to educate themselves on LGBT+ issues to become a more informed and supportive friend or colleague.

Marcia explained that learning never stops, and with new terms and identities coming into the space, she also needs to adapt and embrace new terminology in an ever-changing community.


The Importance of LGBT+ Allies

McKinsey & Co produced research in 2020 on the issues faced by the LGBTQ+ community in the workplace, and the recurring theme of the report is isolation and the concept of being an ‘only.’

The term ‘onliness’ comes from statistics that suggest there are times when an individual could be the only one in a room of a certain gender, race, or orientation. Sometimes, every employee could find themselves being an ‘only’ in a meeting or gathering but then become a ‘many’ when interacting with the wider business.

However, if you find yourself being an ‘only’ within a company of 250 employees, it will impact your sense of vulnerability and isolation.  


Enhance Your Sustainable Wellbeing Strategy

What Makes Someone an Ally?

In our webinar, Marica defines an ally as someone who will “call out” bad behaviour in their colleagues, whether that's intentional discrimination or the unintentional use of inappropriate language. A workplace ally will speak up for their LGBT+ colleagues and strive to educate others, doing what they can to create a safe and inclusive environment.


The Role of the Employer

If you’re an employer, manager, or HR professional, you automatically fall under the role of ally due to your responsibility to lead by example and your duty of care for the people within your business.

We are all on a DE&I journey because the learning never ends – even here at Sodexo Engage.

Your business is on the right path if the drive to educate, grow, and become an inclusive and diverse employer exists. Next, take steps to bring about positive change by reviewing what needs to improve and creating a plan of action.

A great place to start is by learning how the businesses that are getting inclusivity right are doing it. Take Citi, for example, who was recently recognised by Stonewall for their LGBTQ+ inclusion initiatives.


Review Your Policies

Before you begin to work on culture and education, it’s essential to review your organisational policies, particularly those around parental leave to ensure they include LGBTQ+ employees and the different family dynamics.


Respect Boundaries

Whilst it’s natural for an employer to want to learn about the people they employ and for colleagues to engage with one another, nobody should be forced to reveal more than they want to about themselves. An LGBT+ employee is not obligated to share information about themselves if they do not want to, and, in the words of Marcia Griffiths“Don’t ask someone a question if it’s something you wouldn’t want to be asked yourself.”


Protect Your People

We’ve steered away from talking about our Sodexo Engage products during this article. However, we have identified that LGBT+ employees face higher levels of fear and isolation, and Mind also states that those within the community are at a higher risk of depression.

As an employer, you can provide your people access to BCAP-accredited counsellors, 24 hours a day, every day of the year, via phone, email, or app. With an Employee Assistance Programme, even your most vulnerable employees will always have a safe space and a place to turn for help whenever needed.

To find out more about protecting the wellbeing of your people, contact one of our friendly experts today.


Click here to find out more about providing support for your employees with an Employee Assistance Programme