LGBT+ harassment study highlights ‘BAME grouping’ flaw

Out-Law News | 16 Feb 2021 | 10:23 am |

Kate Dodd tells HRNews employers need broad policies focused on specific minority groups

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  • Transcript

    The CIPD has called for employers to set clear expectations on what is acceptable behaviour at work, and to provide managers with guidance on how to report, and deal with, the consequences of conflict. This is in light of a report published last week by the CIPD called  'Inclusion at work' – perspectives on LGBT+ working lives' showing that LGBT+ employees are more likely to experience conflict and harassment at work than any other group. The study of more than 15,000 workers is reviewed by People Management and highlights how 40% of LGBT+ employees and 55% of trans workers have experienced conflict in the workplace over the last 12 months – that's compared to just 29% of heterosexual and cisgender employees. Kate Williams, from the charity Stonewall, said these figures were “another upsetting reminder” of the abuse and harassment LGBT+ people still faced in the workplace and called for employers to adopt a zero tolerance approach. 

    Personnel Today also covers the report and highlights the CIPD's list of recommendations for actions to be taken by employers, and they quote Dr Luke Fletcher, associate professor at the University of Bath’s School of Management, who makes a good point. He says during the pandemic we've seen a lot of blanket changes to protect employee wellbeing, but businesses need to also think about broader policies and practices focused on specific minority groups. He's saying now's the time to look at this differently. So is he right about that? Someone who should know is diversity and inclusion specialist Kate Dodd. She joined me by video-link from Manchester:

    Kate Dodd: “I think it's a really good point and I think, in a way, it's probably quite overdue. It really resonates with me for two reasons. Firstly, I think it chimes with this idea of the phrase 'BAME' that's used in relation to people from minority ethnic backgrounds, basically black, Asian, minority ethnic, and I think there has been far too much of a grouping together of people from minority ethnic backgrounds in the UK under this heading of BAME and a failure to see and recognise and appreciate the very different experiences people have within those groups, whether they be from Asian or black backgrounds, their experiences of life, and workplaces, and everything else is entirely different and is as different to each other as it is, of course, to white people or any different kind of race. Therefore to group people together as BAME I think really can take away from their own individual experiences and it should be avoided. I think what the CIPD is saying here about different LGBT+ groups is exactly the same point and it is absolutely vital. The experience of a lesbian woman in the workplace is going to be an entirely different experience to a gay man, the experience of somebody who is transgender is going to be entirely different again, and we see the hate crime and the prejudice that is being really suffered at the moment by the trans community and it is, I suppose, quite reminiscent of what the lesbian and gay and bisexual communities went through, hopefully, in the past, I'm sure it still goes on now but there is a very real focus at the moment on trans rights. There's also conflict within those groups themselves. There has been quite high-profile conflict that's played out through social media in particular, on Twitter, around the rights of lesbian women and trans women, the right to self-identify. All these types of things are, of course, going on, and it has to be really nuanced. One other thing I would say, Joe, that I've really noticed is that there is also something that's happening in lots of workplaces, and not just workplaces, of course, homes, and pubs and schools, which has these more complex gender identities and I have certainly been giving training to people within client organisations and have heard people say things like, well, I understand that, you know, people being gay or people being lesbians, and I've got my head around that, but, you know, what is this non binary thing?  I don't like this, you know, why people are asking to be called 'they' and what is this all about? I'm sorry I can't accept this, and similar comments being made about people who are trans and there is still a lack of understanding that is taking place in society and it's really complicated, and it's really complex, and all the points the CIPD make are great and I think probably that the importance of understanding the individual experiences of each of those people in those types of groups is absolutely crucial."

    Joe Glavina: "Can I ask you about the CIPD's recommendations Kate. They list a number of action points for employers. I'll read them to you. So number one, ensure LGBT+ staff have “voice mechanisms” so they can highlight any problems and suggest solutions. Number two, have senior sponsorship of employee resource groups. Number three, encourage company-wide learning and conversations on inclusion. Number four, train line managers in the support needed by different groups. Finally, number five, create safe spaces and networks where these groups can come together. Which of those points do you think would have the biggest impact? You can only choose one"

    Kate Dodd: "Well, that's a really hard question because I probably would vote for all of them, to be honest, but I think providing safe spaces is absolutely essential, providing a place for people to come together to have conversations. Most big organisations now have LGBTQ networks, or LGBT+ networks, I think they do an incredible amount of good and I think that those businesses without those should really start to think about how they can facilitate that people are really willing to take this on and do this themselves as well. So companies sometimes think, well, I can't do this, I haven't got the bandwidth and we haven't got time and, actually, all you really need to do is to get permission and create a safe space. Then, of course, once those groups are set up, it's about making sure that they are given resources, and it's about making sure their voices are heard. It's about providing things like anonymous reporting of issues or behaviours. So I think, Joe, if you forced me to choose one of them, I would say that that safe space and those networks to come together is an absolutely crucial thing to do."

    That research report by the CIPD is called 'Inclusion at work' – perspectives on LGBT+ working lives'. It's detailed, 46 pages long, and is well written. We've put a link to it in the transcript of this programme.


    - Link to CIPD report: 'Inclusion at work' – perspectives on LGBT+ working lives