Two thirds of LGBTQ people still being harassed at work: IDAHOBIT is a timely reminder of the work that still needs to be done

17 May 2019

Today is International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT).

On this day, over 130 countries around the world draw attention to the various forms of discrimination and violence that the LGBTQ community continue to experience. It serves as a reminder each year of the work which is still needed to achieve LGBTQ equality.

IDAHOBIT is celebrated on the 17 May each year, as it was on this specific day in 1990 that the World Health Organisation decided to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder.  It is utterly outrageous that it took until 1990 for this to change but unfortunately, this should not surprise me.

Only last year, it was reported that 36 of the 53 countries in the Commonwealth still criminalise homosexuality. Just last month, there was widespread international condemnation of Brunei’s new strict laws, which make LGBTQ acts punishable by stoning to death. Despite a temporary moratorium on these new rules, the situation remains unsafe for LGBTQ people living in Brunei.

Closer to home, it has been reported by the Trade Union Congress today that more than two-thirds (68%) of LGBTQ people have been sexually harassed at work.  According to a survey, two in five LGBTQ people (42%) said they had experienced colleagues making unwelcome comments.  Two thirds (66%) said they did not tell their employer about the harassment and a quarter of those said it was because they were afraid of being “outed” at work.

This has to change: it is important for all of us that our colleagues, friends and family are able to be their whole selves at work.  This is not just a moral issue, but it is a business issue too. 

During Pride last year, I published my commitments to improving the confidence of LGBTQ people in our workplace. I set myself a series of objectives, which are as important as ever. As allies, we must support the LGBTQ community, speak up if we hear inappropriate behaviour, educate ourselves and actively listen to the experiences of the LGBTQ community.

This year we have continued to improve our working environment so it is more reflective of KN’s culture.  Amongst other successes, we introduced new policies for employees transitioning at work and guidance for our managers during that process. I was proud to see our ranking improve in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index.  In particular, I was delighted to see that 100% of our LGBTQ employees said they were able to be themselves at work, compared to a national average of 83%.  Similarly, 100% of our non-LGBTQ employees said they would feel confident challenging inappropriate behaviour or LGBTQ discrimination in the workplace. 

I hope to be publishing further positive news this time next year and look forward to working with my LGBTQ colleagues in the year ahead.

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