Raising the spotlight on LGBT+ mental health

Man wearing a jacket and a scarf standing high up on a mountain with a cityscape behind him on a cold autumn day, individual

Mercer and Business in the Community’s Mental Health at Work 2018 Report – Seizing the Momentum has raised the spotlight on the real issues the LGBT+ community face in the workplace. The survey, conducted by YouGov and run for the third consecutive year, shows that LGBT+ individuals are disproportionally more likely to have mental health issues and are less likely to talk about their mental health at work.

Although there has been slow, incremental improvement of overall mental wellbeing at work over the past three years, the figures for LGBT+ workers are shocking. They show that employers have an important role to play and must have the right policies in place to support LGBT+ colleagues.

According to the survey, 72% of LGBT+ employees have experienced mental health issues as a result of workplace discrimination. Additionally, only 60% of LGBT+ employees feel comfortable being open about their sexual orientation at work, while 32% of managers have disguised that they are LGBT+ due to fear of discrimination.

The survey further revealed that 9% of LGBT+ employees have been encouraged by a work colleague to hide their orientation in the last year. Worryingly, this figure is significantly higher among those in senior management positions, with 28% of LGBT+ CEOs, managing directors and board members having been encouraged to hide their orientation.

The combination of both ethnic and sexual discrimination means that BAME LGBT+ employees are more than twice as likely as white employees to have experienced negativity from customers and clients (23%, compared to 11%). Furthermore, 16% of BAME LGBT+ employees were encouraged to hide their orientation over the past year, compared to 9% of white LGBT+ employees.

As a result of this discrimination, 9% of LGBT+ employees surveyed felt that they did not receive a promotion in the past year because of their orientation, with a further 6% asserting that being LGBT+ was a significant factor in losing a job in the past year.

This all contributes to LGBT+ individuals being significantly more likely to have experienced a mental health condition (81%) and for it to be formally diagnosed (46%).

"The Mental Health at Work report shows that financial worries and job instability have become part of daily life for employees. These are the moments when a responsible employer stands above the rest. It is critical to foster an inclusive and supportive culture of respect and trust, both for LGBT+ employees and others."

Tony Wood, Regional Leader, Continental Europe and Executive Sponsor of Mercer’s LGBT+ Pride group

Tony recently made the Top 100 OUTstanding Leading LGBT+ Executives List this year, a list compiled by OUTstanding, a not-for-profit professional network for LGBT executives and their allies, in collaboration with the Financial Times. Tony has been key to driving an inclusive culture at Mercer, designing a series of initiatives aimed at helping others better understand LGBT+ and the issues the community face. Other initiatives have included a very successful IDAHOT (International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia & Biphobia) day in Mercer offices nationally, as well as lobbying Mercer and Marsh Health Trusts to include Trans healthcare coverage.

To tackle this prejudice, the Mental Health at Work report asks employers to ‘Talk & Train’:

  • Talking to employees openly and showing that sexual orientation does not impact their ability to work will help break the culture of silence.
  • Training in basic mental health literacy for all employees to support line manager capability will help organisations support their employees from the bottom up.

Mercer continues to implement policies and work with both internal employees and clients to foster open discussions around LGBT+ issues, encouraging people to look past sexual orientation in the workplace.

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