Working with Pride – exploring experiences of LGBT+ people in the workplace

Rear view of female homosexual family walking in park

Business in the Community’s new report, Working with Pride, combines insights from two of BITC’s flagship studies (Mental Health at Work and Equal Lives) produced in partnership with Mercer and Santander, to shine a light on the issues facing LGBT+ people in the workplace.

The report finds that:

  • LGBT+ individuals are disproportionally more likely to have mental health issues and are less likely to talk about their mental health at work.
  • Nearly three-quarters of LGBT+ people said that they had experienced mental health problems relating to work (72%).
  • Experience of mental health issues was a third higher among LGBT+ employees.
  • Younger LGBT+ employees were found to be particularly vulnerable.

This year’s study really brings home the size of the challenge around mental health for the LGBT+ community. Whilst the figures confirm a picture that we had already suspected – that LGBT+ employees are impacted by mental health issues on a far greater scale than the broader employee population – I was stunned by the findings, in particular that 81% or 4 out of 5 LGBT+ people have experienced a mental health condition. In all cases the community had a higher prevalence across the major metrics, with 72% attributing their mental health issues to their experiences in the workplace.

Digging deeper into the underlying data points provides us with valuable insights into why work is such a contributing factor. For example, just over a quarter (26%) of LGBT+ employees say that they have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT+ at work in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination, with this figure jumping up to 35% for 18-29 year olds.

This underlines the importance of role models; seeing senior people in an organisation who are comfortable to be themselves can have such a profound and positive impact on people who are just starting their career. Engagement from senior leadership and senior leader LGBT+ and ally role models is incredibly important. According to research conducted by the Human Rights Campaign, 62% of generation Y graduates who were out in college and university have gone back into the closet after entering the formal work environment, unfortunately not feeling that they can be authentic in their work environment.

Authenticity is so important here. When we talk to clients, we regularly talk about the need for taking an integrated, holistic approach to health and wellbeing that encompasses physical, mental, social, and emotional wellbeing. In order to embrace that holistic approach, you’ve also got to support people to be authentic. People come to work as their full selves, they don’t compartmentalise themselves and everyone needs to be able to be authentic to contribute at their peak performance level.

Understanding the challenges facing the LGBT+ community comes right back down to education; we have made some great in-roads, and a lot has changed over the last few years, but we still have a long way to go.

We are really proud of our partnership with BITC and the data in this report provides us with a benchmark to look forward. All businesses value their people as their greatest asset. At Mercer Marsh Benefits, we are very passionate about helping clients support their employees through integrated health and wellbeing strategies. Most employers are now recognising the different needs of the various groups in their organisation, be they LGBT+, older or younger employees, and the need to deploy wellbeing strategies that support and nurture diversity and inclusion.

This is a multifaceted challenge that all employers are facing, we hope by shining a light on the topic we will raise its profile and will inspire people to take the first steps, or further their journey to fully embrace diversity and creating a fully inclusive working culture.

Tony Wood
by Tony Wood

Partner and UK Managing Director, Mercer Marsh Benefits

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