Creating safe and supportive environments should be a priority for every business all year round, not just for one month.
An inclusive workplace supports employee wellbeing through its positive effects on employees’ race, gender identity, sexual orientation and expression, which fosters a rewarding mix of creativity, inclusivity and partnership that translates into a high-performing, collaborative driven company.
For the majority of us, the workplace serves as a crucial social space. We want to be our true selves and belong at work, while bringing the whole person to work. We also want our coworkers to be free to do the same. For LGBTQIA+ individuals and many other marginalised groups, that’s not always achievable, whether as a consequence of ongoing prejudice, past discrimination or other external impediments to inclusion. Understanding the complex and varied experiences of LGBTQIA+ cohorts require an understanding of the socio-historical context in which they grew up. Human sexuality is a hugely complicated topic that affects a person’s physical, emotional, mental and societal wellbeing. Legal developments have affected the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons in Ireland over the past 30 years.
There is now legislation to protect against discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in the workplace or in a public place within Ireland. Perhaps Ireland’s biggest victory in LGBTQIA+ history was the national referendum that resulted in marriage equality (Marriage Equality Act, 2015). However, this only affected LGBTQIA+ people who wanted to enter a same sex marriage. Within today’s society, this minority group experience a more liberal Ireland and are now legally permitted to marry, inherit property based on their state-sanctioned relationships’, adopt children and receive government benefits. But living free from discrimination in all spheres of life is still a challenge and much stigma still exists in places, including employment and our wider society.
Ask yourself – have you or a work colleague ever…
Hid your significant other’s identity from strangers? Were concerned about being yourself at work or concerned about being yourself with your family? Have you been worried about being yourself when out and about or heard teasing on the street while going about your own business? Have you ever been reluctant to hold your partner’s hand in public? Have you experienced physical abuse while acting normally because you are a member of the LGBTQI+ community or witnessed this abuse?
If this is you, a friend or a work colleague, the battle for equal rights is far from done. A small business can help create a supportive environment for everyone. While we celebrate diversity and inclusion all year round. Employees should be able to share their stories, experiences, and ideas at work to make the workplace a better environment for every one of us. Allyship is so important both inside and
outside the workplace. It means inclusion does not just fall on LGBTQIA+ employees but the entire workforce. Understanding pronouns, and evolving LGBTQIA+ terms as well as all of the multiple flags, can feel a bit overwhelming, and sometimes individuals may be reluctant to ask questions out of fear of offending. Trainings and workshops are provided for entire workplaces with vendors such as LGBT+ Ireland and prideatwork.ie and the Irish Centre for Diversity.
While wellness programs and initiatives can provide relief and support they can fail to address the issues of stress for LGBTQIA+ employees. These stressors could be viewed as minority stress, a particular kind of social stress that people from stigmatised groups are subjected to as a result of their minority status. Help create safe and supportive environments 365 days of the year and make this a priority for your small business today. Lead with inclusive language and train your people and your teams. A workplace should be a place where we can thrive not just survive.
David Casey is DeCare’s Head of Health Promotion and a Doctorate Candidate of Trinity College Dublin. Find out more about our dental, vision and wellness programs here.