LGBT employees who feel unable to come out at work more likely to leave their jobs - and cost business millions

Report suggests that the UK economy could save £678m a year if businesses better implement 'diversity and inclusion' policies

Serina Sandhu
Sunday 01 February 2015 01:00
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More than half of Australian LGBT workers are out in the office, compared with 45 per cent in the UK (AFP/Getty)
More than half of Australian LGBT workers are out in the office, compared with 45 per cent in the UK (AFP/Getty)

Businesses are squandering millions replacing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employees who quit after not feeling comfortable enough to “come out” at work.

A report, LGBT2020, to be published tomorrow, suggests that the UK economy could save £678m a year if businesses better implemented “diversity and inclusion” policies to encourage LGBT employees to be themselves.

Australia had the highest number of employees who were out to all their colleagues, with 51 per cent. The UK was second, with 45 per cent. India ranked last, with just 8 per cent, according to the report by LGBT business consulting firm Out Now. The report compares figures for 10 countries, including Brazil, Canada and France; researchers initially surveyed 100,000 LGBT workers in 24 countries.

“It’s a drain on the economy to have people leave a job because they’re unhappy just because they can’t be themselves at work,” said Ian Johnson, chief executive of Out Now. Of the 17 per cent of LGBT employees in the UK who have not disclosed their sexuality to anyone at work, 10 per cent of them would be more likely to stay with their employer if they felt happy to come out, saving the economy millions in the cost of replacing them.

“It’s the right thing to do, to treat workers with respect,” said Mr Johnson. “But, secondly, this data shows it’s good for businesses’ bottom line to better treat their LGBT staff, and make it easier for them to come out to [everyone] they work with.”

“Up until now, I think [the policy] has been seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ policy… but you also now have a business imperative to do better in this area. One of the things that I think a lot of companies have failed with is trying to measure or understand the return on their investment in diversity,” said Mr Johnson, who suggested that companies could display their policies more visibly online and include them in job applications.

Jan Gooding, group brand director of Aviva and sponsor of employee network Aviva Pride, called the saving “an eye-watering figure”, adding that diversity and inclusion policies resulted in a “double win”. “You don’t only win by improving the productivity of your LGBT staff… in order to create the culture and conditions to make it safe for people to be out and themselves, [it] would be creating the same culture for everybody… The benefits are there for all.”

Dan Fitz, group general secretary and company secretary of BT, called the findings in the report “invaluable”, and said that they allowed the company to think about inclusion in an international context, particularly in India where they have thousands of employees.

Mr Fitz said that without implementing diversity and inclusion policies, employees would feel harassed, undervalued, and the business would be unable to attract the best talent.

Andy Woodfield, a partner and head of international aid development at PwC, said: “I think there is a responsibility of leadership to be a role model. That’s the reason why I decided to be much more public about my own sexuality, so that people knew that it was OK and that… they didn’t need to pretend to be something else.”

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