LGBTQ Inclusion At The Workplace

While the two path breaking judgements by the Indian Supreme Court have definitely worked as a wake-up call for corporate India, it is pertinent to note that even prior to the judgements, there was never an express legal bar restricting hiring of LGBTQ persons at the workplace. But for a handful of companies who have already implemented progressive policies and initiatives on this front, India Inc, by and large, has a lot to do to catch up with LGBTQ inclusion at the workplace, and, lead the way for socio‑economic mainstreaming of the LGBTQ community.

 

Commitment from the Management

 

First and foremost, the promoters and key management persons at organisations will need to state their vision and commitment to this area, and, their willingness to dedicate resources for long term capacity building. Further, they should set out an express anti‑discrimination policy which includes a zero tolerance approach for any discriminatory practices (or behaviour) and against any form of harassment or bullying.

 

Workplace policies: All internal systems, documents, policies and processes will need a holistic re-evaluation to interalia bring in gender neutrality, equal opportunity and inclusion for the LGBTQ community, in letter, spirit and form, and, to remove any actual or potentially discriminatory content and practices.

 

By way of one example, where any non-statutory internal policies extend benefits to employees and / or their families, the same should be extended to partners (including same sex partners), adopted children or those born through surrogacy. That said, for policies that emanate from legislations that remain unamended (such as the payment of gratuity), and, still contain narrow definitions of terms like “family”, the law will need to be complied with, the way it exists for now.

 

Within the LGBTQ community as well, the specifics and requirements of members across the spectrum may vary, and, companies will need to adopt the gender lens in internal policy making, and, think outside the traditional “gender-binary” box to create informed, sensitive, flexible and customized systems, policies and processes. E.g. hiring of transgender persons involves specific additional aspects that range from infrastructural aspects (restrooms, changing rooms etc.) to progressive initiatives such as policies to support gender / sex reassignment, name and identity change process in administrative records etc.

 

Fostering cultural change

 

Good laws and policies do not work in a vacuum, and, it is essential that companies proactively work towards fostering a culture of respect and inclusion, irrespective of a person’s gender or sexual orientation. Some key measures include gender sensitisation programmes for all employees across cadres, including the addressing of barriers such as unconscious bias and stereotyping; specific training programmes for managers across verticals on team management and diversity and inclusion; encouraging LGBTQ persons at senior levels across functional verticals to be role models and mentors; setting up safe spaces and support groups for employees from the LGBTQ community; and breaking hetero-normative stereotypes while conducting social and cultural events such as by including same sex partners.  

 

Further, in industries or sectors that are customer facing, stipulating clear guidelines that discourage customers/ clients from engaging with employees in a manner that is disrespectful or discriminatory based on their gender identity or sexual orientation. LGBTQ inclusion at workplaces requires a multidimensional approach and serious engagement, for long term value creation and capacity building for all.

 

 

Aparna Mittal is the Founder of Samāna Centre for Gender, Policy and Law (https://www.samanacentre.com) a consultancy advising corporates/ organisations on gender equality and diversity through a wide array of HR, D&I and CSR initiatives and trainings, with a special focus on women and LGBT inclusion. She can be contacted at [email protected]

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