Business Irish

Friday 29 August 2014

A third of gay employees 'have experienced harassment at work'

Colm Kelpie

Published 04/03/2014 | 02:30

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The research claimed that employees who feel comfortable about being "out" are more committed to their employers

ABOUT 30pc of gay, lesbian and bisexual employees have been harassed at work and more than 10pc have quit a job because of discrimination, a new survey suggests.

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The experiences of 590 lesbian and gay full-time workers in Ireland are detailed in the study, which is due to be launched this morning. It was carried out by Trinity College Dublin (TCD).

The survey concludes that almost 35pc of lesbian employees who had been questioned for the study had suffered discrimination and harassment in the past. More than 15pc felt forced to quit their jobs and almost 10pc actually suffered physical harassment.

This compares with just under 25pc of gay men who have faced discrimination, and fewer than 10pc who felt they had no choice but to quit their jobs because of it. And while 64pc of respondents said their employers had a written policy on diversity, more than 60pc said diversity training didn't exist.

Davin Roche, workplace diversity director at the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, said it was in the interests of firms to tackle these issues.

"While this research shows the challenges faced by many lesbian, gay and bisexual employees, it also clearly shows why it makes good business sense to address these issues," he said.

"Good employers know that people perform best when they can be themselves".

The research claimed that employees who feel comfortable about being "out" are more committed to their employers than those who are not.

Some 62pc of respondents said that they had come out to most or some people at work and the survey highlighted four key influences on taking the decision to go public.

These included significant milestones in life such as a relationship change or having children, as well as the perceived climate of acceptance in work and the attitudes of co-workers.

Mike McKerr, managing partner at Ernst & Young, which supported the research, said businesses have evolved their thinking in recent years when it comes to diversity.

"It's no longer simply about levelling the playing field and providing equal opportunities. Truly diverse companies recognise, celebrate, and embrace difference," he said.

"We believe this creates stronger businesses and competitive advantage in attracting and retaining LGBT professionals".

Yet the survey suggests that some companies are still paying lip service to diversity.

PROACTIVE

The 'Working It Out' report found that employers who demonstrated a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion had an advantage in attracting LGBT candidates.

The study also found that age and tenure play a key role in disclosure in the workplace.

Employees under the age of 25 were four times more likely than employees over the age of 45 to list the presence or absence of other LGBT people in the workplace as being the most important influence on their personal coming out decisions.

The report, authored by Brian McIntyre and Dr Elizabeth Nixon, Assistant Professor in Psychology, TCD, recommended that employers take proactive steps to ensure LGBT employees can come out at work without any negative impact on their careers.

Irish Independent

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