According to a new study, only half of LGBTQ+ people in the UK feel comfortable being on the go and proud at work.
Deloitte’s findings, exclusively made available to Metro.co.uk, suggest discrimination in the workplace prevents them from coming out to colleagues.
Of the 402 LGBTQ+ Brits surveyed by the global professional services firm, 52% say they feel comfortable enough to be outspoken.
This compares to 43% of LGBTQ+ people worldwide, with Deloitte surveying 5,474 queer people across a range of sectors in 13 countries.
However, queer Britons are more reluctant to chat about their personal lives with colleagues, whether at water coolers or in staff lounges: 49% in the UK and 37% globally.
Others are concerned about being treated differently by their straight cis peers, a sentiment shared by 43% of UK respondents compared to 39% globally.
Polls have long shown that some LGBTQ+ people remain silent in their personal lives, from avoiding pronouns when talking to partners to completely neglecting weekend plans when chatting with co-workers.
Deloitte found that a person’s status within their organization has a major impact on whether they are openly LGBTQ+.
Of UK respondents, 60% of LGBTQ+ leaders are open about who they are, 9% more than their global peers.
For junior staff, this figure was lower, at 45% in the UK and 37% globally.
LGBTQ+ employees in secret had their reasons. A major concern for 25% of queer Britons surveyed was that they would only allow themselves to be discriminated against when coming out if they were discriminated against by their peers.
The global average – which includes respondents living in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, South Africa and the US – was higher at 32%.
Almost four in ten (38%) LGBTQ+ Britons say they have encountered uninclusive behavior while on duty.
For some, this took the form of unwelcome sexual comments or jokes at their expense. Others have been undermined by peers.
Almost half (49%) of respondents are sure that they have been discriminated against because they are LGBTQ+.
Workplaces may not even know this is happening as LGBTQ+ employees feel there is little point in reporting it to unsupportive managers, said Phil Mitchell, network co-lead for Proud at Deloitte, the LGBTQ+ employee network the company.
“When people feel their employers aren’t doing enough to support inclusion or don’t take non-inclusive behavior seriously, many cases go unreported,” he said.
“Employers should take steps to ensure they provide a positive culture of LGBTQ+ inclusion that is grounded in respect.”
Another concern of those surveyed is whether coming out could cost an employee future career opportunities, the report says.
While this was a concern for 26% of LGBTQ+ workers globally, just 12% of queer Brits said they were concerned.
Researchers have long pointed out that managers’ tendency not to promote queer employees is leading to a lack of high-level LGBTQ+ role models. With no one like them to look up to, young queer workers feel like they can’t make any headway.
Previous studies have found that these workplace prejudices are also eating away at the paychecks of LGBTQ+ workers. The pay gap means LGBTQ+ adults earn thousands of pounds less than their straight cis counterparts.
Employers, LGBTQ+ people told Deloitte, can do a lot to address this issue. More than half of respondents (59%) said allies are a surefire way to encourage people to live their truths during work hours.
Finally, previous studies have shown that a supportive environment, such as at home or at school, can have a positive impact on LGBTQ+ people’s mental health.
According to Deloitte, companies in the UK are also more keen than anywhere else to take advantage of Pride Month: 52% of employees say employers participate in Pride, compared to 37% globally.
But Jackie Henry, managing partner for People and Purpose at Deloitte, said supporting queer rights shouldn’t just be for one month a year.
“Creating a truly inclusive culture where everyone feels welcome and respected at all times is important not just during Pride Month but throughout the year,” he said.
“When organizations promote diversity and show their commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion, it can have a significant positive impact on their employees’ experiences in the workplace.”
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