Do not take for granted that your colleague is straight and other recipes to achieve inclusive workplaces

Do not take for granted that your colleague is straight and other recipes to achieve inclusive workplaces

If an LGTBI person came to your workplace, what work environment would they find? Could you easily identify that it will not be a problem to express your identity or sexual orientation normally? Say you are gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, queer... Express yourself as such with colleagues, but also with bosses and management? Would you know who to turn to if you experience hurtful comments, discrimination, or harassment inside or outside of work in the performance of your duties? Is there a protocol to respond to these situations? These questions are just an example of the first step recommended by the International Labor Organization (ILO) to make workplaces truly inclusive and safe spaces for the LGTBI community. Calls to look in the mirror of inclusion. Then, to act to get it.

The international organization has recently published a guide for governments, employers and workers' associations with tips, information and practical steps to make workplaces more inclusive. The document, which was presented in Geneva at the end of May by the director of the ILO, Guy Ryder, with the Spanish Second Vice President and Minister of Labour, Yolanda Díaz, recalls that "an inclusive work environment is more than just goodwill or absence of bullying.

given the context of discrimination Y violence that the LGTBI population still suffers, even in countries at the forefront of inclusive legislation such as Spain, the ILO report warns that inclusion must be perceived explicitly. That work be, thanks to concrete and specific measures visible to workers, a safe environment in which LGTBI people clearly perceive that they are respected, included and that, in the event of a problem of discrimination or violence, they will be protected.

A few days ago, with a view to the LGTBI Pride celebration that started this week, the CCOO and UGT unions also presented an agreement between the two organizations to bring to collective bargaining concrete measures to guarantee the rights of LGTBI workers. Among them, anti-harassment protocols in collective agreements and other agreements that govern the day to day of companies and guarantee that permits and other labor rights for families do not directly or indirectly discriminate against this group, for example.

The ILO recommends in its guide as a first step to assess how inclusive the workplace is. Some of the questions at the top of this article might help. The basic thing is to analyze what is being done in an active and visible way to guarantee equality and non-discrimination of LGTBI workers.

If the answers to these questions remain in generalities, a lack of explicit commitments, or only in good intentions and few facts, the international organization provides a broad guide with ideas that can be put in place to advance towards equality.

One of the initial steps is information. For example, the dissemination of the real situation of discrimination and violence experienced by LGTBI people. A UGT study showed, for example, that most LGTBI people, 90% of those interviewed, consider that their sexual orientation or gender identity is "an inconvenience" when it comes to finding a job. A similar percentage, 86.6%, considers it necessary to hide it when doing a job interview. More than four out of ten workers claim to have experienced some type of verbal aggression towards themselves or other LGTBI people.

Information in the work centers also to find out about the group itself. Explain what are the identities and orientations behind the acronym LGTBI(Q+)which many people may be unaware of, seems like a necessary preliminary step towards equality and the normalization of the different sexual and gender expressions.

The guide is also committed to training. Teach issues such as inclusive language in the workplace and analyze situations or contexts that can be hurtful or discriminatory for LGTBI people. The document calls on companies to review how they address their workforces, replace uniforms for men and women with neutral ones and think about facilities such as bathrooms and changing rooms if they are divided by sex.

In LGTBI groups they usually say that coming out of the closet never ends. The expression refers to the first time that these people express their sexual identities and orientations in public, but in reality they often face many situations in which they must disarm themselves again.

It often happens at work. For example, when it is assumed that a partner is heterosexual. These situations are based on 'heteronormative' behaviour, whereby a priori it is conceived that a person is heterosexual and cisgender until proven otherwise. Inclusive behaviours, which broaden the gaze to different realities and take care of these situations, can also contribute to LGTBI people feeling in an egalitarian environment.

The ILO pays special attention to the figures of bosses, directors and high levels in the workplace. It is important that all templates are inclusive, but even more so that addresses are. In a world as hierarchical as that of work, in which the employee is the weak part of the employment relationship, the messages and attitude of those in charge are decisive for people from the LGTBI community to feel safe.

The guide urges that bosses be an example, with explicit inclusive attitudes towards their teams. For example, in language, anti-discriminatory messages and LGTBI training. The international organization recommends a "visibly inclusive work culture", which can start from talks, explicit commitments in ethical codes against discrimination and messages in favor of internal and external equality at times such as the LGTBI Pride that is celebrated in June . The guide also highlights the importance of people from the LGTBI community also reaching leadership positions, as a sign of the promotion capacity of these workers.

Another key aspect is the protection of workers against discriminatory or violent conduct, which can occur with other colleagues or bosses, but also with clients, suppliers and third parties linked to the world of work. To do this, as is legally required in Spain in the case of women (Although many companies do not comply), the guide is committed to including specific procedures to prevent and react to possible cases of harassment. That the workers know who to turn to and, also, that something will be done about it.

As well as being a human rights issue, the ILO warns that several studies show that "diversity in the workplace has economic and social value", boosting "creativity and innovation" as well as higher productivity and the promotion of "the feeling of belonging" of LGTBI workers, who value this type of policy on the part of their employers.

The leaders of the CCOO and UGT unions, Unai Sordo and Pepe Álvarez, defended this week the need to "protect rights" and "confront" hate speech and "reactionary waves" that are calling into question rights already conquered, like abortion in the US. "This wave is serious, it is not a joke. And it does not depend only on a political party, which is one more manifestation of these ultra-right positions, but this is global," Sordo warned.

"To fully secure rights, society has to be part of that culture [igualitaria] in all fields. It is not only useful to have progressive laws that give rights, the most important thing is the use and universalization, the practice of these rights on a day-to-day basis in the workplace," Pepe Álvarez stressed.

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