One of the government’s aims in its equality strategy which it published at the end of last year, was to work with business to develop a fairer and “more flexible” labour market that draws on the talents of all workers.

The Home Office has now published a research document identifying the barriers to employers in developing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender-friendly (LGB&T) workplaces.

Key findings of the research include:

  • Employers should treat issues of sexual orientation and gender identity separately.
  • Motivators to make workplaces more LGB&T-friendly include perceived business benefits, legislation and a general concern for equality and diversity.
  • Barriers to action include inertia, nervousness about discussing and tackling this issue, lack of knowledge, belief that action is unnecessary and prioritising other equality strands.
  • There is a lack of evidence on the business benefits of making workplaces more LGB&T friendly.
  • Employer action on transgender equality is mainly stimulated by and focused on supporting staff through transitioning, rather than making workplaces transgender-friendly generally.
  • To improve transgender-friendliness at work requires tackling hostility and ignorance in society, as well as action in the workplace.

TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said: "It is encouraging to see the government giving such a clear lead to employers about the importance of LGBT rights at work.

"However, it's disappointing that the government missed the opportunity to refer to the important role of unions in representing and supporting LGBT members, and working with employers to promote diversity at work."

The study was based on qualitative interviews with 27 employers at differing stages of developing LGB&T policies and practices, as well as interviews with seven LGB&T and stakeholder organisations.

It also relied on a brief literature review of business benefits of LGB&T policies and practices research and a web search to identify specialist providers of employer support for developing LGB&T policies and practices.

The fieldwork was carried out in spring 2010.