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Equality, diversity and your career: LGBT+ students

Find out about targeting diversity friendly employers and disclosing during recruitment processes.

Introduction

There is much research to show that employees will perform at their best in an environment where they can be themselves, in a place which is supportive and also respects privacy. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to treat LGBT+ staff any less favourably than other staff.

Many organisations today are now actively seeking to diversify their workforce. They also have policies in place to help make sure their workplace is a level playing field, and that there is equal opportunity in terms of recruitment, and progression for all. Many organisations also have active LGBT+ staff networks.

Yet discrimination and harassment do still exist. Most LGBT+ people will, from time to time, think twice about how open they want to be – particularly if it seems like an opportunity they really want might be on the line. For that reason, it is useful to know how LGBT+-friendly a prospective employer might be. What policies and support do they have in place? What is it really like to work in their organisation?

The following information hopefully gives you some advice and tips to reassure you on concerns you may have about disclosure and choosing the right employer. Remember that you can discuss in confidence any aspect of your career, including LGBT+ matters, with a Careers Consultant.

Targeting diversity friendly employers

A gay man, a lesbian, a bisexual person, and a trans person may well have very different experiences of the same organisation. Keep this in mind when searching for Diversity Friendly Employers. Try to find evidence that is relevant to your specific interests or concerns when researching an employer.

Policies

Look out for signs that the employer has good policies and clear statements about equality. You could, for example, research what they say on their website and in any recruitment materials. If in doubt, contact the HR department to ask.

Awards

Organisations like the charity Stonewall and the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI) have various awards schemes which offer external recognition of how LGBT+-friendly a workplace is. Stonewall's Proud Employers website showcases LGBT+-inclusive employers. Their founding partner organisations are all members of Stonewall's Diversity Champions programme. This means that they choose to work with Stonewall on making sure that their LGBT+ employees are treated equally. Proud Employers includes a comprehensive jobs board, as well as information and advice for both job seekers and employers on the rights of LGBT+ workers.

Staff groups

Many organisations have LGBT+ staff networks or groups. These may organise periodic social events or even be involved in institutional policymaking. The existence of a group can indicate how open and inclusive a workplace is. But it is still useful to check whether the group is officially recognised/supported by the employer.

Networking

The best way to find out what life is like in a particular organisation is to speak to someone who works there. To do this, you can make use of your own contacts and networking resources like Bath Connection and LinkedIn. You can see if there are any named contacts, for example, the organisers of the staff network, whom you might be able to approach in confidence.

Disclosing your sexuality during selection and recruitment

In short, it is a matter of personal choice. Your sexuality or sexual orientation has no bearing on your ability to do a particular job. There is no legal obligation to disclose these, either during the recruitment and selection process or when you are in the post. You may be asked to complete an equal opportunity monitoring form, but this is confidential and is not given to the recruiters.

Having said the above, it is important to be true to yourself, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the right thing to do is to come out. It is possible to be 'authentically' not out in certain situations, and it's always up to you how much of yourself you are comfortable sharing. But it's important to consider that not disclosing your sexuality may carry certain risks. Some research has shown that trying to keep your work and private life completely separate can take a physical and emotional toll – because eventually, it gets exhausting pretending to be what you're not.

For a personal view on issues around coming out in the workplace, it might be worth doing your own research into how others in your career sector have approached this, and what their experiences have been.

At the application stage

When considering disclosing at the application stage, it is worth reflecting on whether there are ways in which your sexuality could be helpful to you in pitching yourself to a prospective employer. For example, having been the LGBT Officer in your college likely involved organisational skills, teamwork, leadership, responsibility, and sensitivity – all qualities which employers tend to look for. Coming out to family and friends will very likely have needed, among other things, empathy and willingness to take a risk.

The employer will only know what you include in your CV or application. But your sexuality/sexual orientation may be implied - for example, if you have held a position of responsibility within an LGBT+ society. The inference may be that if you belonged to such a group then you may be gay, lesbian or bisexual. If you are unsure of disclosing your sexuality, you may wish to only state, 'involved in various organisations at university', and focus on the skills you developed instead.

When it comes to interviews or assessment centres, it's important to decide what you're comfortable with. This isn't simply a question of whether to discuss your sexual orientation. It can also be about how you behave and what image of yourself you want to project. If you decided not to disclose, then you may need to think about language, dress code, and behaviour during an interview. This may increase stress in an already stressful situation if you're distracted by second-guessing what an interviewer might assume about your sexual orientation.

Disclosing your sexuality during employment

Once you are in work, the question of how or whether you disclose may arise. You may be the sort of person who always puts their sexuality out in the open from the start. Or you may be the sort of person who prefers to get to know your colleagues and the organisation first before disclosing.

Read our blog posts on being LGBT+ at work.

Disclosing transgender status or gender identity

Protections from legislation

Transgender (or gender reassignment) is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This means that if you are transgender, an employer cannot treat your application differently to another person who is not trans. If they did it would be illegal. If you have a Gender Recognition Certificate, then the Gender Recognition Act adds further protection. This includes keeping information about your trans status confidential. This is in addition to the various Data Protection (GDPR) Acts about private information that applies to everyone.

Do I need to disclose my gender identity?

You are under no legal obligation to disclose details around this unless there is a 'genuine occupational requirement' related to the job. If this is the case an employer must show that the requirement to discriminate is a 'proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim'.

You will also need to disclose if the job requires a DBS check. In this case, you would contact the DBS Sensitivity Team and disclose your previous name and gender. This will be kept confidential and not passed on to a prospective employer.

Application forms will sometimes ask you about particular characteristics as part of equality and diversity monitoring. But this information should be separate from the job application, anonymous and optional.

However, putting aside any legal requirements for disclosure, you may wish to consider reasons for and against disclosure to your prospective employer.

Sadly, while the Equality Act and Gender Recognition Certificates are supposed to prevent discrimination, there is still significant discrimination against trans people. Using the resources on finding employers below might help you to seek out employers who are more likely to look at the positives a person with a different perspective and life experience can bring to their company.

It could be helpful to disclose your trans status to some people in work, such as HR or a line manager, particularly if want to discuss time off for progressing your transition. Employers must treat this like any medical appointment and treatment for anything else as regards time off.

It can often be stressful if you feel you need to be different and not your whole self during a job application process or at work. Being open about being trans can remove this extra stress but it is very dependent on your personal circumstances.

If you have a Gender Recognition Certificate

Once a Gender Recognition Certificate is granted, a new birth certificate is issued, and a person's sex and gender then align for all legal purposes. There is no need to declare you have a GRC unless you feel you wish to. Aside from DBS and security vetting for some jobs, the GRC is irrelevant for everything else relating to employment. It is illegal (a criminal offence under the GRA 2004) for an employer to ask anyone if they have a GRC and to see it.

Transgender status and employment checks

Right to work checks

In the UK employers have to carry out right to work checks where they confirm that a worker is legally able to work in the UK. For these checks, you will have to provide ID. If you are a British citizen this will usually involve a check of your passport or birth certificate and national insurance number. If you are not a British citizen, it will involve a check of your visa status.

You don't need a Gender Recognition Certificate to update your passport's gender or name. You can do this with a letter from your doctor or medical consultant and evidence of your name change and usage. So, if your passport shows your new name and gender, an employer wouldn't know you were transgender as part of these checks. But, if you have not yet updated your passport, or need to use your birth certificate for an ID check, then this would disclose your status to the employer.

You only need to provide these details when the employer needs them. Usually, this is at the point where you have been offered a job. At this point, if you have concerns, it is good to talk directly to HR or the recruiter about the checks. Generally, it will be HR dealing with these checks rather than your line manager. You can be explicit about who HR can tell about your trans status.

Job applications and your previous name

Revealing this will depend a great deal on the type of job you are applying for, how out you are, and whether your previous name is requested in an employment application.

If a job application requests your previous name, it is usually for the purpose of a background check. That means the employer is planning, at some point, on conducting a background check. Failure to reveal the information could be seen as a misrepresentation or, to be more exact, a material omission. If the background check is in the form of a DBS, you can contact the DBS Sensitivity Team as mentioned above. Another solution is to submit your application with your new name and then contact the HR department separately to explain the fact of transition. You can request that this information remains confidential with the HR department as a matter of medical privacy.

There might not be a previous name request, but you know a potential employer will ask for references. In this situation, contact your referee and explain that the employer will use your new name.

Further help and resources

Other pages on equality, diversity and your career

Enquiries

If you have any questions, please contact us.


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