There is much research to show that employees will perform at their best where they can be themselves and be in an environment which is supportive and also respects privacy. The Equality Act 2010 incorporated existing sexual orientation legislation and makes it unlawful to treat LGBT+ staff any less favourably than other staff.
Many organisations today are now actively seeking to diversify their workforce but also have policies in place to help ensure 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 unquestionably still exist, and most LGBT+ people will, from time to time, think twice about how open they want to be – particularly if it seems like a job you 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 they have in place, and what it's really like – on the ground – to work in their organisation.
The following information hopefully gives you some advice and tips to reassure you on some concerns you may have about disclosure and choosing the right employer. Remember too, that you can discuss in confidence any aspect of your career, including LGBT+ matters, with a Careers Adviser.
Targeting diversity friendly employers
When searching for Diversity Friendly Employers, first keep in mind that a gay man, a lesbian woman, a bisexual person, and a trans person may well have very different experiences of the same organisation. When researching an employer, try to find evidence that's relevant to your specific interests or concerns.
Look out for signs that the employer has good policies and clear statements about equality, e.g. by researching what they say on their website and in any recruitment materials. If in doubt, contact the HR department to ask.
Organisations like the charity Stonewall and the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI) have various awards schemes which offer external recognition of how LGB&T-friendly a workplace is.
Stonewall's Starting Out guide showcases the Top 100 LGBT-inclusive employers. All of the organisations listed in the guide are members of the charity's Diversity Champions programme, i.e. they choose to work with Stonewall on ensuring that their LGBT+ employees are treated equally. It has detailed profiles of different employers as well as sector overviews and first-hand insight from LGBT workplace role models.
View the Starting Out guide
Many organisations have LGB&T staff networks or groups, who may organise periodic social events or even be involved in institutional policy-making. The existence of a group can indicate how open and inclusive a workplace is, but it's probably useful to check whether the group is officially recognised/supported by the employer.
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, e.g. 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. There is no legal obligation to disclose your sexuality or sexual orientation, either during the recruitment and selection process or when you are in post, as this has no bearing on your ability to do a particular job. You may be asked to complete an equal opportunity monitoring form, but this is confidential and 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 work and private life absolutely 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's worth considering 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 probably involved organisational skills, teamwork, leadership, responsibility, and sensitivity – all qualities which employers tend to look for. And coming out to family and friends will very likely have needed, amongst other things, empathy and willingness to take a risk.
The employer will only know what you include in your CV or application, however, your sexuality / sexual orientation may become obvious 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 must be gay, lesbian or bisexual. If you are unsure of disclosing your sexuality, you may wish to simply state, "involved in various organisations at university" and focus on the skills you developed.
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, behaviour during an interview, and this may significantly increase stress to 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 trans status during the application process
Most of the information above is also relevant to Trans students. However, in addition, Trans people often find themselves having to educate those around them including employers about what it means to be trans. One possible motive for disclosing your trans status in an application is that it gives you an opportunity to explain what, if any, steps you would like the employer to take when you're invited to interview.
Your specific situation will determine what you will want to disclose, if, when, and how. Whatever you decide, you should make sure that you know your legal rights. There is some excellent advice for trans people on the TARGETjobs website, as well as a list of further resources. Go to TARGETJobs
You may have a gender recognition certificate (GRC), in which case it is a criminal offence for someone, including your employer, to tell anyone that you were born a different gender to the one in which you now live.
There are many ways in which you might consider using your experiences as a trans person in applications or at interviews as evidence of your strengths and personal attributes. Things like emotional resilience, self-leadership, adaptability, confidence and maturity, empathy, awareness of people's differences – all of which are highly sought-after by employers.
Further help and resources
Other pages on equality, diversity and your career