In this chapter:
Network groups are a key way for employers to engage lesbian, gay and bisexual staff and promote equality in the workplace. Many participants felt that the majority of organisations who have LGB networks do very little to encourage bisexual staff members to participate in the group. Many participants told us that they felt LGB networks primarily catered for lesbians and gay men and that bisexual issues were not on the group's agenda.
Bisexual staff can be encouraged to participate in networks by:
Manchester City Council's Equal Opportunities in Employment policy contains a paragraph on why bisexual men and women may face unique issues in the; workplace. It states, 'The Council recognises that bisexual people may be the target of specific discrimination and that their experiences often differ from those of lesbians and gay men. The Council recognises that fear of discrimination is the major factor which forces bisexual people to conceal their sexuality and to present themselves as heterosexual, lesbian or gay depending on the situation'.
The Home Office LGBT Network, Spectrum, includes several strand-specific representatives. This includes a bisexual rep who is responsible for promoting bisexual inclusion within the network. Spectrum also produces posters with contact details of the bisexual rep encouraging bisexual employees and other interested parties to get in contact. Several other public bodies including the Environment Agency and the umbrella group Civil Service Rainbow Alliance (CSRA) follow a similar model.
Making LGB employee networks inclusive is only one way to engage with bisexual employees. Participants indicated that they would like their employers to promote bisexuality in the workplace beyond networks particularly because some individuals did not feel comfortable joining network groups for LGB staff. To do this, employers should endeavour to raise awareness of all staff on issues that affect bisexuals. Using already established means of promoting diversity and communicating inclusive workplaces, employers can encourage bisexual engagement.
Organisations that have an appointed diversity or lead champion for sexual orientation should ensure that bisexual issues are being appropriately raised within the diversity group, the executive board and throughout the entire organisation.
As part of their work to strengthen ties with the bisexual community, Sussex Police's champion for LGB issues attended a bisexual community event in Brighton. This served to ensure that any concerns the bisexual community had could be answered by a senior police officer and to raise awareness of bisexual issues within the organisation, particularly at senior levels.
Effective bisexual engagement may include:
The Rainbow Network supports the Ministry of Justice to develop good practice on sexual orientation and gender identity within the organisation. As part of this work it runs a catalogue of events, available for all staff, including a workshop on bisexual awareness. It includes discussion on the accuracy of stereotypes that surround bisexuality and the impact of biphobia.
National Offender Management Service (NOMS) network for LGBT staff members, GALIPS, aims to promote awareness and good practice in sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace. In their newsletter, Respect, they profiled their chair who used this opportunity to promote bisexual awareness and dispel myths. NOMS' training package on sexual orientation also includes awareness information on bisexuality.
Some bisexual staff perceive that both lesbian and gay and straight staff are allocated more resources and support in the workplace. They also feel that because many bisexual people are not out at work they are unable to access training and development initiatives. Employers should ensure that generic career development opportunities are promoted to bisexual staff through the staff network and internal communications. At the same time bespoke work should be done on increasing support to marginalised bisexual staff.
These might include: