Workplace Guides: Monitoring Sexual Orientation

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The Business Case

This section outlines:

What is monitoring?

Monitoring is the collection of statistical data, through questionnaires or surveys, to measure performance and improvement. It can be done through a variety of HR functions, including recruitment, training, promotion, attitude surveys, grievances and dismissals.

Monitoring is a way of measuring change and identifying issues that affect staff. By monitoring, an employer can manage its workforce more effectively, and improve its processes to tackle problems.
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Why monitor sexual orientation?

Most organisations already collect data on the ethnicity of their employees, as well as data relating to age, gender and disability. Monitoring staff enables employers to examine the make-up of their workforce. It highlights differences between groups, such as minority groups or staff from particular teams or grades, in terms of productivity, satisfaction and progression. Monitoring sexual orientation can help an organisation identify, tackle and prevent discrimination against LGB staff, which can undermine productivity.
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The legal framework

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 do not oblige employers to monitor the sexual orientation of staff. However, employers must tackle sexual orientation discrimination in order to comply with the law. Monitoring is an effective way of identifying potential and actual incidents of discrimination. If employers can identify these kinds of incidents, they can take steps to prevent them.

In Scotland, the promotion of equal opportunities, including sexual orientation, is one of the founding principles of the Scottish Parliament. The Scotland Act 1998 makes clear that public authorities should promote equal opportunities. As a result, private and public organisations in Scotland must demonstrate their commitment to equalities, which increasingly includes workforce monitoring.

Similarly, in Wales, section 120 of the Government of Wales Act 1998 means the National Assembly must also promote equalities across all government functions. This too has had an impact on the number of organisations considering monitoring in Wales.
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The benefits for organisations

BUILDS REPUTATION By identifying sexual orientation discrimination through monitoring, and tackling it, an organisation can develop a reputation for valuing diversity and protecting its staff. This will have a direct impact on the perceptions of staff, customers and clients. In fact, failing to include sexual orientation in monitoring can signal to LGB staff and potential recruits that they may not be welcome.

BOOSTS RECRUITMENT AND RETENTION Monitoring sexual orientation enables organisations to recruit and retain the best people from the widest pool of talent, by identifying and removing barriers that LGB people may face. These barriers may include discriminatory policy or a workplace culture where homophobic banter is accepted. Thirty six per cent of LGB employees state they will change careers if discrimination against them continues.

INCREASES PRODUCTIVITY Using monitoring to identify and tackle sexual orientation discrimination helps staff motivation and performance. LGB employees who feel their employer has an inclusive culture feel able to be themselves at work. Staff who are able to be themselves are happier at work, and more productive.

AVOIDS RISK Monitoring sexual orientation can help identify discrimination within an organisation. Avoiding discrimination and actively reviewing discriminatory policies is the most effective way to comply with employment law, and avoid costly and damaging employment tribunals. Recruiting and training a replacement employee can be costly.

Sexual orientation monitoring was introduced throughout Staffordshire Police Authority's HR functions and included in its Employee Opinion Survey in 2001. This has fed into the organisation's diversity strategies and action plans. Over time, membership of the LGB employee network has increased and the number of out LGB officers has also risen. All officers within the force are made aware of the importance of LGB issues, in both employment and crime prevention services.

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The benefits for lesbian and gay employees

FACILITATES COMMUNICATION Monitoring on the basis of sexual orientation gives LGB employees an opportunity to highlight unfair practice at work, and to let their employer know what could be changed to improve their working environment.

At Nacro, the crime reduction charity, the annual Equality and Diversity Audit asks employees to identify their sexual orientation. It also asks employees to comment on the organisation's diversity and inclusion policies and initiatives. In the first Audit in 2000, employees established the need for an LGB employee network, which was duly set up. This has had a positive impact on staff morale, as well as the organisation's reputation and recruitment.

 ENCOURAGES ENGAGEMENT Sexual orientation monitoring makes LGB equality visible, and helps create an environment where staff can be out if they want to be. LGB staff are more likely to be comfortable in an organisation if they are confident that their employer takes LGB equality seriously. Demonstrating a long-term commitment to equality contributes to increasing staff engagement.

INCREASES AWARENESS Monitoring sexual orientation at work, in conjunction with other initiatives, will normalise the idea of LGB equality in the same way that ethnic monitoring has increased awareness of race equality issues. This will reinforce all employees' understanding of - and commitment to - anti-discrimination and dignity at work policies, and will create a more inclusive working environment for all.
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The benefits for customers and clients

IMPROVES PRODUCTS AND SERVICES An increased awareness of LGB issues leads to better understanding of, and effective service delivery to, LGB customers. Monitoring is one way for an employer to engage with and understand LGB needs and issues.

CUSTOMER LOYALTY Research indicates that 74 per cent of LGB consumers and 42 per cent of straight consumers are less likely to buy products from companies that hold negative views of lesbians and gay men. LGB people are more likely to engage with organisations whose employees reflect their own identities.

IBM's diversity initiatives aim to create a varied workforce that will be more creative, encourage innovation, mirror the marketplace and reflect potential customers.

Barclays believes sexual orientation monitoring has contributed to a wider programme of work regarding LGB staff equality, and LGB equality in general. The organisation's outreach initiatives within the wider LGB community have had a positive impact on the bank's external reputation. In 2005, Barclays was voted 'top gay-friendly bank or financial institution' by readers of the Pink Paper.

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