Newcastle City Council has been ranked as one of the best employers in the country for its commitment to equality and diversity by Stonewall, the national LGBT (lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender) charity. The council has been placed ninth in the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2018, a leap of 29 places from last year.
The free-to-enter index looks at how employers support LGBT staff and ranks the top 100. All too often lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are not supported to be open about who they are in the workplace. This can impact both on an employee’s performance and their health and wellbeing.
Organisations that enter the index are required to compile an evidence-based submission covering 10 different areas of practice, from policy to community engagement. Stonewall sought feedback directly from entrants’ employees through a survey covering key indicators of workplace culture.
Our senior managers and directors have been at the forefront in leading and promoting the work around the index and LGBT equality. Many are part of the council’s LGBT ally scheme; signalling their visibility and support for any LGBT members of staff who may need it.
Allies are heterosexual people who believe LGBT people should experience full equality in the workplace. They recognise LGBT people perform better at work when they can be themselves in an inclusive culture. Allies can be staff at any level, for instance the leader of an organisation that puts equality at the heart of its business or a junior staff member who challenges homophobic banter among colleagues. All allies wear a Stonewall star pin badge and include Stonewall’s logo on their email signature so they are instantly recognisable.
Senior managers and directors also regularly engage with the council’s active staff group, which offers a safe and welcoming environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender staff to discuss issues that may affect them. It also ensures equality issues are embedded and included within the council’s policies, processes and procedures and to assist with developing good practices.
The network has helped to shape and develop our LGBT e-learning module which other staff across the council undertake in order to gain awareness of issues facing LGBT people. The group is also open to staff members requiring help, support or advice or managers wanting to find out how best to support staff.
Newcastle recognises that a vital part of being inclusive is developing policy and practices which are LGBT inclusive. The council has ensured all policies are written using gender neutral language. We have an explicit statement in our equality policy stating that we will not accept prejudice or discrimination in any form.
We also state that we will treat all our employees and people who apply for our jobs fairly. We want our workforce to reflect the diversity of our city. This helps us to understand and respond to the needs of our customers and their diversity.
We want to be an employer that provides a workplace where people from different backgrounds can enjoy working, making full use of people’s talents and skills.
This year’s Stonewall index has assessed organisations on their transgender inclusion for the first time.
The council has a long history of trans inclusion and this year has redeveloped a fully- comprehensive transgender policy. This includes details around special leave for staff undergoing transitioning, dress code, support and advice for staff and managers and issues relating to confidentiality and privacy.
Over the past year we have continued to work with local transgender organisations to raise awareness of the issues that trans people face on a daily basis. In May 2017 the council joined with the NHS and other organisations (police, education, unions and LGBTI groups) to organise a ground-breaking conference aimed at raising awareness and understanding the needs of the local trans community.
Ewen Weir, director for people, Newcastle City Council