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Embracing Inclusion: How businesses can support LGBTQ+ employees through parental transition

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Last month was LGBTQ+ Pride Month. The Pride flag was proudly displayed in many workplaces, and businesses big and small were using this moment in time to reflect on and celebrate their efforts in supporting employees of diverse backgrounds.

An area that some businesses have been focusing on is policies that address the unique needs of LGBTQ+ employees going through a parental transition. By recognising and accommodating the specific challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals during their journey to parenthood, businesses can foster a culture of acceptance and equality.

We are still a long way before truly inclusive family policies become the norm, however. According to a survey by TUC however, less than half of businesses in the UK currently have family policies that apply equally to LGBTQ+ workers.

Understanding parental transition

Let’s take a step back to understand what parental transition entails. The term refers to the process of an individual embarking on the journey to become a parent. In general, parental transition includes three key stages: 1. preparing for parenthood; 2. taking time off work; and 3. returning.

Each of these phases require different type of support. In the first phase, employees may need flexibility for medical appointments or adoption paperwork. Whereas, in the second and third phase, employees may benefit from coaching or counselling programmes that prepare them for the major life change of becoming a parent, or expanding an existing family; and then the transition back to their professional role after a leave period.

Parental transition blurs the lines between personal and professional, and our experience shows that proactively managing the preparation, leave period, and return is key to ensuring a smooth transition for both employees and employers. We have experienced first-hand the inherent business benefits of proving support throughout the transition, not least in increasing the likelihood of people remaining with their organisation following their return.

For LGBTQ+ employees, this process may include fertility treatments, adoption, surrogacy, alongside the traditional route of conception and birth of a child. LGBTQ+ employees therefore face unique circumstances during their parental transition due to legal, medical, and societal factors that can bring additional challenges.

Inclusive policies and benefits

Supportive measures that explicitly address the needs of LGBTQ+ employees going through a parental transition typically fall into the three buckets below:

  • Inclusive parental leave: companies are expanding their parental leave policies to be inclusive of LGBTQ+ employees, recognising that all parents, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, deserve equal time to bond with and care for their new child.
  • Health insurance coverage: comprehensive health insurance plans that cover fertility treatments, including assisted reproductive technologies and hormone therapy, are crucial for LGBTQ+ employees seeking to conceive or carry a child.
  • Legal assistance: providing legal support to navigate the complexities of adoption, surrogacy, or securing parental rights is crucial for LGBTQ+ employees. Businesses can offer resources or partnerships with legal professionals who specialise in LGBTQ+ family law.

Building a supportive work environment

In addition to specific benefits such as those listed above, creating a safe and inclusive work environment is essential. This includes fostering a culture of acceptance, educating employees about LGBTQ+ issues, and implementing anti-discrimination policies that protect LGBTQ+ individuals from bias or harassment.

For example, by organising workshops, training sessions, or guest speakers, businesses can raise awareness about the unique experiences and challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals on their journey to parenthood. These initiatives help foster empathy, understanding, and respect among colleagues, fostering an inclusive work environment.

At the same time, establishing LGBTQ+ employee resource groups (ERGs) can be valuable in providing support and guidance to those going through a parental transition. ERGs offer a safe space for employees to share their experiences, exchange information, and seek advice from colleagues who have undergone similar journeys. These groups can also collaborate with management to advocate for policies and benefits that address the needs of LGBTQ+ parents.

Encouraging listening and engagement

But perhaps the most important thing for companies in providing inclusive parental policies is to listen to employees’ needs, to ensure the support provided is created with their individual and unique needs in mind. HR teams should regularly seek feedback from participants to assess the effectiveness and relevance of policies, flag potential biases and gather recommendations for improvement. These results can then be communicated to the wider staff, establishing the company’s employer value proposition (EVP), priorities and values. Having regular audits can also help companies create a roadmap of their diversity and inclusion journey.

As Pride month closed, it has been encouraging to see that businesses are considering parental support measures for LGBTQ+ employees. As we move forward however, it is essential to recognise and address challenges faced by employees of all different backgrounds, in order to create a truly inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued and supported.

By Paul Armstrong, Director of People Development – Connor, NFP

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