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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

What Defines An Employer As LGBT Inclusive?

Survey takes the pulse of Canadian workplaces

By Colin Druhan and Jacq Hixson-Vulpe

Lots of employers want potential customers, clients and job seekers to see them as inclusive, and an increasing number of companies are developing strategies to target the recruitment of LGBT people. At Pride at Work Canada, we know that ensuring diversity and inclusion is hard work. Being inclusive of employees who face challenges because of their gender expression, gender identity and/or sexual orientation involves a lot more than simply putting a rainbow flag on the wall or in the window. Since 2013 we’ve been benchmarking the inclusion efforts of Canadian employers with our LGBT Workplace Inclusion Index, a uniquely Canadian tool that helps employers recognize gaps in their diversity and inclusion strategies. The complete Index is a 35-question survey that measures work in a number of areas, including:

Policies and procedures
An employer’s internal harassment, discrimination and anti-bullying policies should specifically reflect gender expression, gender identity and sexual orientation as prohibited grounds of discrimination, as well as provide examples of how biphobic, homophobic and transphobic discrimination is manifested in the workplace. Based on the 2016 findings, 74 per cent of organizations have policies that bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, but only 51 per cent have policies that specifically address gender identity and gender expression. Policies must also be reviewed on a regular basis, made easily accessible to employees, and use language that is gender-neutral.

Benefits that are relevant to all employees
The most inclusive employers understand that LGBT employees may have specific needs related to such things as mental health support, medical coverage and parental leave. The best benefits packages include drugs related to HIV/AIDS (including PrEP) and coverage for transition-related costs (including gender affirmation surgery), but many employers miss the mark. Of the employers we surveyed in 2016, only 11 per cent have benefits that cover medical transition-related costs, and the vast majority do not have a defined policy on supporting employees who transition on the job.

Diversity and inclusion training that addresses LGBT issues
One of the biggest barriers to LGBT inclusion in Canadian workplaces is employees who do not have the vocabulary and tools to ask questions in a respectful way. Organization-wide training should help people understand harassment and discrimination policies, teach people how to use respectful (vs. harmful) language, and explain how employees can get help if they experience, or are witness to, harassment.

Support for LGBT Employee Resource Groups
LGBT Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) provide space for LGBT and ally employees to connect. They can also transform workplace culture in dramatic ways. For any ERG to succeed, it needs an employer that will support it both financially and in principle. It is crucial that these groups have access to a budget as well as someone from the organization’s senior leadership. Money can help get projects off the ground, and clear guidance from the top keeps the ERG’s work in line with the company’s broader corporate values.

Want to know how your workplace measures up? Contact to get a quick assessment of your employer’s LGBT inclusion efforts.

COLIN DRUHAN is the executive director of Pride at Work Canada, a not-for-profit organization that empowers employees to foster workplace cultures that recognize LGBT employees. JACQ HIXSON-VULPE is the coordinator of Pride at Work Canada’s LGBT Workplace Inclusion Index program. For more information, visit

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