LGBT+ staff paid less and afraid to come out at work

05 July 2019 4 min. read

LGBT+ workers receive an average annual salary of nearly £7,000 less than their ‘straight’ counterparts, a new poll revealed. According to a survey of UK employees, half would like to see more done to accommodate diversity in their office, while one in every four LGBT+ respondents added they were ‘in the closet’ at work.

With transparency regarding gender and ethnicity pay gaps currently a major watchword for modern businesses, many firms state they are striving for parity. With salary disparity said to be shrinking between those demographics, however, another pay gap which is often overlooked is that between heterosexual and LGBT+ staff.

According to recent YouGov analysis on behalf of LinkedIn, the income of LGBT+ workers is £6,703 less on average than their straight counterparts. The figures looked at more than 4,000 workers, comparing their income based on what job sector they work in.

The data, released with global Pride season in full swing, also shows that despite decades of progress battling discrimination on terms of sexuality, a large portion of workers still encounter bigotry at work. More than a third said they had heard or experienced homophobic comments, while a quarter of the LGBT+ workers surveyed confirmed they would subsequently not reveal their sexuality at work. At the same time, many feel not enough is being done to challenge this.

LGBT+ staff paid less and are afraid to come out at work

The study additionally looked at the experiences of the transgender community, for which the income gap against their straight counterparts was found to be 14%, or £5,340 of annual income. One-fifth of transgender respondents said they felt uncomfortable about their identity at work, while close to half of respondents had experienced judgmental comments from colleagues on the matter.

Echoing the idea of ‘pink washing’ – where a corporation with little interest in advancing LGBT+ rights use such activities to launder its reputation and make money – almost half of the workers surveyed said they would like to see more done at work to accommodate diversity and inclusion. To this end, other studies have found a third of people now believing Pride has become too commercial, while companies like Costa Coffee have faced criticism for using fundraising at the parade to support its internal LGBT+ network, rather than putting company funds toward the matter.

Many respondents also told YouGov they saw a need for more leaders at the top of their field from the LGBT+ community to inspire others. According to employment social network LinkedIn, meanwhile, posts about being out at work had doubled during Pride month, which runs from 8 June to 6 July, suggesting there is a growing appetite for more rapid change.

Joshua Graff, the UK Country Manager at LinkedIn, said of the YouGov study, "I definitely heard some homophobic comments in my (previous) office and that decreased my productivity. My experience of coming out at work came much later than coming out to close friends and family. Concealing such a huge part of your life from colleagues can be extremely stressful and takes up energy that could be spent excelling at your job… The stories shared by LinkedIn members and the results of this research shows that we still have a long way to go."

LGBT+ employees who are ‘in the closet’ are 70% more likely to leave a company within the first three years, while 85% of those responding to a survey by the OUTstanding network said non-inclusive workplaces have a negative impact on employees and can damage productivity. With many companies facing a heated war for talent in their particular areas of expertise, at the same time as struggling with slowing productivity, addressing this issue takes on an added importance. Whether that means businesses will finally take cohesive action on LGBT+ rights remains to be seen, however.

Efforts to promote diversity by UK employers seem to have stalled in recent times. According to a Boston Consulting Group study, 74% of all respondents said they were aware that their organisation had launched diversity programmes, but only 33% of the intended beneficiaries said they had gained anything from them. At the same time, almost half of workers in Britain feel their company has not made progress on the matter, with that figure rising among the BAME and LGBT+ communities.