How drinks retailers can create an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ colleagues

person writing at a desk with lgbt rainbow braclet and pride flag

As February marks the UK’s annual LGBTQ+ history month, there is no better time for drinks retailers to consider the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer colleagues who contribute to the sucess of the off-trade, as well as LGBTQ+ potential employees who are seeking a career in the industry. 

With a 2021 report by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) describing workplace inclusivity as “fundamental to good, fair work and positive employee outcomes”, it is crucial for drinks retailers to get involved by supporting queer colleagues and creating LGBTQ+ inclusive workplace policies. 

The drinks industry has a historic reputation for its lack of diversity. Hannah Lanfear, founder of The Mixing Class and Equal Measures project partner, attributes this “narrow demographic” to the lack of visibility in both hospitality venues and the off-trade, with both employees and customers not reflecting the “full spectrum of persons that inhabit our cities”. 

She says: “As a gay woman, I can attest to the idea that you might gravitate to spaces where you are made most welcome. If there are clear signals that LGBTQ+ persons are welcome, you can relax.” 

Jonathan Ford, off-trade director and sponsor of Heineken UK Open And Proud, also emphasises the importance of creating inclusive workplaces in the drinks industry: “Whether it is ensuring diversity in social media posts, visible signs in store such as the Progress flag, or ensuring a safe space for colleagues, there is no doubt that if companies can be more inclusive and embrace diversity, it can add to their success.”

As the off-trade landscape continues to evolve within a wider movement towards workplace equality, it is vital that retailers not only create an atmosphere of inclusion, but actively support LGBTQ+ employees through considered practises. 

INCLUSIVITY PRACTISES FOR RETAILERS

1. While the establishment of anti-discrimination policies is criticial for the safety of LGBTQ+ colleagues, a greater level of LGBTQ+ inclusion can also be achieved through acts of solidarity, such as displaying a Progress pride flag in-store.

Lanfear says:  “While it's a small token, putting a Progress pride flag sticker in the window of a venue signals welcome and safety to LGBTQ+ persons. For anyone looking for a job, they might feel more inclined to apply.”

2. Encouraging the sharing of pronouns, as well as discouraging assumptions about a person’s gender identity, can fundamental to the wellbeing of trans and non-binary colleagues. Stonewall estimates that 26% of trans people aren’t open about their identity at work, with the organisation also highlighting the importance of respecting one’s pronouns.

“It is important to ensure that the staff in that shop/venue have been trained on DEI, have been educated on gender diversity, and how to provide a welcome without making presumptions about gender,” says Lanfear. 

3. According to Lanfear, hiring a more diverse team of employees can “greatly benefit” a business while also widening the “audience of people who feel welcome in your business” and ensuring an improved “diversity of ideas”.

Heineken operates on the basis that their team should “reflect the society they operate in”, with Ford saying: “The same should go for retailers – they should reflect the society they operate in and make it comfortable for their people to be their true selves at work.” 

4. In addition to responsible hiring practises, Lanfear encourages retailers to establish a “structured training programme that ensures ongoing success and professional development” of LGBTQ+ staff who may have been historically denied opportunities in the off-trade. 

Organisations such as Stonewall and Mermaids also offer a selection of workplace training programmes designed to help encourage inclusivity practices in business environments, with the annual Stonewall Workplace Conference taking place in March. 

5. As 35% of LGBTQ+ people in the UK continue to hide their identity at work due to fear of discrimination, instituting a zero tolerance policy towards homophobia, biphobia and transphobia is essential and should be “communicated clearly” to employees and customers alike, according to Lanfear.

“If any such incident occurs with a customer, [it is important] that the team member is supported without question” she adds. 

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