Hybrid and remote working for LGBT+ workers in WET

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2023 National Water, Environment & Transport Conference
21 February 2023

Conference notes that since the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a marked shift towards home or hybrid working in the WET sector. In pre-pandemic times, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender plus (LGBT+) workers faced challenges in the workplace, including discrimination, harassment and a lack of inclusivity. While we note that there are advantages to agreed hybrid or remote working, such as greater flexibility and work/life balance, it can also pose particular issues for LGBT+ workers.

Remote or hybrid working can create further barriers for LGBT+ workers to access support, resources and social connections that can be found in an office environment. Hybrid working can also be isolating for a number of LGBT+ workers. We saw in the pandemic, that some LGBT+ workers had to work from spaces where they were not out, or which were not accepting of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBT+ workers who once were able to use their workplace to be themselves, may not be able to express themselves the same as in the office, which can take a toll on their mental health.

Conversely, research undertaken to find out LGBT+ worker attitudes to hybrid and remote working has found that it has made it harder for some LGBT+ people to come out at work. This is because there are not the opportunities to build personal relationships with colleagues and LGBT+ workers may not know of existing employee support spaces and networks if they are not physically present in the office.

Research also shows that pre-pandemic, many LGBT+ workers felt disadvantaged when it came to career progression. In a Stonewall report in 2018, one in ten LGBT+ people said they felt they didn’t get a promotion at work in the previous year because they were LGBT+. This number rose to 24% of trans people. A report by Incomes Data Research (IDR) titled ‘Hybrid and homeworking and implications for pay’ found that, whilst most organisations were making efforts to promote team working between office-based staff and home or hybrid workers, few respondents had put specific initiatives in place to ensure homeworkers continued to receive the same opportunities for career development, progression or promotion.

As we navigate our way out of the pandemic and into new ways of working, conference recognises the need to work to ensure that employers have appropriate policies on remote and hybrid working which include ensuring that no worker feels unsupported. UNISON has a bargaining guide and model policy on working from home and hybrid working which includes guidance on issues such as mental health, switching off from work and career progression and development.

Conference calls on the WET Service Group Executive to work with the national LGBT+ committee and other sections of the union as appropriate to:

1)Promote the UNISON bargaining guide on working from home and hybrid working widely within the service group.

2)Encourage branches in the service group to use the bargaining guide to review employer policies and seek to negotiate improvements where necessary in line with the model policy

3)Publicise ways in which LGBT+ members in the service group, including those undertaking hybrid and remote working, can participate in UNISON’s LGBT+ self-organised structures.