LGBT+ workers in field-based roles

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2023 National Water, Environment & Transport Conference
21 February 2023

Conference notes that there is a lack of diversity among field-based operational roles within the WET industries. This is a real cause for concern as it hinders the creation of an inclusive and welcoming work environment in WET industries.

Field-based operational roles within WET are mostly roles that involve lone working, for example monitoring and checking of equipment in the field and visiting customer’s homes. The Health and Safety Executive advises that employers “must manage any health and safety risks before people can work alone” and that “there will always be greater risks for lone workers without direct supervision or anyone to help them if things go wrong”. Worryingly, a recent study has found that around 66% of lone workers have reported that they had experienced violence and aggression from the public in the course of their duties.

This is exacerbated for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender plus (LGBT+) workers, who sometimes encounter homophobia, biphobia and transphobia from the public. Conference knows that this is a real problem for LGBT+ workers in customer facing roles. Recent hate crime statistics show that LGBT+ hate crime is on the rise in England, Wales and Scotland. According to research from Stonewall, 1 in 8 trans people have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues.

Conference believes that people should be able to bring their whole selves to work and recognises that some LGBT+ members in these field-based roles feel unable to do so. We know that 35% of LGBT+ workers in the UK have hidden who they are at work for fear of discrimination. This rises to 46% of trans, non-binary and gender-diverse workers.

Conference recognises the importance of working to ensure that employers in the service group have effective lone working policies that incorporate appropriate provision on violence and abuse.

Conference therefore calls on the WET Service Group Executive to:

1)Urge branches to review the lone working policies of their employer and seek to negotiate improvements where necessary

2)Promote UNISON’s alone working guidance and guide on gender, safety and health widely within the service group

3)Explore and publicise best practice examples of lone working policies from within the service group

4)Encourage branches to work with employers and engage with LGBT+ UNISON members to identify and address barriers to reporting homophobic, biphobic and transphobic abuse from customers or accessing support if they are subject to such abuse.