Creating a friendly workplace for LGBT staff


20 / 04 / 2010

The mental health and learning disability service provider was ranked as the best performing employer in the healthcare sector, coming top of the 54 health organisations in the list and 19th in the overall index, scoring 171 points out of a possible 200.

  • The organisation
  • What we did and why
  • How we did it
  • Results and next steps
  • Ten top tips
  • Further information and contact details 
  • The organisation

    Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust is one of the largest mental health and learning disability providers in the UK providing regional and national services. It provides a range of services in settings that vary from the community, through acute wards and residential units. The trust employs over 6,000 staff at over 100 sites and its budget for 2010/11 is £297m.

    What we did and why

    The Workplace Equality Index is Stonewall's comprehensive annual benchmarking exercise that showcases Britain's top employers for Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual (LGB) staff. In September 2008 Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust submitted evidence to Stonewall as part of the Workplace Equality Index for 2009.  This was the trust’s first time participating in this benchmarking exercise and were awarded 169th place, receiving 94 points out of a possible 200. 

    This assessment provided a very clear indication of where the organisation was, identifying both its strengths and weaknesses and highlighting the fact that they did not appear to be meeting the needs of a number of its staff.  Specifically, the assessment showed that the organisation:

    • did not engage LGB staff effectively
    • did not provide career development opportunities for this under-represented group
    • did not adequately raise awareness of LGB issues across the organisation
    • did not always provide a safe environment in which to work- one in which individuals could be open about their sexuality or gender identity; indeed to be themselves.

    The key leadership challenges for the trust were:

    • to communicate its commitment to equality and diversity, including Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans (LGBT) equality, across a large organisation with over 100 sites across three counties
    • to demonstrate senior management commitment to improving outcomes for all under-represented groups, including LGBT staff
    • to ensure a workplace where bullying and harassment were not tolerated
    • to engage with a group of staff who did not necessarily feel safe to be ‘out’ at work, to understand their needs and support them to be able to contribute to policy development and partnership working
    • to provide training and awareness raising specifically on LGBT issues.

    How we did it

    Good leadership was imperative for the success of the project.  The trust’s executive director for nursing and allied health professionals was able to ensure that equality and diversity was part of the trust’s board agenda. Even though all board members became equality and diversity champions in their own right; this lead executive role was essential.

    Funding was provided:

    • to facilitate the organisation of the LGBT steering group  and forum in addition to the other equality and diversity strand groups
    • to produce marketing materials to be produced - the guidebook ‘30 Ways to be LGBT friendly’
    • for LGBT awareness training
    • for development opportunities for staff.

    How did you meet the leadership challenges?

    There were few challenges from the executive team, who recognised both the business and ethical benefits of this work, and commitment was evident from the wider trust board.  The challenge was to translate this enthusiasm and assurance into a reality for all staff in the differing levels of the organisation, to challenge thoughts and attitudes, to win hearts and minds, to try to help staff feel safe to ‘be themselves.’

    The trust board agreed to create a new senior management post within the organisation to lead on this work, namely the head of equality and diversity.  Budgets were allocated to support this work and it is important to note that these were adequate and not an excessive cost.  True engagement with staff from the LGBT communities was then able to begin as the necessary resources were in place.  This enabled a planned programme of action to begin, monitored by the equality and diversity sub committee of the trust board.

    The programme of action included:

    • Awareness training on LGBT issues from first day induction.
    • The development of a comprehensive programme of equality and diversity training using different mediums from e-learning to theatre-based training;  incorporating all equality and diversity strands.
    • Clear demonstration of executive commitment, for example, the chief Executive raising the ‘Rainbow Flag’ above the trust’s headquarters for LGBT history month, the executive lead for equality and diversity attending meetings of the LGBT forum, highlighting LGBT issues as part of the trust’s management development programmes etc.
    • Reviewing trust staff policies, to ensure that they met the needs of all of our diverse groups and that they used inclusive language.
    • Hosting road-shows of the LGBT forum and steering group across the trust sites, encouraging attendance from staff and managers who were not able to make meetings at HQ and improving accessibility.
    • Initiating a publicity campaign across all strands of equality and diversity in the form of a series of postcards.
    • Publication of the ‘30 Ways to be LGBT Friendly’ booklet, launched by the chief executive.
    • Encouraging and supporting under-represented groups to take up development opportunities.
    • Hosting a stand at Nottingham Pride, resulting in the recruitment of 232 public members from the LGBT community.
    • Sharing good practice and strengthening relationships with partners in the statutory, third and voluntary and community sectors.

    Results and next steps

    Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust was ranked as the best performing employer in the healthcare sector, coming top of the 54 health organisations in the list and 19th in the overall index, scoring 171 points out of a possible 200.   

    The trust was highlighted for the success of its LGBT steering group and forum and for partnership working with the LGBT community and other sectors.   It was also praised for raising the rainbow flag at the trust’s headquarters in Nottingham in honour of LGBT history month.  

    The trust was scored on anonymous feedback from a survey designed to sample workplace culture, covering both policy and practice.  As one of the top 20 organisations, it was also independently evaluated through an assessment visit. 

    Tips for other trusts

    The business rationale to support such a project:

    • There are numerous challenges in the NHS: political and economic.  With the need to make cost improvements, often resulting in reducing numbers of staff, a focus on employee motivation and morale is essential.
    • The new Equality Act demands greater equity between equality and diversity strand groups with an active approach to meeting the needs of all strands.
    • World class commissioning and the drive to provide truly patient centred services which meet individual needs, demands that there is a workforce that  is committed, motivated, supported and adequately trained in understanding the needs of all our diverse communities.

    Ten Top Tips

    1. Ensure a clear vision from the top with demonstrable executive commitment.
    2. Work with managers and staff to raise awareness of LGBT issues, the impact of discrimination and disadvantage and the benefits of a motivated workforce.
    3. Seek the views of the experts - staff, unions, service users, patients and carers are your biggest assets.
    4. Actively engage under-represented communities in challenging systems and in policy development.
    5. Celebrate all strands of equality and diversity with enthusiasm, and none at the expense of others.
    6. Identify and make known the impact of multiple discrimination(s).
    7. Ensure clear and equitable communication, which is accessible.
    8. Display openness and transparency of practices and decision making, where possible.
    9. Practice ‘Zero Tolerance’ on bullying, harassment and discrimination.
    10. Work in partnership with your local communities.

    Further information and contact details

    Catherine Conchar, Head of Equality & Diversity, 0115 993 4543 or email


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