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'People who work in more accepting companies enjoy better health - physically and mentally, and this translates into performance for the entire organization.' - so begins the latest publication by the Love Does Not Exclude Association about LGBT+ communities in the workplace. 14 multinational corporations with operations in Poland shared their experiences in creating open and inclusive spaces for all employees, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.

The need for safe harbor

The 'Bezpieczne przystanie' report is the fruit of collaboration between two sectors: non-governmental and business. The leading theme of this study is the question 'Why talk about LGBT+ people in the workplace?'. It is answered by companies, presenting concrete actions leading to the creation of places where every employee, feels important, accepted and needed, and where he or she has the space for full professional realization.

On average, we spend half of our lives at work. The atmosphere in it, the sense of security and belonging to a particular place plays an important role in the social development of each employee. It directly affects his motivation, task completion, which in turn translates into the very success of the company.

The report's co-author, Hubert Sobecki of the Milosc nie wyklucza Association, draws attention to the essence of employers' actions, to the need for their presence in the process of building a supportive society. - In an ideal world, where sexual orientation and gender identity have no impact on our quality of life, this publication would not be necessary. However, in Poland in 2022, for LGBT+ people facing social stigma, exclusion and violence, it is the workplace that can become a safe haven, Sobecki emphasizes.

How to build an open and safe business for employees

Equal opportunity, diversity and inclusion of people from the LGBT+ community in the context of the workplace is a topic that is slowly but increasingly coming to the fore in discussions focused on caring for the wellbeing of employees. Karolina Radziszewska, vice president of human resources at Skanska's office company for Central and Eastern Europe, stresses that in the era of the interpenetration of employees' private and professional spheres, it is difficult to draw a line where the area of the employer's influence on the health and well-being of the team ends. These spheres intermingle. Therefore, compensatory measures aimed at the LGBT+ employee community are not only within the scope of the employer's activities, but are simply the right thing to do, worthy of attention, time and energy. In our daily work, it is very important to monitor the situation of all employees, including LGBT+ employees, on an ongoing basis. After all, what they experience in the workplace has a significant impact on their overall mental health. That is why it is so important to support various initiatives, groups and employee networks dealing with LGBT+ people in companies,' Radziszewska noted.

Pride Month celebrations, participation in the Equality March, integration of the LGBT+ community and allies, workshops and trainings on LGBT+ topics, guides on good practices for LGBT+ inclusion, or collections for local LGBT+ organizations operating in Poland are some examples of actions taken by corporations. One of them is the creation and development of a 'rainbow' support employee network at the office company Skanska, which supported the creation of the 'Bezpieczne przystanie' report financially, organizationally and substantively, This network, which has been in operation since 2021, focused at the beginning of its activities on the implementation of a cross-cutting internal training program in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion (Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, or DE&I for short), with a special focus on the topic of LGBT+ people. This is an example of an activity with a much broader reach than the "rainbow" community, contributing to building a sense of security for a diverse group of employees.

Is it easy to be LGBT in Poland?

70% of people in the LGBT community have experienced at least one type of violent behavior based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the study 'The social situation of LGBTA people in Poland. Report for 2019-2020,' prepared by the Campaign Against Homophobia (KPH) and the Center for Research on Prejudice. In addition, KPH reports that over the course of four years (since 2017), the number of LGBT+ people in Poland who meet the diagnostic criterion for depression has increased by almost half.

- Despite the fact that the law in Poland has not changed for years - LGBT+ people can pretty much only count on legal protection from employment discrimination - an alternative reality has fortunately been created by many employers. In business, not only is discrimination based on sexual orientation, identity or gender characteristics unacceptable, but affirmative action is being taken for rainbow families or transgender employees. Employers in Poland are thus doing much more than the law requires of them, comments Anna Mazurczak, an attorney at Knut Mazurczak, a law firm specializing in protecting the rights of LBGT+ people.

In the latest report by the Milosc nie wyklucza Association, the authors point out that the area of employment is unfortunately the only one in which the protection of the rights of LGBT+ people is guaranteed by law in Poland. Legal loopholes from other spheres significantly affect the daily life and mental health of LGBT+ employees, which does not go unnoticed in the professional space.

Business that does not exclude

Creating a set of good practices in the report is to pay attention to the changes that are increasingly visible and, above all, real in Polish business. Drawing on the experience of multinational corporations, creating communities at work based on respect for LGBT+ employees, on supporting diversity, business is making a positive impact on whole societies. This, in turn, is an active and direct implementation of sustainability or ESG focused on the social layer.

The 'Bezpieczne przystanie' report is available in Polish and English at: https://biznesniewyklucza.pl/ The study presents examples of best practices from companies such as: 3M, Accenture, BlaBlaCar, Deloitte, Denton, Google, Intel, JLL, NatWest Group, Nokia, PwC, QIAGEN, Skanska and Standard Chartered. Gazeta.co.uk, MyCompany, Noizz, Queer.co.uk were media patrons of the publication.