LGBT+ staff earn on average £6,700 less than straight workers

Survey finds many have not come out at work for fear of judgment or effect on career progression

LGBT+ professionals in the UK face a sizeable pay gap when compared to their straight counterparts, according to a new survey which experts said pointed to an ongoing lack of inclusion in workplaces.

A survey of 4,000 workers across the UK – including those who identified as being heterosexual, gay, bisexual or ‘other’ – revealed that LGBT+ workers earned on average 16 per cent less than straight workers, equivalent to £6,703 annually before tax.

The gap between heterosexual and LGBT+ workers is significantly higher than the most notable UK pay gap, between men and women, of 9.6 per cent. 

The research was conducted by LinkedIn and LGBT+ organisation UK Black Pride, and looked at a worker’s entire income, including any wages, salaries or rent payments received. This means it is not directly comparable to other forms of pay gap.

LinkedIn also polled workers on their experiences at work. It found two-thirds (65 per cent) believed their workplace was doing enough to support LGBT+ employees, while 21 per cent thought employers could still do more.

This was particularly true of transgender staff, with 44 per cent saying more could be done to promote inclusive workplaces. 

Joshua Graff, UK country manager at LinkedIn, said there was still a long way to go until all colleagues felt represented and included at work. “It is important that businesses build on the steps many have already taken to create more inclusive environments – places where people can bring their true, authentic selves to work,” he said. 

The survey also indicated a lack of LGBT+ representation in organisations, especially in more senior roles at work. It found 70 per cent of LGBT+ professionals said they had no senior LGBT+ colleagues to look up to. 

Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said the findings were another wake-up call for employers that action is needed to ensure all LGBT+ people felt included at work. She highlighted HR teams as playing a significant role in driving awareness and understanding about matters that affect the LGBT+ community within their organisation. 

However, she added: “It’s important to recognise that LGBT+ is a very broad grouping, so there will be lots of nuances in the issues people face at work that can’t be ignored. Language and terminology is also important, so HR needs to understand directly from people what is appropriate.”

The LinkedIn researchers also suggested this lack of representation could have an impact on people coming out at work and being open about their sexuality with their colleagues.

More than a quarter (26 per cent) of LGBT+ respondents said they were not out or open about their sexuality at work. Of these, three in ten (28 per cent) said it was because they were worried they would be judged by coworkers, and 17 per cent said it was because there were no openly LGBT+ people in their workplace. 

A sizeable 14 per cent of LGBT+ professionals felt their chances of promotion within the organisation would be hindered if they were to be open about their sexuality at work.

Prejudice and harassment were also still an issue in the workplace. One in five (21 per cent) LGBT+ respondents said they had experienced verbal abuse in the office, and 61 per cent said they have been “made to feel uncomfortable” by colleagues at some point in the workplace because of their sexuality. 

Pete Mercer, head of memberships at Stonewall, said it was crucial that workplaces become LGBT+ inclusive, as people spend most of their adult lives at work and having a supportive environment can have a huge impact on their daily lives. 

"It’s crucial that more and more employers consider how they can take steps to be LGBT inclusive, and ensure that their LGBT staff feel supported to be themselves in the workplace,” Mercer said. 

He said organisations could champion workplace inclusion through setting up staff networks, ensuring all policies and procedures are LGBT+ inclusive and monitoring sexual orientation and gender identity to monitor employee experience.