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UK retailers not LGBT friendly

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Stonewall, the charity which supports lesbian, gay and transgender people in the UK and abroad, have published a list of the Top 100 LGBT-friendly employers in the UK. Sadly only two retailers make it into the top; Asda and The Co-Operative Group. Where then are the high street retailers, the department store groups and the fashion conglomerates? As Gay Pride celebrations marches its way around the world in July and August, Stonewall's Group Manager Vicky Constance states the battle for LGBT rights is far from over.

Stonewall's Workplace Equality Index is a benchmark used to identify the Top 100 employers for the gay community. The index showed less than half of the 16 retail organizations that were submitted in 2016 have anti-discrimination policies which address harassment based on someone's actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity. Only 31 per cent of those 16 retailers are training staff on basic equality legislation, such as the Equality Act 2010, which includes the provision of goods and services to lesbian, gay, bi and trans people. Think back to last year's Christian-run bakery who refused to produce a cake for a customer with a pro-gay marriage slogan. The case ended up in Irish courts and the bakery was found guilty of discrimination.

How should a retailer respond to a trans person in the changing rooms?

Stonewall's Vicky Constance noted: "It’s understandable that our retailers need to address areas like accessibility in stores, and improving the gender balance among home delivery drivers. But what about the trans customer who faces uncertainty and fear of discrimination each time they want to use the changing rooms? Or the mum who can’t find an engagement card for her son and future son-in-law?"

Constance further states an LGBT-friendly retailer must have an inclusive policy, but bringing that to life is something different. "Our retailers consistently tell us that the leadership of the store manager is crucial to success, but so often I hear store managers say they know banter goes too far and they aren’t equipped to challenge it. For example, machinery is 'gay' when it breaks, staff play the guessing game when they can’t be sure of a customer’s gender, and security guards still aren’t sure whether they can respond to customers who complain about the two men who are holding hands while doing their weekly shop."

Oddly, the retail community should be embracing the Pink Pound, a term used to coin the purchasing power of the gay community. In the UK the pink pound is worth over 6 billion pounds per year, the same value of all the takings on London's Oxford Street.

While many companies and corporations market specific products ranges directly aimed at the gay community through advertising and social media, the companies themselves may entirely lack anti-discrimination policies.

"Our LGBT communities are louder and prouder than ever

Constance further states: "Our LGBT communities are louder and prouder than ever before, and they’re your customers, too. Encourage your staff to fundraise for local LGBT charities, consider diversifying the magazines you sell, celebration cards you offer and whether you really need to divide children’s toys by gender. Be more conscious of the LGBT calendar and celebrate things like Pride in stores and in public. This year retailers likes John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Tesco, and O2 were all at Pride, and all received a rapturous reception from the one million-plus people in the crowd."

Photo credit: Wikipedia, Stonewall Facebook

gay pride
Workplace Equality Index