Policy Agenda

Making your legal practice LGBTI+ friendly

The Law Council of Australia is committed towards promoting full and equal participation across the legal profession by ensuring LGBTI+ people feel included, safe and comfortable in their workplace, and are not discriminated against. The Law Council has and continues to contribute to debate and law reform concerning freedom from discrimination, as seen in our various publications, releases and submissions.

A note on language

LGBTI+ stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex. The ‘+’ can include other letters, including Q (Queer or Questioning), A (Asexual), or P (Pansexual). The acronym is intended to be inclusive of a diverse group of people based on sexual orientation and sex and/or gender identity. While this webpage uses the acronym LGBTI+, the Law Council and its Constituent Bodies acknowledge the limitations of and controversy associated with the acronym, including that not everyone within the communities sought to be included under this single term is comfortable with the term.

This is in part because, for example, issues concerning sex and/or gender identity are very different to issues concerning sexual orientation. We adopt the outlook of Pride in Diversity, who acknowledge that ‘terminology can be contentious, but we also understand the importance of a consistent language for employers. We use the acronym LGBTI as a representative term for our community. We do not in practice, education, service delivery or intention exclude any one identity or person from within our community’.

Out for Australia has a number of helpful free resources, including A Word on Language, which introduces and explains some key terms.

Your responsibility

Under the Sex Discrimination Act 1984 (Cth) it is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status. Organisational policies, processes and training should be reviewed to ensure they do not discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation, sex and/or gender identity or intersex status. Importantly, beyond ensuring no discrimination, organisations should seek to make their workplaces truly inclusive of all people, including LGBTI+ people.

Why it’s important

It is important for workplaces to consider how they can support LGBTI+ people to feel safe and comfortable in their workplace. According to BeyondBlue, those in the LGBTI+ community are more likely to suffer depression and anxiety and experience higher rates of suicide and self harm than the rest of the population. This is linked to discrimination, prejudice, abuse and exclusion that LGTBI+ people often experience. An LGBTI+ employee may be one of few LGBTI+ people at an organisation, especially if they work in a small firm or in a regional or rural practice. This can contribute to a sense of isolation and exclusion.

Moreover, members of the LGBTI+ community may be more likely to experience intersectionality, if they feel affected by multiple threats of overlapping discrimination (for example, homophobia and racism). There is some useful guidance on this in the Out for Australia resource, Stereotypes and Intersectionality.

How to make your workplace LGBTI+ inclusive and friendly

Organisations can use a range of measures to make their workplaces more inclusive and safe for LGBTI+ people. These include things like inclusive policies, procedures, support networks, mentoring opportunities, training and workshops. Below are some examples of measures to help improve LGBTI+ inclusiveness in the workplace. While many of these measures are simple and easily achievable for all, some may be difficult for smaller employers to implement due to resourcing; however, there may be industry-wide options that can be leveraged or joined to assist in this regard.

Welcoming strategies

Mentoring programs and support networks

Training sessions

Workplace policies and procedures

Leadership within the organisation and broader community

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