LGBTQ+ advocates share the importance of creating inclusive workplaces and helping their employees.
Seventy-seven per cent of LGBTQ+ millennials are either already parents or are considering having children, while 63% are considering becoming parents for the first time, or having more children.
But new research by Fertility Matters At Work suggests there’s still a long way to go regarding employers recognising that paths to parenthood are different for LGBTQ+ workers.
Michael Johnson-Ellis, co-founder and co-CEO of TwoDadsUK and My Surrogacy Journey, says, “Privacy is also a prevalent issue to family building in the workplace for members of the LGBTQ+ community. This is especially true if you’re not out yet, as explaining your family-building decision to strangers can be triggering.
“Being a gay parent, most of us comment that there is the ‘second outing’. For example, we always have to explain to others where our child’s Mum or Dad is. Also, as a gay man wanting to take full advantage of adoption/surrogacy leave, my work commitment was questioned, “why would you want to take a year off work?” as I was the first man ever requesting time off with my child.”
Consultant Perinatal Psychologist at Parenthood in Mind, Julianne Boutaleb, suggests one of the reasons for these challenges may be because it’s not recognised, expected or usualised in some workplaces for LGBTQ+ members of staff to be building families.
Boutaleb says, “Workplaces need to signal to a couple or individual that they expect their employees to go on to build a family. They can do this in a variety of ways, for example showcasing alternative family structures, appointing LGBTQ+ champions, [and/or] allowing employees in the workplace to talk about their experiences.
“Secondly, it’s important that it is acknowledged that the route to parenthood can be much more complex and onerous for LGBTQ+ people. It may involve, for example, the need for overseas travel, extended periods abroad, plus legal and financial challenges, all of which may put extra pressure on LGBTQ+ employees. In addition, bringing up these highly personal issues with your manager could make someone feel intensely vulnerable. However, if it’s clear that management has an understanding and appreciation of LGBTQ+ family building, it will reduce the likelihood of employees feeling stressed or anxious about raising these issues with their managers.
Becky Kearns, co-founder of Fertility Matters At Work, adds, “Our work supporting intended parents through surrogacy has found that most work policies that talk about adoption often overlook the fact that adoptive leave is also the only legal guidance for those who have biological children via surrogacy arrangements. There is a stark absence of the term ‘Intended Parents’ from the majority of workplace policies, it’s as if it doesn’t exist and ultimately leaves people feeling isolated and unsupported on their family-building journey.
“By ensuring this kind of support is accessible to all employees, businesses will be creating a psychologically safe work environment, whereby employees feel comfortable speaking up about their concerns and issues and feel confident that they will be provided with the support they need, when they need it. People want to see themselves and their experiences reflected in their place of work.”