publication

Our plan for improving the experiences of LGBT+ civil servants: a consultation

Published

By Civil Service LGBT+ Network

Foreword

In November 2017, we took over responsibility for leading the cross-government network for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil servants: the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance. Since then, we’ve been working to develop a bold and ambitious plan for what comes next.

For more than a decade, this network has helped to raise the visibility of staff with minority sexual orientations and gender identities.

The network has evolved in that time. It started as a network of networks, just for lesbian, gay and bisexual civil servants, focused on community building. Today, we regularly host social, networking, and learning and development events for hundreds of staff across the country. We are also a representative organisation with dozens of volunteers and more than 1,300 members nationally, as well as connections with all the Civil Service departmental and agency LGBT+ networks. Importantly, the network also now explicitly welcomes staff who identify as trans too.

As a network, the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance needs to continue to evolve. The contexts in which LGBT+ civil servants work are now radically different from just a decade ago. The law is substantially different now, and the challenges facing LGBT+ civil servants are new. We want to ensure that this network is relevant for the next 10 years and beyond.

That’s what this document is for: to explain our vision for a better Civil Service for LGBT+ people and how we’re going to deliver it.

This plan is open for consultation for the next month. We’d like to know what you want from us, from this network and from the Civil Service so that, together, we can help turn the Civil Service into the UK’s most inclusive employer for LGBT+ people.

Kate Scott-Hughes, Chair

John Peart, Vice-Chair

Overview

This document explains our plans for the cross-government LGBT+ network for the next 2 years. It builds upon the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance’s “LGB* Action Plan”, released in November 2015.

The plans in this document are open for consultation. The consultation will close on 20 April 2018. Following the close of the consultation, we will publish a full work plan and an annual report on our progress in delivering that plan.

This consultation is open to everyone who has a minority sexual orientation or gender identity working in the UK Civil Service. This includes all staff working in departments and agencies and non-departmental public bodies listed on GOV.UK. It also includes staff from crown bodies that are affiliated with the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance.

You can respond to this consultation in two ways:

  1. by sending your feedback to info@civilservice.lgbt
  2. by completing our online questionnaire, which can be found at www.civilservice.lgbt

We’re also looking for volunteers to help us deliver this plan. If you’re interested, please contact us at info@civilservice.lgbt.

What our network should be for

We believe that the Civil Service is at its best when it represents the diversity of the country we serve, and when civil servants can bring their best selves to work without fear or compromise.

The Civil Service Rainbow Alliance has transformed from an informal social group, to a respected and influential staff network in the last decade. The network currently represents staff to senior management, informs policy development and provides a social and development space for LGBT+ staff.

The Civil Service has changed too: it now wants to become “the UK’s most inclusive employer”. On every available measure, the experience of staff who define as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is worse than the experience of other civil servants. To become the UK’s most inclusive employer, the Civil Service must address the experiences of LGBT+ staff.

As a cross-government network, we believe we should support and challenge the Civil Service to do better for its LGBT+ staff. Our role is to represent the views of LGBT+ civil servants, and be a critical friend for senior leaders and policy officials who are responsible for diversity and inclusion in the Civil Service.

We know we can’t do that alone: cross-government networks are at their best when they are supported by strong and stable local networks. We know that it is difficult and time-intensive to run a local network in a department or agency, and that too often the support is not in place to make the job of local network leaders easy. Ultimately, we want everyone to have access to a local network they trust and that is supported by their organisation.

As a cross-government network, we believe we should support the development of local networks. Our role is to support local networks, so that they have the resources and tools they need to deliver in their own organisations. It’s also our role to spot the work that is happening in common across government and join up those efforts where we see them.

CSRA also has a proud record of community building. In the last 5 years, we’ve engaged hundreds of civil servants in national Pride events, put on several major conferences, and run dozens of social and networking events in every part of the UK.

As a cross-government network, we believe we should continue to build a community for LGBT+ staff. Our role is to provide the social, networking, and learning and development opportunities for staff to help them connect with other people like them, and to progress in their Civil Service journey. Our role is to ensure that, no matter how someone identifies or where they live, every LGBT+ civil servant feels connected to a a cross-government community.

The Civil Service LGBT+ Network

This month, we will be changing our name to become the Civil Service LGBT+ Network (or CSLGBT+ for short). Our new name reflects our new ambitions for our network.

We want to be a network that is accessible to everyone. Our old name prompted more questions than it provided answers, and people couldn’t easily find us or find out what we did. It’s also why we’re including a ‘plus’ - because we want to put our ambition of inclusion at the forefront of everything we do.

We believe that in combining what makes us all different, we come together to make something better and bigger than the sum of the parts. So, this month, we’ll also be changing our branding. You can see some of it in this document. In print design, designers work with 4 base colours - cyan, magenta, yellow and black - and combine them to make all the colours they need. Our new brand is based on the same idea: it reflects our belief that many parts come together to make a better, bolder whole.

Over the next month, you’ll see us adopt our new name in more places, use our branding in new ways, launch a new website, and change our social media presence.

Our plan

This plan covers 4 priority areas, and some proposals for how we can act on them. These priorities and ideas have been developed over the last 3 months through discussions with networks and members.

Consultation

This plan is subject to consultation. If you have ideas for different ways we could address the issues highlighted in this document, then we’d love to hear it. You can send your feedback in two ways:

  1. by sending your feedback to info@civilservice.lgbt
  2. by completing our online questionnaire, which can be found at www.civilservice.lgbt

We’re also looking for volunteers to help us deliver this plan. If you’re interested, please contact us at info@civilservice.lgbt.

Priority areas

We think our 4 priority areas should be:

  1. strong and stable networks: providing support and assurance for local networks, so that every civil servant can access a locally based LGBT+ network
  2. diverse and inclusive community: doing more to actively engage under-represented groups within the LGBT+ community, such as bisexual staff and women, and working on issues faced by people with multiple protected characteristics
  3. national reach: ensuring that our activities are nationally inclusive and regionally based, and that people feel connected to a community regardless of where they live
  4. understanding and representing your needs: ensuring that all our work is evidence based and that we accurately represent the views of our members to stakeholders

For each of these priority areas, we have identified a set of projects to deliver. These are detailed later in this document.

How we will deliver this plan

The Civil Service Rainbow Alliance has traditionally led its work through volunteer teams focused on a number of ‘themes’: we intend to do things differently.

Our current team structure is based around 4 large teams with broad remits. These are the ‘Corporate’ team, the ‘Network Engagement’ team, ‘Communities’ team and the ‘Regions’ team. This structure has allowed CSRA to involve lots of people quickly, however it has also led to volunteers sometimes being unclear about their roles and how they can easily contribute. It has also placed a large burden on some of our volunteers in an unsustainable way.

Instead of a few large volunteer teams with broad remits, we will be establishing lots of smaller project teams to deliver smaller, more focused pieces of work.

Over the next month, we intend to disband the old team structure, replacing ‘officers’ and ‘representatives’ with a new system of ‘project leaders’ and ‘local organisers’. This will give people clear ownership of a piece of work they can lead, and also not ask too much of volunteers. Each volunteer team will work with either the Chair or Vice-Chair to develop a clear project plan, so that they can focus on doing the important part: delivering for LGBT+ civil servants.

For each of the projects outlined below, we need volunteers. Please contact info@civilservice.lgbt if you would like to lead one of the projects here, or if you have ideas of your own.

Strong and stable networks

The way that local departmental and agency networks are resourced and managed has changed significantly in the last ten years. Over that time our member networks have evolved and the functions they fulfil have also evolved.

We believe every civil servant should have access to a local network that they can trust to support them. To do that, networks need to be well resourced, with volunteers being given the space to transform the experience of staff in their organisation.

Our goal is to support local networks by removing duplication across government, sharing best practice, and ensuring we make the case for well resourced supported networks. We also want to ensure networks can hold the Civil Service LGBT+ Network to account for our delivery, and shape the work we do.

Heads of Networks Forum

We know from experience that running an employee network can be a challenging and difficult task and can sometimes feel isolated, especially when dealing with confidential issues and politically sensitive problems. We want to create a forum where network leaders can collaborate and work together to support one another.

We will create a Heads of Networks Forum. The Forum will help shape the work of the Civil Service LGBT+ Network and give the leaders of local LGBT+ networks a space to share experiences, frustrations, resources, ideas and solutions.

Support for the Workplace Equality Index

The Civil Service wants to be the UK’s most inclusive employer; a fundamental part of demonstrating this will be benchmarking exercises.

In the early years of the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index, Civil Service organisations were very well represented. In recent years there have been various departments and agencies which have struggled with achieving Top 100 status despite doing good work. We believe that this is partly down to how different submissions are being written and how central policies are written.

We will create a team to identify the areas Civil Service organisations do well, and where they do not. The team will create a toolkit that will help Civil Service organisations complete their Workplace Equality Index submissions, focusing on areas that are common across departments.

Policy development and assurance

Civil Service organisations have a wide variety of policies and procedures in place to support LGBT+ staff. These vary in both scope and quality. We know local networks sometimes want to understand how policies operate in other organisations. The Civil Service also regularly consults on policy development that applies across all organisations.

We will create a service that can be used by local networks, ensuring they have access to best practice guidance on various policy issues. We will also form a team to create model policies that can be used as an influencing tool internal to departments.

We will also create a team focused on regular consultation with members, and developing policy responses on behalf of our members and all local networks.

Diverse and inclusive community

The evidence base consistently indicates that the experience of LGBT+ civil servants is worse than non-LGBT+ civil servants, and that each part of the LGBT+ community faces different experiences too. It also indicates and that LGBT+ civil servants who have another under-represented protected characteristic — like women and people from black and minority ethnicity backgrounds — are less engaged than their colleagues. The anecdotal feedback we receive is that these individuals feel isolated and need more easily identifiable community support.

We believe we should build a community that is inclusive of all LGBT+ staff. In particular, we want to ensure we actively engage under-represented groups within our own community — like lesbian and bisexual staff, and women.

Our goal is to create a truly diverse, active, and highly-engaged community that represents the whole Civil Service and wider country.

Community space for bisexual civil servants

Compared to lesbian and gay people, bisexual civil servants report lower levels of engagement in the Civil Service People Survey. Research undertaken by CSRA last year has shown that bisexual staff regularly feel invisible in the workplace.

We will establish a new initiative — ‘BiSpace’ — that will provide a community space specifically for bisexual civil servants.

Intersectionality

We know that people with a religion or belief can find it difficult to reconcile their belief with their sexuality and can also experience discrimination from both the LGBT+ community and their religious community.

We will establish a project to understand the experience of LGBT+ staff who are also part of a religious community. This will help us to better understand those issues and how we can support civil servants in those situations.

We have had a long association with a:gender — the staff network for trans, non-binary and intersex people — working together to champion the rights of LGBT+ staff. We are changing to LGBT+ to reflect that openness and collaborative relationship.

In the same way the Civil Service LGBT+ Network, as a network of local LGBT+ networks, is stronger than the sum of its parts, we recognise that our network is stronger if we work with other cross-government networks. Collaboration with other staff networks means we can better support our membership better and and better influence the Civil Service to make good decisions for LGBT+ staff.

We will work with Cabinet Office to foster improved relationships with other staff networks, and increase understanding across all of them of the issues faced by LGBT+ civil servants.

To underpin all of this work we will establish a project to identify how we can engage and support LGBT+ allies across the Civil Service.

National reach

Over 80% of LGBT+ civil servants are based outside of London. We are a national network, and we need to do more to support staff living across the whole of the UK.

We believe that every LGBT+ civil servant should be able to access events and community activities in cities and towns near them. To do this, we need empowered regional organisers who lead activity in their local area. We also need to ensure that participation doesn’t rely on physically attending events.

Our goal is that no one is excluded from our events or activities on the basis of where they live, and that staff living outside major urban areas receive as much support as those in cities where LGBT+ civil servants are clustered.

Digitally-enabled communities

As the Civil Service becomes a more flexible, agile organisation, civil servants will move more frequently between organisations. They may also change their place of work, disconnecting them from existing networks.

We want to ensure that, underpinning this flexibility, people feel like they have access to a community of people like them. That community should be accessible wherever they go, and it shouldn’t rely on physically meeting to be involved.

We will create a digital space that allows LGBT+ civil servants to meet others and feel connected to other people like them, even when they don’t live nearby.

Regional organiser support

Strong communities need to be actively led by dedicated and well supported volunteers, but organising local activities can be time consuming, regardless of where you live. It can also be intimidating when you’re doing something new and learning as you go.

We will create a team of regional organisers who will lead small pieces of local community building activity — such as social events or campaigning.

We will also create toolkits to support regional organisers, making local events easier to organise and increase the number of events held outside London.

Mentoring

In 2015, the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance committed to establishing a national mentoring scheme for LGBT+ civil servants. Following engagement with Civil Service HR and local network leaders, we believe there is a clear need for this work to be completed. One of the key challenges in establishing a mentoring scheme is the administrative capacity required to make it work.

We will establish a team to develop a national mentoring scheme that is sustainable and tailored to the needs of LGBT+ civil servants.

Understanding and representing your needs

We exist to support our members and member networks. To do that we need to know what your needs are so we can represent them in the best way possible.

We believe the Civil Service LGBT+ Network can only properly represent LGBT+ staff if we have a deep understanding of what LGBT+ staff need. Our goal is to regularly consult with staff on issues that matter to them, and ensure that our work is grounded in evidence.

Our goal is to be a trusted source of expertise and insight, and to be accountable for the decisions we take on behalf of our members.

Analysis and insight

Understanding user needs is important if we are to deliver successful services to our members, and represent their views effectively.

We will run regular consultations on policy issues, ensuring our policy stances are informed by your views as well as wider evidence.

We will establish an annual Civil Service LGBT+ survey which will ask you what you would like us to focus on and how you would like us to represent you. We will also publish regular reports on our progress.

We will carry out an annual analysis of the Civil Service People Survey, drawing together the information on LGBT+ civil servants across all organisations and identifying some of the issues that cannot be seen at departmental or agency level.

We will continue to work with Cabinet Office on issues relating to monitoring of sexual orientation and gender identity questions in HR systems and the Civil Service People Survey

Representation

A fundamental role of the Civil Service LGBT+ Network is to represent the views of LGBT+ staff to senior managers and the wider Civil Service.

We will continue to meet regularly with the Civil Service LGBTI Champion and Diversity Champion, Sue Owen, to raise issues, brief her on progress and initiatives and advise her on actions which need to be taken to improve the experience of LGBT+ staff.

We will also continue to work with the Civil Service Diversity & Inclusion team to influence policy and culture within the Civil Service, working with other staff networks and with Heads of Diversity to make the Civil Service a better place to work for LGBT+ people.