Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) employee networks within the NHS

Lead Research Organisation: University of York
Department Name: The York Management School


In recent years, the British workplace has become more diverse. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals form an important part of this diversity. Most large organisations have established LGBT employee networks to support gender and sexual minorities and run training programs to inform employees about equality and diversity related matters. Despite this, we still know little about LGBT networks and why adversity against this group of employees has not yet been stamped out.

To address this problem, this project aims to offer better understanding of how LGBT networks are run and what they can do to improve relationships between colleagues, and ultimately, improve the wellbeing of LGBT employees. In doing so, we focus on LGBT employee networks within the NHS in nine different institutions by administering surveys, interviewing network members and taking part in network activities. To achieve our research aims, the following objectives have been set:

1) Establish baseline understanding of how LGBT employee networks operate;
2) Map network membership and explore ways of addressing insufficient representation of different groups within the networks;
3) Explore what support is in place to achieve network's vision and what barriers exists to realise this vision;
4) Examine ways of using LGBT employee networks to address negativity towards sexual and gender minorities more effectively.

With support from our research partners, NHS Employers; Stonewall; Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei); a theatre production team and through our academic networks, the results of the research will be published, debated and applied to target LGBT employees in and outside of the NHS, HR practitioners, policy makers, and scholars in the field of diversity in organisations, and gender and sexualities studies together with the general public. Research outputs include an APP connecting LGBT employee networks, practitioners report and academic journal articles. They further include a dedicated website hosting discussion forums and social media activities, on the road regional workshops, national and international conference presentations, a press conference and a theatre production. Project outcomes will further help to shape programs delivered by enei to public, private and third sector organisations, and to support ongoing campaigns on behalf of Stonewall to improve work experiences of LGBT employees.

Planned Impact

By virtue of community engagement aiming to create more inclusive work environments, improving relationships between LGBT employees and their colleagues as well as eliminating bullying, discrimination and harassment of gender and sexual minorities at work, the project impacts individuals, groups, professional bodies and organisations at large in distinct ways. The section below details how employee networks, the NHS, LGBT employees, health care practitioners, LGBT patients and the wider public may benefit from this piece of research.

1) Employee networks
Over and above presenting immediate benefits to the nine participating LGBT employee networks, other LGBT networks within and outside of the NHS, are expected to benefit longer term. These benefits include more efficient and effective delivery of network activities; exhilarated strategic involvement in LGBT related matters; growing membership and improved network dynamics; breaking 'silo mentality' and improving collaboration between networks; identifying best practices and developing more robust communication channels with HR and senior management. Employee networks formed by different minority groups (e.g. BME networks) may also wish to capitalise on these insights.

2) NHS
Participating NHS trusts and the organisation as a whole will benefit directly from this research. First by supporting evidence-based policy and practice on LGBT related matters, and second, by addressing Equality Duty of public sector organisations in the name of advancing equal opportunities for and between LGBT employees, fostering good relations between LGBT and other employees and taking steps to eliminate unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation of sexual and gender minorities. The research further offers a cost effective way of supporting gender and sexual minority employees within the NHS by using existing structures to promote inclusion based on fair and transparent organisational practices.

2) LGBT employees
Inclusive work environment will impact LGBT NHS employees in a number of ways through improved relationships with colleagues and reduced exposure to bullying, harassment and discrimination at work. The effects of this may be realised via increased job satisfaction, reduced sickness and absences, and general sense of wellbeing. Such attainable benefits may extend to LGBT employees in other organisations and outside of the NHS, to include public, private and third sector organisations.

3) Health care practitioners and professional bodies
Improved awareness of LGBT related matters is likely to boost professional confidence in addressing issues affecting gender and sexual minorities amongst doctors, nurses, health care assistants, supporting services staff and HR professionals. In turn this may translate to better-quality patient and/or employee facing services and ultimately reduce the number of employment tribunals and/or patient complaints. Professional bodies including CIPD, ACAS, UNISON and Royal College of Nursing will further benefit from this piece of research as it may help to shape their policy and practice on issues affecting LGBT employees.

4) LGBT patients
LGBT patients will benefit directly through improved experiences of health care delivered by professionals who both understand and are able to respond to LGBT needs in more compassionate ways.

4) General public
The wider public may also be impacted by challenging perceptions about gender and sexual minorities and improve understanding and appreciation of how LGBT needs may differ, ultimately improving relationships within organisations.

Further information on how impact will be engineered is detailed in Pathways to Impact Statement.


10 25 50
Description LGBT+ Networks website and online forum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The project website details information about the research and functions as a social platform for people to get involved in the research. Following the launch of project website in May 2017 we have had over 1000 unique search hits. Our Twitter account now includes approximately 140 followers @lgbt_networks. We have further published a total of 3 blogs via NHS Employers (January 2017, May 2018, February 2018), all of which have generated interest in the project both in and outside of the NHS, resulting in a number of organisations volunteering for participation and an invitation to join the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. We further launched an online forum in February 2018 for NHS staff and students (e.g. nurses and other AHPs), currently training in the NHS, and now have 97 registered users.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://lgbtnetworks.org.uk/
Description Study Advisory Board 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The purpose of the board it to provide strategic advice to support the direction, progress and delivery of the research into LGBT+ networks within the NHS.
The board was established between the University of York and NHS Employers and represents stakeholders including unions, commissioning and professional bodies, civil society organisations and a range of NHS establishments, on matters concerning gender and sexual minority employees. To maximise instrumental, social and economic impact of the project, board members are encouraged to promote the project within their respective fields. The board meets three times a year in January, May and September with the first meeting held in May 2017.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017,2018
URL https://lgbtnetworks.org.uk/about/advisory-board