Focus: People Management - Diversity - Sector fares poorly in gay-friendly list

Graham Willgoss,

A survey finds Nacro and St Mungo's have the best policies for gay staff.

Nacro, the crime reduction charity, knows that 8 per cent of its staff are gay, lesbian or bisexual because it carries out an annual confidential staff diversity audit. It also tries to boost diversity among its staff by holding recruitment open days in community centres known to attract a broad range of people.

The charity is convinced that it is steps such as these that helped it to be named as one of the voluntary sector's two most gay-friendly employers in Stonewall's annual index.

Nacro came top equal in the charity sector with St Mungo's, but only managed joint 24th place in the top 100 list of public, private and voluntary sector organisations. And voluntary organisations fared poorly in general, with only six charities in the entire list.

"It's disappointing that so few voluntary agencies feature in the top 100," says Paul Cavadino, chief executive of Nacro. "We pride ourselves on creating a work environment where everyone can be themselves, without fear of abuse or discrimination."

Nacro's staff network group, Pride in Nacro, offers confidential support, advice and guidance on issues relating to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered workers within the organisation.

"The key building block is a strong equality and diversity policy that takes into account both staff and service users," says Kulbir Shergill, head of equality at Nacro. "It all begins with raising the issue. Our policy is championed by our chief executive, which gives it the emphasis it needs to be carried out throughout the organisation.

"Charities could do a lot more, despite not having the resources of the blue-chip companies that have scored highly on the index."

Peter Jeffery, executive director of HR at St Mungo's, says his charity cannot afford to be seen as a "pale, male and stale" organisation.

"We want to attract a diverse workforce who reflect the range of communities we work in and the variety of people we exist to help," he says.

St Mungo's has five support groups: for women, BME, Irish, disabled and lesbian, gay and bisexual staff. It also has a harassment and bullying policy that covers age, race, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and religion.

"The business case for addressing these issues becomes stronger every year," says Ben Summerskill, chief executive of Stonewall. "Employers who overlook how they appeal to gay staff not only miss out on a significant pool of potential recruits but, in many cases, miss out on a significant customer base too."

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