Protecting the LGBTQ Mobile Workforce
With the rapid growth of business travelers, especially millennial business travelers, companies often find it difficult to manage travel safety, health and security of their employees. This rapid growth also brings changes to the diverse composition of a mobile workforce and the risks associated with it. As the modern workforce continues to grow, there is no one-size-fits all approach to answering questions surrounding workplace law and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer or questioning (LGBTQ) employees. Supporting LGBTQ employees is becoming a major part of Duty of Care for companies with employees traveling domestically and internationally.
Duty of Care should motivate organizations to provide protection for their mobile workforce within their own internal travel risk management program, especially in locations where there isn’t protection for sexual orientation and gender identity. Employers that choose not to offer such protections of their staff today are more likely to find themselves in trouble with the law as an increasing number of cities, counties and states in the U.S. are passing laws explicitly requiring these protections.
To complicate matters further, those who travel internationally for business are at even more at risk. Currently, there are more than 70 countries that still classify homosexual behavior as a crime, making it even more important for companies to be cognizant of the drastic differences in laws, customs and punishment when it comes to LGBTQ rights. It is important for travelers to be aware – not just of the legal regulations, but also of the level of enforcement. In some countries, laws against homosexuality can result in imprisonment, deportation or even the death penalty. Organizations that frequently send staff internationally for business should consider undertaking risk assessments before sending employees.
The millennial generation, also known as the workforce of the future, is part of an influential generation that is currently moving into manager, director and vice president roles. Millennials are facing challenges in the workplace now that they have built a workforce that promotes inclusion more than any other generation before them. Reports have shown that the millennial generation is more likely to identify as LGBTQ and is more accepting of the LGBTQ community than previous generations. In 2017, it was reported that over 20 percent of millennials identify as LGBTQ, and 63 percent of millennials identified as LGBTQ allies.
With the growing acceptance of diverse populations comes the shift into the identity, perception and overall attitudes of the modern worker and business traveler. As we continue to change, several risks rise for travelers, managers and the state of international business travel.
Our new generation of business leaders should be aware of the risks they face by openly identifying as a member of, or accepting of, any part of the diverse community because the modern worker can suffer emotionally and physically, especially when traveling abroad. It is always best to encourage members of the LGBTQ community traveling internationally to maintain a low profile and to avoid public displays of affection. It is also important to be aware of places under surveillance or using technology that can be monitored by the authorities to ensure safety.
All travelers should be educated on the risks of revealing sexual orientation in certain locations. To mitigate this risk, it is essential that organizations not only educate and prepare travelers in the legal and social nature of destinations prior to travel, while also respecting confidentiality, but also offer emotional support as part of their Duty of Care. Understanding the challenges that LGBTQ travelers face when working internationally and knowing how to support the rising millennials in the workforce in a way that is reflective of their generational norms is what will separate successful Duty of Care programs from others.
Ultimately, it is the responsibility of organizations to ensure proper mitigation of these risks. There are some essential tips for supporting diverse staff as they travel internationally. These recommendations are a great starting point for any organization with international travelers, as supporting all staff – no matter their orientation – is a critical piece of Duty of Care.
- Understand challenges that members of the LGBTQ community face and offer equal treatment to staff who are part of this community.
- Offer LGBTQ-specific considerations in your travel risk program.
- Educate managers and your mobile workforce with travel risk programs that are updated every year.
- Offer support to all employees.
- Include LGBT-specific considerations in your mobility policies.