Consider this - 95% of LGBTQ+ travelers have hidden their sexual orientation on a business trip to protect their safety.
A shocking stat that shows not only how laws and attitudes in some countries continue to affect ease of travel, but also a potential lack of employer support.
Many companies currently have inadequate support systems in place with considerations for LGBTQ+ travelers covered by just 9% of travel policies.
LGBTQ+ travelers can face unique challenges when traveling abroad - many countries do not legally recognize same-sex marriage and more than 70 countries consider consensual LGBTQ+ relationships a crime.
In this Pride month of celebration for the LGBTQ+ community, here are five steps business travel managers can take to support diverse traveler groups:
1. Pre-trip assessment
Ensure you have relevant and up to date information at hand to fully understand the traveler’s destination.
Attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community vary extensively around the world, and employers therefore need to shape their duty of care policies around a wide range of considerations.
Review the country's local laws and be mindful of complexities. There are nuances within each country’s legislation and acceptance can vary dramatically within different regions of the same country.
In some locations, such as Singapore, there are laws that are no longer enforced, while in other countries, like Egypt, the law does not prohibit homosexuality, but public decency laws may be used to persecute gay men.
While same-gender sexual relations are legal in Russia, the country implemented a law in 2013 that bans the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations to minors” – a move that has led to reports of increased harassment, threats and attacks on LGBTQ+ people.
Each individual must know they are being taken care of when traveling on their employer’s behalf.
Ensure travelers are well informed ahead of time and aware of the laws that they will be subject to at their destination.
Duty of care procedures should incorporate inclusive training, pre-travel advice and awareness, educating travelers on what to expect when on business travel, how to respond and who to contact in case of an emergency.
Companies will need to make their duty of care information available to everyone, since they can’t ask who their LGBTQ+ employees are and some may want to keep their status confidential.
This makes having strong diversity and equality policies crucial so that an employer can try to improve duty-of-care to all travelers, regardless of sexuality or gender identity.
3. During travel
Having access to the right technology will enable you to quickly locate and communicate with travelers at any point during their trip.
This may be in the form of traveler locating technology (either using GPS or itineraries), providing employees with emergency numbers, or a direct messaging tool that allows you to instantly communicate with travelers.
Set up a routine check-in process with your traveler, not only to ensure their physical safety but also to help monitor their mental health and overall wellness.
Continue to engage with your travelers once they have returned from their journey.
Post-trip evaluation, such as a survey, will gather valuable data and feedback which can help to evolve and refine a duty of care policy over time.
Liaise with HR to ensure any privacy concerns are covered. An employer’s duty of care towards their staff will continuously evolve as laws change over time.
Social attitudes also shift, sometimes not in tandem with the legislation. Review your policies annually to make sure that they reflect current law and that the language used is current – for example, swapping gendered his/her language to they/them.
Supporting LGBTQ+ travelers should be part of a wider corporate inclusivity policy requiring senior management buy-in and commitment.
Ensuring workplace inclusivity and equality is a mark of a modern, progressive company and not doing so can have a knock-on effect on talent acquisition and retention as well as corporate reputation.
LGBTQ+ rights group Stonewall produces an annual list of the UK’s top 100 employers through its Workplace Equality Index, which measures how organisations create an inclusive environment, communicate their commitment to LGBTQ+ equality and have visible LGBT role models.
If an employee travels on business to a country where their sexual orientation or how they identify is criminalized, an extra layer of complexity is added to duty of care responsibilities.
Employers need to consider how to best protect individuals in a way that doesn’t make them feel singled out, working with them to respect local values without compromising their own values.