Gay charity Stonewall has launched its first guide advising Britain’s four million small businesses how to become more gay-friendly.

Gay People, Your Business is designed to be read in 15 minutes for companies who may not understand or have the time to translate legal and business jargon.

It provides key advice and information on supporting lesbian and gay staff and gaining access to the ‘pink pound’, the spending power of gay people in Britain currently valued at £70bn a year.

Gay People, Your Business is endorsed by the Federation of Small Businesses and has been funded by the Department for Communities Local Government.

Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill says the guide makes it easier for smaller businesses to promote equality, he said: “Contrary to the picture sometimes painted, we know there are many small businesses wanting to do the right thing around equality.

“However, much guidance about equality is extremely lengthy and it’s all too often written in jargon. I’m delighted that we’ve succeeded in producing a guide that will be accessible to millions of small business owners.”

Stephen Alambritis, of the Federation of Small Business, described it as vital, he said: “This guide is a ‘must-read’ for small businesses wanting to get their diversity policy on track and keen to take advantage of the pink pound. It’s an invaluable resource.”

Meg Munn MP, Minister for Women and Equality at the Department for Communities Local Government, backed the guide, she said: “Because 97 per cent of all businesses employ fewer than 20 people, the need to make them aware of the employment protections relating to sexual orientation is vital.

“We’re delighted to have had the opportunity to work with Stonewall on this vital initiative.”

Fifty thousand copies of Gay People, Your Business have been produced; half will be distributed through the Federation of Small Businesses. Copies can also downloaded from Stonewall’s website at www.stonewall.org.uk.

Britain’s 1.7 million lesbian and gay workers have enjoyed legal protection against discrimination since December 2003. However, not all employers know this and some consequently risk employment tribunal claims. Small and medium-sized enterprises (of up to 250 staff) account for almost 60 per cent of UK employment.

Mr Summerskill said: “There are 3.6 million gay people in Britain – building a more positive reputation doesn’t just help gay staff. It can lead to more loyal customers and more business, all good news for the bottom line.”