The Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform has endorsed a new report into gay, lesbian and bisexual experiences at work.
The research, from gay equality organisation Stonewall, found a positive link between workplace climate and productivity and performance.
It outlines a “compelling business case” for good practice around sexual orientation in the workplace.
IBM sponsored the report, which was launched at their UK headquarters yesterday.
John Hutton, the Secretary of State for Business, attended the launch.
He said he was “honoured” to be present at the event, and that equality for sexual minorities was among the most important policy agendas of the government.
“I do not think there has been a finer achievement for us than the role we have been able to play in promoting equality and tolerance,” he said.
Mr Hutton said the business case laid out in the Stonewall report demonstrates that the fight for equality has become “mainstream and not political.”
He said there has been a growing recognition in businesses of all sizes that equality is important and that a diverse workforce is a vital component of Britain’s continued economic success.
He drew a parallel with climate change, saying that the best job candidates want to know what concrete action their potential employers are taking. Those candidates also want to know how employers treat their staff.
Mr Hutton said the new Equality Bill will take the concept of equality into new areas.
“The Equality Bill will not change attitudes but you can build a consensus and that gives you that extra impetus,” he said.
Earlier Stonewall’s head of policy, Ruth Hunt, outlined the main findings of the research, entitled Peak Performance: Gay people and productivity.
Researchers interviewed and conducted focus groups with 107 lesbian, gay and bisexual staff from 21 public and private sector organisations about being gay in the workplace.
The interviews explored how they felt about being open about their sexual orientation at work and how this affected their performance and what steps their employers had taken which made it easier or more difficult for lesbian and gay staff to be themselves in the workplace.
Ms Hunt said that several factors influence productivity: efficiency, confidence, good relationships, creativity, motivation, recruitment and retention and feeling valued.
The research found that in all these areas, not being able to be out at work had a marked effect.
She also stressed that people are much more likely to come out if there are out gay role models at the top of the company and if senior management show their support for LGB staff.
The importance of employee networks was stressed.
To read the full report click here.