Comment: The widespread pluses of an inclusive workplace

Encouraging a LGBTI-friendly business is positive for staff and customers, but the broader community will also benefit, says Kat Brogan, MD of Mercat Tours.
The firm has signed up to Scotlands LGBT Charter. Picture: contributed.The firm has signed up to Scotlands LGBT Charter. Picture: contributed.
The firm has signed up to Scotlands LGBT Charter. Picture: contributed.

Recognising every individual’s rights and freedoms – and treating everyone equally, with dignity and respect, is fundamentally the right thing to do, and it is also great for business.

How we value, nurture and look after each other reflects the warmth of welcome that Scotland, and businesses like Mercat Tours, are renowned for the world over.

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To behave in any other way would hurt our people, our business, wider community and economy. Yet for many LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex) people, discrimination and abuse at work continue to be commonplace. 

During Pride Month in June, led by our team’s choice, we signed up to Scotland’s LGBT Charter and awarded our charity of the year to LGBT Youth Scotland. We’re making a firm commitment to welcome and include LGBTI awareness in every aspect of our work, protect our team members and provide a high-quality service to all our visitors.

We hope that many other organisations will do the same. Being awarded the LGBT Charter enables you to send a positive message, with confidence, that your organisation is a champion of LGBTI inclusion, where such employees and customers will be safe, supported and very welcome as part of our community. The LGBT Charter makes a clear statement that equality and diversity are at the heart of how you run your business.

Happy, fulfilled and respected teams are loyal and proud of giving customers the best possible experience. Indeed, as a key Scottish tourist attraction, Mercat Tours is a product of, and thrives because of, our investment in our team and our local relationships.

However, research conducted by YouGov for the charity Stonewall shows that one in four LGBT employees has witnessed negative comments or conduct directed towards another colleague perceived to be LGBT within the last year. Similar research by LGBT Youth Scotland showed that 15 per cent of LGBT young people reported that they had faced discrimination in the workplace. This echoes what some of our own staff have told us about previous workplaces. 

Lyall, one of our visitor services assistants, found that a previous workplace was not LGBTI-friendly. This had a hugely detrimental impact on him and, therefore his work. The anxiety he felt while trying to figure out whether he could be his real self put a strain on his work life.

He was constantly worrying about mentioning his partner, or worse, having to defend himself against some form of judgement. This contributed to feeling depressed and eventually changing jobs. But he has said: “At Mercat Tours, the management team is constantly working to create an atmosphere of inclusivity where everyone can be themselves. This means that we are much happier and everyone works better because of it.

“As it’s a small company, everyone has an equal share and responsibility when it comes to maintaining an inclusive environment and I think we manage to do that. Everyone we have working in Mercat shows each other respect regardless of their gender or sexual orientation and that’s important.”

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This is something echoed by our other colleagues like Artemis, storytelling tour guide, who told us that they feel like they are able to be themselves for the first time in any workplace at Mercat Tours.

Knowing that our staff feel happy and proud to be part of our team is something that is incredibly important to us.

Mercat Tours is a family business committed to helping the Edinburgh community that has sustained and supported our business for 34 years.

We firmly believe that a healthy, interdependent ecosystem between visitors, residents, community groups, council and employers, is vital to building opportunity and growth for all. To maintain this, we need to build on connections and support local community organisations that champion inclusive values, like LGBT Youth Scotland and our long-term partners the Grassmarket Community Project.

Being a responsible business is not a strategy, it is in our DNA. Our business investments are firmly rooted in our ambition to look after and nurture our people and our community, so we very much support our charity of the year LGBT Youth Scotland in their goal of making Scotland the best place to grow up for LGBTI young people.

Sharing this story is crucial to building a fair and inclusive society. If all businesses and public bodies worked together to make Scotland even more LGBTI-friendly, everyone would see, and share, the benefits.

It would strengthen Scotland’s identity as a warm and inclusive place to live, work and study, supporting economic growth and productivity.

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