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Diversity at work is better for business: top UK lawyer

[LONDON] Global law firm Pinsent Masons beat competition from Britain's MI5 security service and a northern English fire department to be named the country's most LGBT-friendly workplace on Monday.

Leading LGBT+ rights charity Stonewall, which made the award, said Pinsent Masons had introduced "a range of inclusive policies and practices for lesbian, gay and bi staff".

Nearly 450 firms had competed to be recognised as Britain's most LGBT-inclusive employer, which has previously been won by companies ranging from banking giant Lloyds and housing association Gentoo.

"As a business, we have an obligation to seek to promote progress where we think it is right to do so," Richard Foley, senior partner at Pinsent Masons, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Mr Foley said increasing diversity was a "social and moral obligation" – both for individual companies and the overall business world – and the best way to win back the trust of a sceptical and disengaged public.

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"Corporations and the corporate world have the responsibility to re-earn the trust that we lost at the time of the global financial crisis," he said.

Almost four million people – or 6 per cent of the population – in Britain identify as LGBT+ and surveys suggest that more diverse workplaces make good business sense.

"When you say this stuff out loud, it's just blindingly obvious from a moral point of view – or whether you embrace it for very good business sense," Mr Foley said.

The London-based law firm, which employs more than 3,000 worldwide, had launched "specific trans-inclusive staff training to create a welcoming environment for trans colleagues, clients and visitors", Stonewall said in a statement.

Pinsent Masons runs offices in 13 nations including countries such as Qatar and Singapore that still criminalise gay sex.

"If you go into a country, you can actually help to promote progress," Mr Foley said.

The firm was part of a 29-strong consortium, including the bank Santander and professional services firm Deloitte, that last year issued a statement calling for marriage equality in Northern Ireland, which retains a ban on same-sex weddings.


The firm, which has 449 partners across 24 offices worldwide, has also been vocal on Britain's gaping gender pay gap.

Legislation requiring companies with more than 250 employees to publish salary data passed into law in 2017, and the results show a persistent lag in women's pay and promotion to top posts.

Yet while there has been subsequent investigation of pay gaps for black and ethnic minorities, there remains little information on whether gay or trans people are paid less – or more – than their heterosexual colleagues.

"We certainly should be discussing this," Mr Foley said.

However, he said establishing a metric would be difficult as many people were not "out" at work. For instance, Mr Foley said he did not know the number of LGBT+ partners at Pinsent Masons.

Thirty-five per cent of British employees hide their sexual orientation at work, according to Stonewall.

Research from Boston Consulting Group based on 4,000 staff in 12 countries found just half of LGBT+ employees were open about their sexuality.

The next three companies in Stonewall's annual list were law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, the Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service and MI5.


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