These guidelines will assist in ensuring that our workplaces are safe, supportive and inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender diverse, intersex, and queer and questioning (LGBTIQ) employees and to help build a culture of respect and dignity for all. LGBTIQ employees are entitled to fully participate in the workplace without being subjected to behaviour that is offensive, harassing, bullying or discriminatory.
LGBTIQ communities experience poorer health outcomes and reduced social engagement due to actual or perceived prejudice. Respectful, inclusive language lessens the fear of prejudice, whilst thoughtless or disrespectful language heightens them. It is important to show respect to how people describe their own bodies, genders and relations even when the individual is not present.
Inclusive language ensures everyone is treated with respect. It is free from words or tones that belittle, prejudice, discriminate or stereotype whether intentionally or not. Gender and sexuality are experienced and expressed in many ways and using language that excludes or stereotypes can cause unintentional harm to LGBTIQ individuals. This includes ‘positive’ stereotyping of LGBTIQ people.
Terminology for LGBTIQ communities is complex and evolving and raising awareness of key terms is important to achieving LGBTIQ inclusion in the workplace. For the purposes of this guide the definitions applied are the same as those outlined in the Victorian LGBTIQ+ Inclusive Language . It is important to keep in mind that the definitions are not mutually exclusive. Being a man or a woman or a non-binary person can be embodied and interpreted by each individual very differently.
LGBTIQ intimate partner violence
Intimate partner violence in LGBTIQ relationships has been under acknowledged and misunderstood in policy, practice and judicial responses until relatively recently. This has largely been because intimate partner violence has predominately been understood from within a heteronormative framework in which men feature as perpetrators and women as victims. The department acknowledges that intimate partner violence can occur in any intermate relationship and that family violence supports are available to all employees regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation or other characteristics.
Legislative and policy framework
The Sex Discrimination Act 1984 protects people from unfair treatment on the basis of their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status, marital or relationship status, pregnancy and breastfeeding. It also protects workers with family responsibilities and makes sexual harassment against the law.
The Gender Equality Act 2020 aims to improve workplace gender equality across the Victorian public sector, universities and local councils. It will also lead to better results for the Victorian community through improved policies, programs and services. Gender equality benefits people of all genders. The Act aims to level the playing field so that Victorians can have equal rights, opportunities, responsibilities and outcomes.
The Victorian Government is creating the state’s first whole of government strategy for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and gender diverse, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ+) individuals and communities. The Victorian Government LGBTIQ+ will guide the government’s continued efforts to achieve equality for LGBTIQ+ people for years to come.
Information sharing, privacy and confidentiality
An employee has the right to reasonably share information about their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and intersex status in the workplace. A good guide for what is ‘reasonable’ is to reflect on the nature and amount of personal information that non-LGBTIQ employees customarily share in the workplace with colleagues and students.
An employee may also choose not to share their personal information. It is the decision of the employee when, with whom, and how much personal information they share in the workplace.
What does discrimination look like?
Many LGBTIQ people have positive experiences in workplaces where they feel safe, welcomed and able to be themselves. Often, these workplaces have been shaped by a combination of inclusive policies and positive leadership. However, discrimination on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status can and does still occur.
Discrimination can be direct — when someone is treated unfavourably on the basis of a personal characteristic (for example, refusing to hire someone because they are lesbian) and indirect — when an unreasonable requirement or condition is imposed on someone that could disadvantage a person with a personal characteristic (for example, where a parental leave arrangement is only available for a husband or wife). It can be overt or very subtle and can take many forms, including:
- harassment of LGBTIQ employees through name‐calling, jokes, bullying or teasing about their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status
- treating partners of LGBTIQ employees differently to partners of non-LGBTIQ employees
- showing disrespect towards the lives and relationships of LGBTIQ employees
- excluding employees from, or making it more difficult for employees to participate in staff meetings, social events or career advancement opportunities such as professional development or higher duties assignments
- not respecting an employee’s gender identity by repeatedly using the incorrect pronoun or former name, or denying access to toilets and other facilities that are appropriate to the employee’s affirmed gender
- otherwise making LGBTIQ employees feel that they cannot be open about their sexual orientation, gender identity or intersex status
Some groups within LGBTIQ communities face distinct issues which are less commonly known or understood. Bisexual people sometimes face biphobia for their attraction to and relationships with people of more than one gender. Even if a workplace is inclusive of lesbian and gay people, it can still feel unwelcoming for bisexual people. Biphobia can make bisexual people feel invisible and uncomfortable about disclosing their sexuality or talking about a relationship.
Transgender and gender diverse people can face a number of barriers to inclusion and wellbeing in the workplace. Transphobia can mean that transgender people miss out on employment opportunities, including promotion, or even be socially excluded. Transgender and gender diverse people may also face questioning of their gender or a lack of recognition of their gender, including in records and systems.
While there is overlap between the issues faced by LGBTIQ communities, it is important to recognise that intersex variations sit separately from gender and sexuality. As with other LGBTQ people, intersex people often encounter false assumptions around their bodies, their gender and their sexuality. In a workplace context, a key concern of intersex people is confidentiality. Intersex people may find that their sex characteristics are disclosed or discussed by their colleagues without their consent. Intersex people often find that service delivery is neither inclusive nor respectful of intersex people and their experiences particularly in a medical context.
Using inclusive language
Language among LGBTIQ communities is constantly evolving; no two LGBTIQ people will describe themselves in the same way. Using inclusive language is a simple and easy way of making the workplace more inclusive.
In general, you should avoid language that assumes all people are women or men — so you could use 'everyone' instead of 'ladies and gentlemen'. Employees (including people who identify as transgender or gender diverse, and those affirming their gender) must be acknowledged as the gender with which they identify.
This includes use of a new name, appropriate pronouns, and any necessary changes to email addresses, computer login details, employment records and security access to reflect this.
There are a few small things you can do to make sure you are using inclusive language include:
- Don’t assume that everyone is heterosexual. You might consider using the word ‘partner’ instead of ‘husband/wife’ where the gender of someone’s partner is unknown.
- Avoid asking people what terms they ‘prefer’. Having a ‘preference’ can sound as it it’s a choice and most people do not feel as if they have a choice in these matters. If you need to, simply ask the person what terms they use.
- Avoid using written examples which include he/she; these can often be replaced using a non-gendered approach.
- You should always avoid LGBTIQ terminology being used in a derogatory way, e.g. the word ‘gay’ when used in a negative way to refer to a situation or event unrelated to sexuality. You should not use words you’ve heard being used to put down or attack LGBTIQ people.
For more information about inclusive language, including terminology and how to use inclusive language see: Victorian Government LGBTIQ+ Inclusive Language .
To create an inclusive workplace, it is important to use correct pronouns for employees affirming their gender identity and avoid making assumptions when a new employee starts. Pronouns are personal because they refer to a unique individual. Sometimes there is a layer of gender identity that their pronouns aim to highlight and other times there is not. A person can be a man, a woman or may identify in another way, while using a set of personal pronouns that may or may not align with the expectations that are associated with that gender identity.
Some of the most common pronouns in the English language that cover majority of people are she/her, he/him and they/them, however only they/them can save you from making assumptions when meeting new people.
Singular they/them pronoun can be used to refer to a person, while written and spoken in plural form. This is grammatically correct, and it can be a great placeholder until you know the person’s individual pronoun.
The manager may wish to consider discussing the use of gender-neutral pronouns where all staff share their pronoun in meetings, email signatures and events.
For more tips around pronouns, see the personal pronoun tip (login required).
Be supportive to colleagues affirming their gender
The Victorian LGBTIQ+ Inclusive Language defines Gender Transition or affirmation as 'the process where a trans or gender diverse person takes steps to socially and/or physically feel more aligned with their gender. There is a wide range of ways this process differs between people. Some people may change how they interact with others, and others may change their appearance or seek medical assistance to better express their gender.'
The Victorian Public Service Enterprise Agreement provides provision for Gender Transition leave at clause 58. Employees seeking to access this leave should seek advice from the Workforce Diversity and Inclusion team. Staff in schools should discuss appropriate leave with their Principal or the Workforce Diversity and Inclusion team.
A successful gender affirmation in the workplace can only occur with commitment and understanding of all parties involved. The following principles will support the most positive transition:
- Understanding that the process will be different for everyone. In some cases, it may be supporting an employee who is transgender, gender diverse or non-binary to simply be themselves at work, while some employees will seek to transition to the gender they identify with. Everyone’s needs will be different.
- Sensitivity, open-mindedness and respect. The process to transition is often a new experience not only for the workplace but also for the individual. There will be many unknowns and new experiences to understand and adapt to.
- Employee driven. The safety and wellbeing of the employee is paramount. As such, this procedure is intended to be flexible and adjusted to suit individual circumstances.
An employee affirming their gender will communicate how best to support them in their process to affirm their gender, in line with their gender identity affirmation plan and timeline. The best thing you can do is listen, empathise and continue to treat the individual how you would like to be treated, in line with the Victorian Public Sector . A recommended gender affirmation is available on the Resources tab.
Employees are entitled to use toilets and other facilities that are appropriate to their affirmed gender. Any staff members who have concerns about the use of toilets and facilities should raise these concerns with their manager/principal.
Be an ally
An LGBTIQ Ally is an advocate for LGBTIQ inclusion — a supporter, a friend, a person who wants to see change and is prepared to help bring it about. To be an ally you can:
- Make time to talk to members of the LGBTIQ community about their experiences.
- Be yourself, ask yourself how you would like to be treated in your workplace, in the community.
- Be visible, make clear public statements about the importance of LGBTIQ equality to you. Use the 'I Support Pride at DET' email signature or wear a Pride lanyard.
- If you hear discriminatory comments or jokes, make it known that it’s not acceptable in an appropriate way.
- Make it clear that employees are free to bring their partner to work related events where partners are invited, regardless of their or their partner’s gender identity, sex or sexual orientation.
Celebrate days of significance
Celebrate LGBTIQ diversity , attend LGBTIQ inclusion events and bring your colleagues. Observe and celebrate important events, such as MidSumma , Wear it Purple , International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Discrimination against people with an intersex variation and Transphobia and the Victorian Pride March.
Use the LGBTIQ conversation guide and scenarios
Discussing LGBTIQ topics can be challenging for some people. Asking questions is an important way we can learn to understand and respect the people we work with. The LGBTIQ conversation available on the Resources tab provides examples of respectful ways for all employees to discuss potentially challenging issues.
Five (available on the Resources tab) have also been developed to demonstrate the legal framework and supporting resources available to executives, principals and managers when creating a safe and inclusive workplace and protecting the human rights of LGBTIQ employees. While they cannot encompass all the complex and difficult situations that may occur day-to-day, they aim to provide guidance to meet workplace obligations and protect the health and wellbeing of employees.
Remember that the L, G, B, T, I and Q are different
The VPS uses LGBTIQ, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and gender diverse, Intersex and Queer or Questioning, as an inclusive umbrella abbreviation to encompass a range of diverse sexualities, genders and sex characteristics. When writing about LGBTIQ people it is best to use the term ‘communities’, as these are many separate and distinct communities within this umbrella term.
It is important to remember that people may fit more than one of these terms. Heterosexual and cis-gender people can be part of LGBTIQ communities. For example, there are straight trans and intersex people.
While LGBTIQ communities often work together, for example to advocate for equal rights, they are multiple communities with their own distinct experiences, needs and priorities. Some communities face greater barriers and discrimination in the workplace than others.
Support the DET Pride Network
The DET Pride Network is a peer-led network created to connect and support the department’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex, Queer and Questioning (LGBTIQ), gender-diverse employees and their allies. The network also promotes understanding of issues faced by LGBTI staff in the workplace and helps make the department a safe and inclusive work environment. The Network understands and appreciates the unique challenges faced by our Intersex employees and those who are transitioning and provides a supportive and safe peer environment.
The Network is also able to provide an advisory service to program areas on policy and projects that may affect the LGBTIQ community and employees.
To contact the DET Pride Network, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Promote and use the VPS LGBTIQ Helpline
A dedicated LGBTIQ support service is available to Victorian Public Service (VPS) employees. The service is confidential, safe and well equipped to meet the needs of LGBTIQ staff and allies in the VPS. Counselling services can be tailored to meet individual needs. To access this service, call 1300 542 874 and state that you are part of an agency under the Department of Premier and Cabinet. You do not have to state your work location to access this service.
Be supportive of the unique risks present when LGBTIQ employees travel overseas
All travellers face risks overseas and we know that risks can be higher for LGBTIQ employees or employees with LGBTIQ dependents in some countries. Every country is unique in its approach to LGBTIQ people. It's the employee’s responsibility to get the facts first and take steps to reduce risks.
Before they travel LGBTIQ staff should read the travel advisories available on smarttraveller.gov.au, discuss any concerns with their manager or Principal and consider contacting the embassy or consulate for each of their destinations for specific advice.
Things to be mindful of:
- Laws of the country
- Being social safely
- Be aware of the risks of violence & discrimination
- Looking after your health
For more information specific to LGBTIQ travellers and some of the ways you can reduce your risks, see: Advice for LGBTI .
Other support services available for LGBTIQ+ staff and allies
- The department’s Workplace Contact Officers (officers with the pride flag next to their name are trained as LGBTIQ+ allies)
- The Employee Assistance Program, a free counselling service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week by phone: 1300 361 008 or live chat
- Switchboard , a community based not-for-profit organisation that provides a peer-based, volunteer-run support service for LGBTIQA+ people
- Rainbow , a free specialist LGBTIQA+ helpline providing information, support, and referral to all LGBTIQA+ Victorians, their friends and family during COVID-19 and beyond
- , a VPS-wide safe space for intersex and trans and gender diverse (I&TGD) folks. . A ‘virtual roof’ for initiatives connecting trans, intersex, non-binary, gender diverse peers (Innovation Network login required)
- Black , a national Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander organisation that supports Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, trans, intersex, asexual, sistergirl and brotherboy (LGBQTIA+SB) through a variety of community projects and programs
Reviewed 27 March 2023