Organisations that fail to embrace the inclusion of employees with diverse sexuality or gender are limiting their own recruitment and retention opportunities, according to Ai Group member ACON. 

The health service provider’s latest workplace survey — which attracted 50,000 responses — showed less than half of LGBTQIA+ employees are ‘out’. 

Chris Keely, Deputy Director of ACON’s Pride Inclusion Programs, says it’s a huge problem with alarming consequences, yet employers may be unaware. 

“When employees can’t bring their full selves to work, they are less productive and engaged and are more likely to leave your organisation,” he said. 

“That self-censorship wears away at people's engagement and productivity. It damages their life. These are people who, in so many cases, are very creative and bright; they think diversely, yet they cannot express an important part of themselves at work. This means their work life can be tough. It’s a very real scenario." 

Non-inclusive employers are also less likely to attract top talent.  

“One of the key elements of best practice in relation to LGBTQIA+ inclusion is visibility; it’s as simple as that,” Mr Keely said. 

“Prospective employees flock to those leading employers who show that when an employee joins an organisation, they can bring their full selves to work. 

“If graduates, as potential employees looking for their next gig, are concerned about diversity and progress, they will be drawn to potential employers who reflect their diversity on their websites or in other places — whether it’s a statement, logo or flag. 

“People within an organisation, whether it's Diversity and Inclusion, People and Culture, Public Affairs or the CEO, also need to show visible signs of support for the community.” 

But it needs to go beyond a rainbow flag in the lunchroom.  

“Those who are looking to assess how real the commitment to equality and representation is will look underneath the signs and if there's nothing but the signs, it's unlikely to be very successful,” Mr Keely said. 

Nicola Street, Ai Group’s Director – Workplace Relations Policy, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, said respectful conversations at work are equally important.  

“Often disrespectful conduct is not always intentional, or even obvious,” she said. 

“However, an unconscious bias expressed through jokes or innuendo needs to be addressed by workplaces due to the negative impact it has on people and workplace culture.” 

Among ACON's Pride Inclusion Programs is Pride in Diversity — Australia’s first and only national not-for-profit employer support program for all aspects of LGBTQIA+ workplace inclusion.  

Pride in Diversity’s members represent about 3 million Australian employees and contractors. 

“Once people in an organisation can see that LGBTQIA+ employees are out and proud and getting support, it's just a breath of fresh air whereas if you've got unspoken issues with discrimination, and people don't feel they can be themselves at work, it’s bad for organisations," Mr Keely said.

“We would love an Australia where all employees could bring their whole selves to work and feel comfortable speaking about their partner, whatever gender or sexuality, and just be themselves. 

“Then we would have a more inclusive and productive Australia.” 

Ai Group plays a key role in promoting diversity and inclusion initiatives to our members and providing forums where members can share information and best practice approaches. Our Diversity and Inclusion Exchange is a member-driven network designed to share leading diversity approaches and strategies and views on emerging policy issues. 

Click here for information on Ai Group Diversity and Inclusion Awareness training.


ACON has been a member of Ai Group since 2021. 

"As a small-to-medium-sized organisation in the ‘Not for Profit’ sector, being a member of Ai Group provides us with the flexibility of having access to multiple centres of excellence in the employment field at our finger tips. 

Whether that is advice on an employment contractual matter or up-to-date information in relation to enterprise agreement bargaining protocols, Ai Group is a one-stop shop for all things employment-related. 

Having the ability to access current employment legislative information, whether that be over the phone, via email or via one of Ai Group's many webinars, is invaluable. 

If you are in the market for a business partner to guide and navigate the everchanging landscape of the employment arena, I highly recommend Ai Group." — Scott Blakeman, Manager, People & Culture, ACON Health Ltd 


Wendy Larter

Wendy Larter is Communications Manager at the Australian Industry Group. She has more than 20 years’ experience as a reporter, features writer, contributor and sub-editor for newspapers and magazines including The Courier-Mail in Brisbane and Metro, the News of the World, The Times and Elle in the UK.