Stonewall shuts down claim it ‘purged’ government departments from top 100 employers list

Kemi Badenoch

Stonewall, Europe’s largest LGBTQ+ organisation, has shut down claims that it “purged” government departments from its 2023 Top 100 Employers list.

In reality, Stonewall says, the list is decided by a set of strict criteria which employers are ranked against, and this year, no government departments made the cut.

The 2023 Top 100 Employers list – which was released back in February – is made up of employers that have done “great work for all LGBTQ+ people” in the last year, and provide an environment where LGBTQ+ folks are free to be themselves.

Three UK ministries, including the Home Office, made Stonewall’s Top 100 list in 2020. In 2023, none did.  

Sharing the months-old news on Friday (18 August), The Telegraph claimed: “Stonewall has purged all government departments from its list of top 100 employers.” 

However, Stonewall told PinkNews that this is not true.

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A Stonewall spokesperson said: “Each entrant is marked against set criteria and those in the top 100 scored the highest.

“Media reports that we have ‘purged’ the list of government departments are wholly inaccurate.”

International law firm Clifford Chance tops this year’s Top 100 Employers list, followed by sustainable development firm Arup and the charity Victim Support.

The NHS Business Services Authority, an executive non-departmental public body of the Department of Health and Social Care comes in fourth, followed by Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. Swansea University, HSBC, Tesco, Unilever and Sky UK all made the top 20. 

LGBTQ+ people still experience discrimination at work

Queer and trans people in the UK still face barriers in the workplace, with a recent study finding that nearly half (49 per cent) of LGBTQ+ Brits had experienced discrimination at work due to their sexuality or gender identity.

Stonewall’s own research shows that one in 10 LGBTQ+ people have faced barriers to career progression, one in eight don’t feel able to disclose their identity to their colleagues and one in five LGBTQ+ job searchers feel discriminated against. 

A spokesperson from Stonewall said: “The Stonewall Top 100 Employers list is the leading way for UK employers to benchmark how LGBTQ-inclusive their working environments are. 

“We are proud that this prestigious list attracts entries from a wide array of sectors – with this year’s list highlighting that increasingly, the private sector is leading the way in developing respectful, welcoming environments for its employees – alongside many strong performances from across the public sector.”

The Conservative government dropped out of Stonewall’s diversity programme in 2021

The Cabinet Office – which includes the government’s Equalities Office – announced it was leaving Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme back in 2021, a move that was encouraged by by then-equalities minister and (briefly) former prime minister, Liz Truss.

Other government departments, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, OfCom, Channel 4 and the BBC all later withdrew too, with the latter saying “its participation raised questions over impartiality on issues such as trans rights”.

The Diversity Champions Programme provides basic guidance for employers on making a workplace more inclusive and welcoming to the LGBTQ+ community, including having gender-neutral bathrooms available and respecting people’s pronouns

Made to ensure “all LGBT+ staff are accepted without exception in the workplace”, it counted over 250 government departments and public bodies among its more than 850 members.

According to government officials at the time, this decision had nothing to do with trans rights but rather was a “value for money” issue.

However, The Telegraph reported a Whitehall source as saying that the government’s involvement with Stonewall’s programme had “disastrous consequences” and equalities minister Kemi Badenoch knows there are “better ways” to run diversity and inclusion initiatives.

“The government outsourcing diversity and inclusion [D&I] programmes to organisations like Stonewall has had disastrous consequences, like bringing in self-ID by the back door and seeing gender critical feminists equated with antisemites,” the source alleged.

“Kemi Badenoch has worked hard to ensure departments know there are better ways to run D&I – ways which provide better value for taxpayers and meet civil service impartiality rules.

“Now all can see that Whitehall has joined the BBC, Channel 4 and the equality watchdog, the EHRC, in rejecting Stonewall’s discredited scheme.”

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