February marks the celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month, raising awareness and giving recognition to the complex and inspiring history of the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community. 

The 2024 theme ‘Medicine – #UnderTheScope’ spotlights the LGBTQ+ contribution to the field of medicine and healthcare. With that in mind, we’re reflecting on the impact healthcare challenges have on the LGBTQ+ community and examining the role Centrica can play by creating an inclusive environment for all. 

Not all equal

LGBTQ+ History Month serves as a celebration of the barriers that have been broken but also as a call to action for the challenges that lie ahead. The LGBTQ+ community continues to face discrimination, violence and prejudice in many areas of their lives, including the healthcare and medical industry.

Many LGBTQ+ figures have influenced today’s healthcare system, creating pioneering institutions, studies and research. This includes Alan L. Hart, a key trans researcher in the use of radiology for the treatment of tuberculosis, and Magnus Hirschfeld, the founder of the Institute for Sexual Science, which provided medical care (including sexual health and gender-affirming treatment) to members of the LGBTQ+ community in the 1900’s. Of course, LGBTQ+ staff continue to create huge value across the NHS today. 

Despite these incredible contributions to science and medical care, LGBTQ+ people have disproportionately worse outcomes and experiences of healthcare. A stat taken from the 2017 National LGBT survey found that around 4 in 10 (38%) respondents had a negative experience when accessing public health services because of their gender identity. This highlights the potential health inequalities that the LGBTQ+ community faces.

With health discrimination based around sexual orientation such a prominent concern for so many, it’s imperative that as a society we push for change. Equal healthcare access, experience and outcomes for LGBTQ+ communities should be a given.

Being your full self

For many, being your true self may come easy, but this isn’t always the case.

Evidence suggests that a significant number of the LGBTQ+ community do not live permanently in their affirmed gender role because they believe that this may threaten their safety or employment. Many people who are considering transition feel fearful or apprehensive about the reactions of their colleagues and leaders in the workplace. 

That’s why, as a company, we’re striving to foster an environment where everyone feels seen, heard and empowered. Working closely with our + network, it’s vital to understand the importance of building awareness for LGBTQ+ issues and creating an inclusive space where individuals can thrive and make a positive impact. A belief in embracing and celebrating our differences and identities is what sets us apart, most notably in our Transitioning at Work policy, designed by and specifically for LGBTQ+ colleagues.  

The policy is designed to help support any colleague to undergo gender affirming care and covers LGBTQ+ specific processes such as pronouns and name changes - ensuring that all colleagues have clear guidelines on how they can receive and offer their support.

At the heart of the policy are allyship guidelines for managers and colleagues. When combined with the work of our + colleague network this recognises the value of a strong support network. 

Overcoming barriers to parenthood

For many LGBTQ+ individuals looking to start a family, there are often expensive and extensive hoops to jump through. With health inequalities also extending to fertility, LGBTQ+ people often lack access to NHS-funded treatment, with same-sex couples expected to demonstrate their infertility before the NHS will fund IVF. To do so, they must first pay privately for between 3-12 rounds of IVF. With many unable to afford to fund these treatments, individuals can be forced down alternative routes to parenthood, or miss out on the opportunity completely. 

To be denied a family because of sexual orientation, gender or race isn’t something that anybody should experience. Our Pathway to Parenthood policy was designed with inclusivity in mind, to allow all colleagues the best chance to build the family they want, whatever that looks like. The policy provides a free lifetime allowance for every colleague to utilise IVF, surrogacy and adoption, regardless of both sexual orientation or relationship status. By removing some of the financial burden, the policy offers an opportunity to overcome some of the social and financial barriers that LGBTQ+ colleagues may otherwise encounter when it comes to accessing treatment through public healthcare schemes. 

Pathway to parenthood is so vital to Centrica's LGBTQ+ colleagues since it provides equal access to things such as IVF and egg/sperm donation and storage for any Centrica colleague facing adoption, fertility or surrogacy issues regardless of gender expression or sexuality. Without this allowance, having a family is unfeasible for many people.”

Catherine Baker, + Network Co-chair.

Looking forward

As LGBTQ+ History Month comes to a close, it’s important that we continue to acknowledge the challenges that still lie ahead. While it’s clear that great strides have been made for the LGBTQ+ community over the years, the complex history highlights that there are still much-needed improvements to be made as a society through medical policy and beyond.

As we continue to build on our own learnings and policies as a company, let’s look to work collectively to eradicate prejudices and create a better future for generations to come. The LGBTQ+ History Month’s official slogan, ‘Claiming our past – celebrating our present – creating our future’ seems to summarise it perfectly.