How to be an ally

Although many people will be open and comfortable with speaking about their identity, it is important to ensure all conversations about a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity remain confidential. Before seeking further support or guidance which may reveal someone’s identity you must seek that individual’s explicit consent.

How PIs, Line Managers and Academic Supervisors can support LGBTQ+ staff travelling abroad  

Line managers and supervisors should support their staff/students in developing a safe travel plan, which may include considerations around LGBTQ+ travel. Whilst some aspects of an individual’s personal characteristics may be visible, others, such as sexual orientation or gender identity are often invisible. Therefore, it’s good practice to discuss considerations around safe travel and protected characteristics with all staff and students before approving any travel plans. It is not necessary for line managers/supervisors to be ‘experts’ in global LGBTQ+ legislation, but line managers should demonstrate: 

  • an open-minded, problem-solving approach to issues and safeguarding
  • a positive and accepting attitude
  • an open style of communication 
  • awareness of the College’s policies and procedures in relation to safe travel.

While not exhaustive, below we outline some simple ways that PIs and Line Managers can ensure they’re accounting for the specific risks facing LGBTQ+ staff travelling abroad on College Business. In addition, GOV.UK offers travel advice specifically for LGBTQ+ people travelling abroad. Visit the Foreign Travel Advice page for country or territory-specific advice.

Recruitment: When recruiting it is vital to include as much detail about any travel requirements associated with a role, including the country of travel, length of travel and if appropriate the frequency of travel so that candidates can make an informed decision about if the role is for them. This information should be included in the ‘key information’ section of the job description.

Providing appropriate risk assessment and mitigation advice for LGBTQ+ travellers: If staff are comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation and gender identity, these assessments should be bespoke and look at the specific risk profile of the individual traveller. This should include an assessment of the location and purpose of travel, as well as the prevailing legal, cultural, logistical and security risks they are likely to face. It’s useful to be aware of the challenges LGBTQ+ travellers may face and support them to consider how they can respond to these. You should also consider how you can support the member of staff whilst they are abroad and ways you can ensure you protect their identity. It would be useful to discuss this with the member of staff/student before the trip. 

However, many staff may not feel comfortable disclosing their sexual orientation and it is, therefore, important that you signpost to accessible LGBTQ+ travel risk mitigation advice, including the resources available through these College webpages. This ensures that everyone can discreetly access information to keep LGBTQ+ staff safe whilst working abroad.

Develop contingency plans: While preventative measures can significantly reduce the risk facing LGBTQ+ staff abroad, it is important that you discuss what to do in the event of an incident impacting a LGBTQ+ staff member. Considerations should include the accessibility of consular and legal support, and communications protocols. A documented risk assessment Fieldwork Risk Assessment Form (FW1) and Off Site Working Emergency Response Plan should be completed.

What if a member of staff or student doesn’t want to travel/doesn’t feel safe travelling: It’s important to have open dialogue with staff as early as possible about any travel requirements for projects. Do not assume that a staff member doesn’t want to travel because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. If a current member of staff does not want to travel or feels unsafe travelling to a certain country or region because of local laws or attitudes, then staff should not be penalised because of this. PI’s, managers and supervisors are encouraged to explore other options with the member of staff in which the work could be conducted without travel. All possible options should be explored. 

How co-travellers can support LGBTQ+ staff travelling abroad 

There is also a risk of LGBTQ+ staff being “outed” by others while abroad. Colleagues travelling with LGBTQ+ staff who are aware of their co-travelling colleagues’ LGBTQ+ identity must be aware of the requirement to keep this information confidential. We encourage managers and the member of staff travelling to discuss this with your colleagues prior to travel. 

Useful resources

How to be an LGBTQ+ ally