Hoseasons boss tells how he is championing diversity in his workplace as Pride hits Norwich

Simon Altham, MD of Hoseasons.Picture: James Bass

Simon Altham, MD of Hoseasons.Picture: James Bass - Credit: James Bass

Figures show 62pc of all gay people who graduate from university go back into the closet in their first job.

The annual Norwich Pride parade through the city centre. Picture: Denise Bradley

The annual Norwich Pride parade through the city centre. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

A quarter of all of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender employees (LGBT) do not feel they can be out to their line manager, and half hide their sexuality from senior managers.

These are the shocking figures, from non-profit network OUTstanding, which spur Simon Altham on in his quest to spread a culture of diversity in his workplace, ensuring people can bring their 'whole selves' to work.

The 40 year old was the first openly gay employee at Lowestoft-based holiday company Hoseasons when he joined 10 years ago.

Now the business has joined hundreds of other organisations who have signed up to equality charity Stonewall, to become Diversity Champions.

Mr Altham said: 'If people can be themselves they are more likely to bring ideas to the table. We need ideas. We need to stay competitive.'

Through his work he has been contacted by employees from other companies who feel forced to hide who they are.

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'It comes down to a laddish culture,' he said. 'Or a culture where people feel that being honest about their sexuality would in some way change people's behaviour towards them and their relationships with other people at work.

'Tourism is different in that we have a mixed workplace of men and women but in a lot of businesses such as manufacturing that's not necessarily the case.

'One man said he worried if he came out to his boss would that change the relationship he had with him.'

The aim for increased diversity has spread to the company's brochures, with new photographs featuring a same-sex family and groups from ethnic minorities.

Younger staff members in the Hoseasons call centre often join straight from school, which presents its own challenges.

'We often need to explain the differences between behaviour at school and in the work place,' said Mr Altham.

The company plans to build lessons in work behaviour into inductions.

And Mr Altham has called on employees to discuss their sexuality in job interviews.

'Companies need to do more to embrace people but it works both ways and individuals should be up front about it, if they feel comfortable, to ensure they are choosing the right organisation for them.

'I knew 10 years ago if I wanted to become director of this business I needed to know there would be no barriers to my success and I wouldn't have to hide who I was.'

And he said diversity was not just for larger companies such as Aviva.

'Everyone should be thinking about it. It creates a really positive culture where you get employees who feel valued.'

Hoseasons will have a presence at Norwich Pride today, along with Aviva.

• Have you taken bold steps to improve diversity in the workplace? Contact Sabah Meddings on 01603 772879, or email sabah.meddings@archant.co.uk