The Government has appointed the UK’s first LGBT Business Champion to drive efforts to improve equality and support in small businesses.

Iain Anderson, executive chairman of public relations firm Cicero, has taken on the new role which was created by the Minister for Women and Equalities, Liz Truss.

According to the CIPD’s report in February on LGBT+ inclusion in the workplace, 40% of gay, lesbian and bisexual employees had experienced conflict at work, rising to 55% of trans employees.

A YouGov survey in 2019 revealed that LGBT people faced an average pay gap of 16% compared to heterosexual people – about double the UK’s gender pay gap.

While larger corporates have put in place initiatives to tackle inequality, less has been done at small business level. The LGBT Business Champion will focus on small businesses, defined as fewer than 50 employees, which includes most garment decorators.

Anderson said: “It is important that both large and small businesses can unleash the potential of all their LGBT employees and customers. There is an opportunity for the UK to be a world leader on action by business to make this happen.”

As LGBT Business Champion, Anderson’s role will focus on progressing LGBT equality in employment and enterprise, continuing to build on the work the Equality Hub has supported with SMEs in this field.

The role will harness the influence of FTSE and sector business leaders to act as agents of change to increase diversity in business leadership.

Earlier this year, Anderson hosted a roundtable for businesses, encouraging SMEs and the self-employed to share their plans around inclusive workplaces and promoting best practice, and he will continue to host similar events.

Among his early priorities, Anderson will work with employers to establish a business-led network that connects large organisations and SMEs, focusing on sharing best practice, and potentially resource, in order to progress LGBT equality at work.

The appointment was welcomed by LGBT+ campaign group Stonewall. Its CEO Nancy Kelley said: “With over a third of LGBTQ+ people feeling the need to hide who they are at work, there is still much to do to ensure all workplaces are truly inclusive. We look forward to working closely with Iain and sharing our advice and expertise to help transform workplaces and unlock the potential of LGBTQ+ people across the UK.”

Peter Cheese, chief executive of the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, added: “We welcome this appointment given employers, more than ever, need to be proactive about inclusion and to understand and address any forms of discrimination in the workplace.

“CIPD research suggests many LGBT+ workers don’t feel safe to express themselves and be accepted at work, which will impact on their working relationships, wellbeing and overall job satisfaction.

“There should be visible commitment from senior leaders to foster open and inclusive working environments where employees feel safe and supported, and difference is valued.”