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Civil Service

Championing an inclusive workplace for LGBT+

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Civil Service Leaders, Diversity and inclusion
Jim Harra
Jim Harra

In the New Year, I was appointed Deputy Chief Executive and Second Permanent Secretary of HM Revenue & Customs.

It’s been a challenging and exciting few months in my new position, and I’m getting used to a wider range of responsibilities.

One priority that has remained constant for me is my role as LGBT+ champion at HMRC. I have been actively involved in this for a number of years, promoting an inclusive place for LGBT+ colleagues to work in, and inclusive service provision for our LGBT+ customers. I have found over time that the best way of building that inclusion is to work with a strong LGBT+ network and share good practice across the Civil Service and beyond. It is something I think all departments should be aiming to do.

Role model programme

I work closely with the steering group for HMRC’s Prism LGBT+ network to ensure that our network is active and visible across the country. We’ve found that the biggest challenge is making the support that is available visible to all colleagues, and it’s something we’ve been working on for a few years.

This led to an initiative I’m very proud of – HMRC launched the Prism Role Model Programme, which encourages colleagues, including LGBT+ colleagues, managers, allies and friends, to wear a rainbow lanyard. It means that anyone can be a visible signpost to support, either through their managers, through the network coordinators or myself. I wear one at all times and I take great pride when visiting sites across the regions to see these lanyards being worn by others as well (we’ve now issued over 2,000). I know from feedback that it offers a great sense of inclusion and acceptance, encouraging colleagues to be themselves in the workplace.

The Rainbow flag over 100 Parliament Street
The Rainbow flag over 100 Parliament Street 

Flying the flag

If you have been following HMRC’s transformation programme, which Jon Thompson wrote about in Marchyou will know that we are in the process of setting up 13 regional centres. Making these centres a great place to do great work not only involves providing our people with excellent accommodation and tech, but also creating an inclusive working environment in which everyone can give their best. The Prism network is playing a pivotal role in that. We have policies in place for flag-flying on all our buildings, where possible. This includes the Rainbow and Transgender flags, which are flown on key dates in the LGBT+ calendar, displaying very visibly that HMRC supports the LGBT+ community.

Civil Service LGBT+ Network logoHMRC is keen to work with other government departments and has members working with the Civil Service LGBT+ Network (formerly the Civil Service Rainbow Alliance) and a:gender, the cross-government support network for Trans+ colleagues.

"Be visible"

I’m aware there is always more we can do to promote a truly inclusive workplace. For example, we have been working with Stonewall to identify where HMRC needs to improve. Over the next few months I will also be working with Civil Service HR’s Diversity & Inclusion team and the Prism network on our 2018/19 action plan. I’m confident that we can build on the fantastic foundations we have put in place and continue to create an inclusive, diverse and welcoming place to work.

If I was to offer any advice to those who want to promote diversity and create an environment where anyone and everyone can thrive, I would say, “be visible, build support networks and work with everyone in the organisation so there is a buy-in and support for inclusivity.” I think this is vital, and as we see the workforce in the Civil Service becoming more and more diverse I hope that we continue to create workplaces where everyone can be themselves. This should benefit us as we encourage colleagues to make use of their own experiences and backgrounds to help tackle problems that affect everyone in the UK.

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  1. Comment by Richard Fawcett posted on

    What a great article! I work in BPV and proudly were my Prism lanyard. I've only worked for HMRC for 18 months and I have found it to be a very inclusive organisation that really strives to promote diversity.

    Quick question are we involved in any of the pride events? Do we run stalls or march? I would love to get more involved with LGBT activities I'm just not sure who the main point of contact is up in BPV. Any answers would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you :o)

  2. Comment by Sean Coneeny posted on

    What's the "+" ?

    • Replies to Sean Coneeny>

      Comment by Richard Fawcett posted on

      Hi Sean,

      From my understanding the + relates to other sexualities for example pansexual, asexual and omnisexual.

      I hope this helps



  3. Comment by Gavin Thomas posted on


    Thank you for a very interesting article and for sharing your ideas.

    I work for FCO Services and I am currently posted to our British Consulate General Offices in Istanbul. Prior to taking up my posting, I attended the one day Stonewall LGBT+ Allies training course. I found it to be extremely useful and I also learnt much about the ways in which I can help to support my colleagues.

    I wear my rainbow lanyard together with my MHFA [England] laynard with a sense of purpose and I have been encouraged by the number of local engaged members of staff who have approached me and asked me about it.

    I would agree that collectively we can all make a difference and ensure that we have a working environment in which everyone can be authentic.

    • Replies to Gavin Thomas>

      Comment by Derek Bradford posted on

      Hi Gavin, wow I am so incredibly impressed that our PRISM Rainbow Lanyards are being worn In Istanbul!
      Would you mind emailing me further details at:
      as it would be really good to speak with you.
      Thank you , Derek

  4. Comment by Declan Quinn posted on

    How do you become a Prism Ro-model. I don't its something we do here in Newcastle Benton Park View I have E-mailed and phoned the recommended numbers on the intranet for several months and there has been no reply. ??

    • Replies to Declan Quinn>

      Comment by Derek Bradford posted on

      Hi Declan, sorry to hear you have had some problems which I will investigate further. I have emailed you and can arrange to sign you up as an HMRC LGBT+ Prism Role Model and send you a Rainbow Lanyard. I look forward to hearing from you, Regards, Derek

    • Replies to Declan Quinn>

      Comment by Jen R posted on

      I had the same problem. I followed the process and sent the email, but never received a reply.

      • Replies to Jen R>

        Comment by Steve Hall posted on

        Hi Jen, I have tracked down the broken link in the process and working to rectifying it.

    • Replies to Declan Quinn>

      Comment by Ringo posted on

      Here at Benton Park View, PCS has a number of LGBT reps & Eddy Nixon can be contacted on 03000 553858, who can provide you with information about events & programmes that PCS Pride run.

  5. Comment by stephen mcmorrow posted on

    All to easy to take what Jim, Derek & other pro-active colleagues do for granted so I thank you. Your passion, drive and great work has helped create a more respectful workplace which we all benefit from. Working in the dept. for over 30 years I see the difference you've made and benefit from it as do many others. You are appreciated and you do make a difference, respect.

  6. Comment by Nicholas Paul Godkin posted on

    This is a wonderful and worthwhile program. We should all feel respected in the workplace and in society. It's time to listen, to educate and for people to be heard.

  7. Comment by Paul O'Rourke posted on

    All Good stuff Mr Harra, after all life is too short to carry antiquated baggage about... "Viva la Difference" as the French would say, if like me they couldn't spell in French.
    One question though...Where do you get the lanyards from?
    Keep up the good work

  8. Comment by Mitch James posted on

    I echo the comments made by Derek Bradford, its a pleasure to have known and worked with Jim on many projects, his support to the LGBT+ community with HMRC has been invaluable, with his support and the work we do as part of the steering committee we can ensure a truly inclusive working environment for all colleagues. A fantastic article. I would also like to say a thank you to Derek Bradford for the excellent job he is undertaking as chair of the steering committee. HMRC is in a much better place than when I first started in the department 20 years ago, a much more positive and accepting environment for all. Thank you Jim.

  9. Comment by Derek Bradford posted on

    What a fantastic article! It is absolutely terrific to have Jim as our LGBT+ Champion, and both Jim and Jon Thompson, our Chief Executive are always 100% supportive of everything our LGBT+ Prism Network do.
    I am so totally proud to be Chairperson of the HMRC LGBT+ Prism Network and to work for such an inclusive organisation that celebrates our diversity, where staff can be open about their sexuality or gender identity with friends and colleagues who stand with us against prejudice.
    I would encourage everyone to join our LGBT+ Prism Network as a Role Model and like Jim I take great pride in wearing my Rainbow lanyard at all times - it really is amazing what 'The Power of the Lanyard' can do!