Diversity charity Stonewall has been accused of using its exclusive diversity rankings to 'coerce' public bodies into lobbying for changes to sex and gender laws.
Stonewall is facing a backlash as documents revealed the organisation may be strong arming employers in return for higher places on its exclusive Top 100 Employers list
The LGBT charity is facing a backlash after documents reportedly revealed the organisation may be strong arming employers in return for higher places on its exclusive Top 100 Employers list.
The Times reports the diversity charity is using its rankings to 'lobby on their behalf' - rewarding those who follow Stonewall's gender policies and punishing those who do not.
And former founding member of the group Simon Fanshawe has slammed the charity: '[The index] started out as a way of helping employers ensure their lesbian and gay staff were well looked after.
'But what it has turned into now sounds more like coercion - a way of coercing employers in their language and structure, instead of encouraging them to embrace the different needs of their LGBT staff.'
The diversity charity is accused of using its rankings to 'lobby on their behalf' - rewarding those who follow Stonewall's gender policies and punishing those who do not. [Stock image]
The Scottish Government is said to have been encouraged to campaign for sex and gender law changes in return for a higher Stonewall ranking. Above: Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, pictured at Pride Glasgow
Stonewall says its rankings - which use the Workplace Equality Index referred to as the UK's 'leading benchmark tool for LGBT inclusion' - provide a list of the 'best employers for LGBT people'.
More than 500 public bodies, from NHS trusts to the Scottish government, applied to be listed on the charity's exclusive index last year.
These bodies must complete a 31-page form that questions social media use, HR policies and inclusion measures which can take months to complete.
Stonewall has been accused of 'coercing' employers by using its Top 100 Employers index to lobby for new sex and gender law in the UK.
So who are some of the public bodies who have applied to be part of the charity's exclusive rankings?
The Scottish Government
Nicola Sturgeon's administration offered up elected ministers' social media activity, as well as mooting possible changes to the Gender Recognition Act 2004 as part of its previous applications.
Nicola Sturgeon poses at Glasgow Pride
It failed to crack the top 100 rankings in 2020, placing 127th.
Central London Community Heathcare Trust
The NHS body, which cares for more than 2million people in the capital, was told by Stonewall to remove references to 'mother' and replace it with 'pregnant employee' or 'birthing parent'.
Intellectual Property Office
The IPO soared 80 places in the index to 13th after appearing in a 2018 Stonewall advert that urged people to fill in self-identification forms as part of a government consultation.
The organisation denied influencing the consultation and said it does not take part in 'lobbying activity'.
Welsh council Rhondda Cynon Taf
South Wales council Rhondda Cynon Taf was praised and moved into the Top 100 rankings after the public body removed gendered language from its HR policies.
The London council, whose Labour mayor Philip Glanville was the first in the borough to convert a same-sex civil partnership in 2014, was penalised in its 'role models' section in its application.
But new documents reveal the lengths these organisations go to in order to satisfy Stonewall's rigid requirements - including offering screenshots of employees social media posts and promising changes to internal inclusion policies.
Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish government is one of many high profile diversity applicants - who are said to have sent details of Pride events attended by the First Minister and examples of dissenting colleagues being muzzled in internal communications.
Legal changes to the Gender Recognition Act were also mooted as part of earlier applications, although Holyrood plummeted out of the top 100 rankings in Stonewall's 2020 index.
Outspoken critics have also slammed Stonewall's attempt to impose its own interpretations of sex and gender on employers.
Kate Lee, a former Stonewall volunteer who lobbied MPs for gay marriage rights, told the Times: 'It [the index] is a Ponzi scheme.
'They have invented an idea [gender identity] which they are imposing on others without their consent. You don't get acceptance by demanding compliance. Gay people are getting sick of it.'
Stonewall told MailOnline that organisations on their Top 100 Employers list are rewarded for their 'impressive work towards becoming a more inclusive workplace.'
A spokesperson for the charity said:
‘Our Workplace Equality Index is a robust benchmarking tool which offers a free and voluntary way for all organisations to reflect on their own LGBTQ+ inclusion journey.
'All of the organisations who place on our Top 100 Employers list gain their ranking based on their impressive work towards becoming a more inclusive workplace, which is marked against thorough and standardised criteria.
'It is completely normal and appropriate for national charities to engage with public sector organisations to support them in making their workplaces inclusive for lesbian, gay, bi, trans and queer staff, and we're proud to help over 850 organisations in this work through our Diversity Champions programme.
'We’re confident that the advice that we give to organisations is robust and helps to create inclusive and safe environments for everyone.
'All our guidance on the Equality Act is based on the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Equality Act Code of Practice, which was recently reaffirmed in the High Court.’
Government bodies and NHS organisations have also tried to place among the Top 100 in recent years.
Central London Community Health NHS Trust was reportedly asked to replace the word 'mother' with 'birthing parent' or 'pregnant employee' in order to receive a better ranking.
The body, which cares for more than two million patients across the capital, was also told to ensure its social media accounts 'clearly shows support for LGBT equality'.
The Trust ranked 339th in the charity's Top 100 employers of 2020.
In 2018, the Intellectual Property Office faced a barrage of questions after appearing in a Stonewall advert that urged people to complete gender self-identification forms as part of a Government consultation.
Members of the public pondered why the IPO, a government body, was taking a stance on a politicised debate.
When Stonewall revealed its Top 100 employers of 2019, the IPO had soared up to 13th place in its rankings - moving up 80 positions on the previous year.
The charity reportedly reserved special praise for the IPO's very 'public support for reform to the Gender Recognition Act' and its social media use that showed a 'commitment to LGBT equality'.
A spokesperson for the IPO told the Times it denied influencing the consultation and said it does not take part in 'lobbying activity'.
Councils across England and Wales have also clamoured to be a part of Stonewall's list, with some going as far as removing all gendered language from its policies.
Rhondda Cynon Taf, the only Welsh council to make the top 100 last year, was praised for removing 'gendered pronouns' such as 'mother' on its application.
Central London Community Health NHS Trust was asked to replace the word 'mother' with 'birthing parent' or 'pregnant employee' in its application. The Trust ranked 339th last year
Hackney Council, whose Labour mayor Philip Glanville was the first in the borough to convert a same-sex civil partnership in 2014, was penalised in its 'role models' section and told to include transgender leaders.
Chair of Sex Matters and barrister Naomi Cunningham, told The Times: 'Stonewall sells its Workplace Equality Index as a scheme to help organisations comply with equality law.
'But what it offers is lobbying — it presents its own highly contentious understanding of what the law should be presented as 'training' on what the law is.
'It tells organisations to treat anyone who identifies as the opposite sex as if they have changed sex, and are therefore automatically entitled to use spaces such as toilets, changing rooms and showers that others rely on for privacy.
'That's not the law.'