How to protect LGBT equality in the workplace

How to protect LGBT equality in the workplace

To mark LGBT history month, Joanne Davies, partner in the employment law team at Blake Morgan, explains the importance of sexual orientation acceptance and how employers can take steps to prevent any potential discrimination.

Why is sexual orientation acceptance and inclusivity important to the workplace?

There is no doubt that diversity is good for business. A diverse workforce provides a wide range of individual skills and perspectives and a broad understanding of service users and clients.

But are there benefits for the individual? According to the 2013 Stonewall report Gay in Britain, 19% of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees had experienced verbal bullying from colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation in the last five years. 26% felt unable to be open with colleagues about their sexual orientation. Because of concerns about people’s reactions, some individuals are reluctant to disclose their sexual orientation at work but hiding it can be stressful and isolating. This can have an impact on health and well-being.

It is Stonewall’s view that if people are able to be themselves at work and are open about their sexual orientation they will perform better and feel more included and engaged.

Being committed to equality and diversity as an employer is not simply about legal compliance but being a model employer and employer of choice. This will be beneficial to current staff and will also help in the retention of staff and future recruitment.

What challenges does sexual orientation present in terms of recruitment and promotion?

The Equality Act 2010 (EqA 2010) prohibits discrimination, harassment and victimisation in relation to nine ‘protected characteristics’ one of which is sexual orientation. EqA 2010 defines sexual orientation as orientation towards:

  • people of the same sex (that is, the person is a gay man or lesbian)
  • people of the opposite sex (that is, the person is heterosexual)
  • people of either sex (that is, the person is bisexual)

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