Employers should work to Eradicate Workplace Discrimination

Discrimination in the workplace related to sexual orientation is still depressingly common.  The legislation specifically created to address sexual orientation discrimination has been in place in the UK since 2003.  The Equality Act 2010 updated the law, part of this law is particularly aimed at lesbian, gay and bisexual employees and sexual orientation is one of the nine protected characteristics, with gender reassignment enjoying separate protected characteristic status under the 2010 Act. 

The aim is to protect employees and job applicants against direct and indirect sexual orientation and gender reassignment discrimination, harassment and victimisation which is purely based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender status.  However, YouGov research showed that over a third of LGBT people who took part feared discrimination to the extent that they would not reveal themselves as gay to their colleagues.  The figure rose to 51% for transgender employees.  Bullying in the workplace was complained about by 18% of the LGBT employees, who stated that they had been the target of offensive remarks by their colleagues due to their sexual orientation.

Employers should take every step to eradicate sexual orientation bullying and discrimination in their businesses if for no other reason that it makes business sense to ensure that their workforce is secure and at ease to get the best out of them.  Nobody works to the full capacity if they are anxious and upset; in particular, any employee about to embark on transitioning from one gender to another is likely to be fragile for a while.  Employers should be clear with their workforce and let it be known that there is a zero tolerance policy applied to discrimination and bullying.

Research related to transgender employees which was conducted in 2017 by the Institute for Employment Studies (IES) for the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) which shows that line manager confidence is crucial in supporting transgender employees.   Line managers are likely to be the first to know about an incident of bullying or victimisation at work and with the right training, they can tackle negative treatment swiftly and nip it in the bud before the victim becomes picked on by others.  Dealing with unacceptable behaviour in a timely fashion saves the business from being exposed to the risk of legal action if the discriminatory behaviour gets out of hand.  The escalation of workplace bullying to legal action costs far more than just the legal fees on top of the time already taken to manage the matter internally.  There will be the cost of witnesses taken out of the workplace to attend the tribunal, often for several days, together with the inevitable internal disruption that comes with workplace politics which has a profoundly unsettling effect and reduces productivity.  Far better to ensure that organisational behaviour is compliant with the Equality Act and demonstrates a supportive culture with zero tolerance for transphobia and any other LGBT discrimination.

Gay Lawyers can assist both employers with a compliant policy and employees who have suffered sexual orientation discrimination.

For further information please email contact@gaylawyers.co.uk or telephone 020 7043 5923