The Equality Act 2010 - Homophobia at Work, are some workplaces more Equal than Others?

It is a testament to the changing face of a society that Phillip Schofield’s revelation on Instagram that he is gay, has been universally met with support and understanding. That is not say that homophobia has disappeared, far from it, but previously the chances of a person occupying the position in the media that Phillip Schofield enjoys announcing that they are gay would have been nought to zero. 

It may have taken him a little while to decide on making this statement, for a number of reasons, but he doubtless has no regrets other than the potential impact on his wife and family which he has acknowledged. The fact he has been inundated with messages of support from all sections of society may assist in taking the edge of any misgivings he may have had.

Gay Lawyers applauds his decision and offers support to him and all the other high profile individuals who have chosen to share such personal information.

For others, their workplace may be entirely different and such a revelation such as Phillip Schofield’s may result in a polar-opposite reaction delivering a raft of discriminatory behaviour to the employee. There are a number of industry sectors in which a gay person may think twice about announcing their sexuality, from the construction industry to City investment banking, however, employers must act if homophobia is reported to them.  A good manager should be able to spot the signs and stamp it out before there is a crisis and there are a number of initiatives aimed at promoting inclusiveness in the workplace.  Many business membership organisations require a potential member to give an account of an organisation’s diversity and inclusion policy prior to membership.  The well known legal directory Chambers & Partners has requested such information first time this year as part of the information required when ranking a law firm’s performance.

All companies and business organisations would be well advised to keep a watching brief on their workforce to ensure that there are no breaches that have gone unnoticed that may bring discriminatory trouble to their doorstep.  There is little room for manoeuvre for a business once a genuine complaint has been made by an employee if it is not immediately and robustly addressed, they will be in breach of the Act.

The latest report by Stonewall, the LGBTQ lobbying group, reveals that one in five LGBTQ employees have actually experienced negative behaviour from colleagues due to their sexual orientation, with over a third LGBTQ individuals choosing to conceal their sexual orientation due to fear of discrimination.

Anyone who believes that they have been on the receiving end of discrimination due to their sexual orientation has a legal remedy, quite simply it is against the law - The Equality Act 2010 particularly protects against such discrimination.  There are steps to take with your employers prior to taking steps towards a legal solution to allow them to resolve the problem internally. However, if your employer does not adequately address the issue or dismisses comments and behaviour as “workplace banter” you have an alternative avenue.  

Nobody should suffer ignominious treatment in the workplace due to their sexual orientation.

Author  Daniel Theron

If you would like to know more about how you can address discrimination in the workplace please click here