Sexual Orientation Discrimination

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Despite recent high profile sportsmen ‘coming out’ to declare their sexual orientation, an equality charity has highlighted that homophobic discrimination is still rife in the workplace. This was further supported by research conducted by People Management in September 2013 which found at least 58% of employees were still uncomfortable or afraid to tell their colleagues that they were gay or lesbian for fear of abuse and discrimination.

Discrimination against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation is unlawful and is covered by the Equality Act 2010. This act makes it unlawful to:

  • Discriminate directly – e.g. to oversee the employee for promotion or pay rise because of their sexual orientation.

  • Discriminate indirectly – e.g. having in place benefits that only heterosexual individuals benefit from.

  • Harassment – e.g. behaving in an offensive or intimidating manner towards someone because of their sexual orientation.

  • Victimisation – e.g. threaten someone because they have said they will lodge a complaint or raise a grievance because of the ill treatment they have been subjected to.
Employers are well advised to have comprehensive policies in place covering Equality and Dignity at work to sit alongside the Anti-harassment and Bullying policy. Regular training on the subject of what actions are considered discriminatory and unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 will further strengthen the employer’s position and ensure all employees are treated equally and with dignity. This can only result in a positive and happy workforce.

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