Employment law

Do I have to disclose my sexuality to my employer?

Whether or not you wish to disclose your sexuality to your employer at any time in your career is your choice, but does the decision you make affect your rights?

17 February 2022

LGBTQ+ woman wrapped in flag on Pride march

Is it mandatory to tell your employer your sexuality?

It’s not a requirement to disclose your sexuality to your employer. Some employers may ask about sexual orientation during recruitment, as part of their equal opportunity processes, but this will usually be anonymised, and you’re not obligated to answer any of the questions.

Many members of the LGBTQ+ community are hesitant when it comes to sharing their sexual orientation with colleagues, or coming out at work, for fear of facing sexual orientation discrimination or unconscious bias in the workplace. In fact, our LinkedIn survey results showed that 55% of individuals would choose not to disclose their sexual orientation to their employer. Of the 45% who said they would tell their employer, 26% said they would choose to do so at interview stage, 3% said after getting the job and 16% said after settling into role.

How sexual orientation is protected

Sexual orientation is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This means that it’s unlawful for your employer to discriminate against you on these grounds. In the workplace, there are a number of situations where discrimination based on sexual orientation may become apparent, such as:

  • Recruitment
  • Promotions
  • T&Cs
  • Opportunities
  • Treatment (harassment)
  • Pay and pensions
  • Redundancy and dismissal

It’s important to note that if an individual(s) believes that you’re lesbian, gay or bisexual and treats you unfairly based on this assumption, then this can still amount to unlawful discrimination - regardless of whether their assumption is correct.

Whether or not you disclose your sexuality to your employer wouldn’t necessarily prevent you from bringing a discrimination claim. It may be that if an individual discriminated against you based on a protected characteristic, or they had no intention to discriminate against you, but their comments or actions related to your sexual orientation and caused you offence, you have grounds for a discrimination claim. This will, however, depend on many factors based on your individual circumstances, so we’d advise getting in touch with an employment law expert in the first instance. You only have a set amount of time in which to make an employment discrimination claim, so it’s important not to delay.

If you do feel like you want to disclose your sexual orientation to your employer, you could set up a meeting with your manager, another manager that you trust, or a member of the HR team. Alternatively, you may find it more comfortable to simply mention it in conversation with your colleagues or someone you trust.

The most important thing, though, is to do what’s right for you, in your own time.

What to do if you feel you’re being discriminated against because of your sexuality?

Despite sexual orientation being a protected characteristic, research from LGBTQ+ support network, Stonewall, showed that 12% of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees don’t feel confident reporting homophobic or biphobic bullying to their employer.

No one should have to face homophobia in the workplace. Where you feel able to do so, it’s important to fight for the justice you deserve and to challenge homophobia and unconscious bias at work.

A discrimination lawyer will be able to let you know whether you have a case, and will outline the process of pursuing a discrimination claim step by step. You only have three months (minus one day) from the date of the last discriminatory act in which to begin the process.

If you need us, our team of employment lawyers is here for you. We’re one of the UK’s largest consumer law firms, and our team have many years of experience supporting clients facing LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace.

If you’d like to speak with one of our expert employment team, simply get in touch on 0330 041 5869, or, if you prefer, you can contact us via our online form or web chat.

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