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Employment law

LGBTQ+ Workplace Discrimination Progress

In this article we explore current trends on the number of claims for sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace, explaining your right to speak out if you’ve faced this during any point in your career.

30 June 2021

What trends have occurred around the number of sexual orientation discrimination cases?

UK legislation for sexual orientation discrimination has been in place since 2003. Also a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, it’s illegal to discriminate, harass or victimise an employee or colleague due to their sexual orientation.

Transgender workers are also safeguarded from discrimination in the workplace under the ‘gender reassignment’ protected characteristic.

Despite this, data collected in 2020 revealed that sexual orientation discrimination cases have increased 165 per cent since 2015. CIPD also found that more than four in 10 LGBTQ+ employees have experienced a work-based conflict in the last year alone, having also reported lower job satisfaction and low levels of psychological safety, compared with 29 per cent of heterosexual workers experiencing conflict at work. The majority of the respondents to the survey also said that the conflict experienced had remained unsolved.

Target of negative comments

Recent research from Stonewall found that 18 per cent of LGBT staff have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because of their sexual orientation. Unsurprisingly, threats of such behaviour has led to 35 per cent of people that identify as LGBT to hide their sexual orientation from anyone at work because they were afraid of becoming victims of discrimination.

Acts of discrimination aren’t the only issue. A study by TUC found that nearly 7 in 10 LGBT workers experienced at least one type of sexual harassment at work, commonly hearing comments of a sexual nature about their sexual orientation (43 per cent) and their gender identity (30 per cent).

Clearer strategies

Whilst some employers may have inclusion policies, a recent LinkedIn report found that over half (57 per cent) of LGBTQ+ employees are looking for their company to have clearer strategies in place to protect them, such as a heightened awareness of anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies. The research also found that absence of an inclusive culture not only negatively impacts LGBTQ employees’ well-being but also their retention, with 25 per cent of professionals having resigned from their role because they felt uncomfortable or unaccepted at work.

This highlights that further action is required by employers to create an open and equal working environment and to retain LGBTQ staff.

What can employers do to address these issues?

Numerous studies have shown that LGBT-inclusive practices enforced within workplaces have a positive impact on the organisation with employees expressing greater job satisfaction, regardless of their sexual orientation, and an improvement in financial standing.

Creating a diverse workforce starts with a recruitment process which uses inclusive language, considering requirements for pronouns and titles upon application forms, to ensure applications and job descriptions remain neutral and to omit any bias from those reviewing submissions.

Language can also be a huge driver for internal inclusion. Allowing people to choose their pronouns in work can help them feel respected and acknowledged in the workplace. This should be seamless to integrate into forms, email sign off and employee bios to encourage anyone of any sexual orientation to use these.

Employee experience experts, Sodexo, also recommend that organisations establish LGBTQ+ networking groups, championed by role models to initiate conversations and create an open environment where other employees feel comfortable sharing their experiences. Forming a community can also help the organisation understand LGBTQ+ requirements and advise organisations on areas of concern, engagement with the wider community and how to reach less visible audiences.

Keeping up these conversations within workplace LGBTQ+ communities is one thing, but policies and a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination must be communicated across all levels. Regular diversity and inclusion training is a must and it is vital to embed a culture of acceptance.

What are your rights if you’re facing sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace?

Sexual orientation discrimination can happen at any point throughout your career, whether that be through the recruitment process or during your employment. Whether this is communicated subtly or obviously, any employee experiencing discrimination has the right to speak out and make a claim.

If you’ve experienced sexual orientation discrimination at work, you have three months, minus one day, from the date of the last discriminatory act to file a complaint at an employment tribunal and the first step is to file an ACAS early conciliation form. You can also make an internal complaint through your employer’s grievance policy.

How we can help

Our experienced employment lawyers can advise you on the grievance and any employment tribunal claim offering pragmatic, expert advice throughout.

To speak to one of our experts today on 0330 041 5869 or contact us and we’ll call you.

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