Following a survey of over 100,000 lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and trans (LGBT) people, the government has announced an action plan to tackle discrimination against them.
The survey (which is the biggest in the world to date) found that 23 per cent of respondents had experienced a negative or mixed reaction from others in the workplace due to being LGBT or being thought to be LGBT.
In terms of being open at work about their sexual orientation, it found that a fifth of respondents had not been open with colleagues who were at the same or lower level than them. They were much less likely to be open with senior colleagues (30 per cent) or customers (57 per cent).
LGBT people also reported suffering higher rates of bullying and harassment than heterosexual colleagues, with 11 per cent stating that they had been “outed” at work without their permission; 11 per cent that they had experienced unspecified inappropriate comments or conduct; and nine per cent reporting that they had been verbally harassed.
In addition, 77 per cent of respondents stated that they had experienced a negative incident in work in the preceding 12 months, but that the most serious incident was not reported, primarily because they had thought it would not be worth it, or that nothing would happen or change even if they did.
The government has therefore announced in its action plan that it will:
- Develop a training package to help employers and employees deal with LGBT discrimination in the workplace. The free training materials can then be adapted by organisations to meet their specific needs.
- Take action on sexual harassment at work by ensuring that Acas and the Government Equalities Office include the issue of LGBT harassment in policies and guidance materials that they produce
- Convene a working group of employers to understand the experiences of LGBT staff in different sectors
- Ensure that the Civil Service continues to role model best practice in establishing working environments that are inclusive for LGBT staff
Iain Birrell of Thompsons Solicitors commented: “Any measures aimed at tackling discrimination in the workplace are welcome. It is hugely disappointing that despite having anti-sexual orientation discrimination laws since 2007 this is still such a problem. Since Brexit the tone of discourse in the UK has become more intolerant and disrespectful than ever before, and so this initiative is timely. We hope that these measures will bear fruit but they can only do so as part of a wider societal effort for which we are all responsible.”