By Charlotte Hilton –
The month of June is Pride month which is all about celebrating people in the LGBTQ+ community and encouraging people around the world to embrace inclusivity and acceptance of people with different sexualities and gender identities
As we come to the end of the month I wanted to talk about discrimination in the workplace, especially towards those of a different gender identity or sexuality.
Sometimes discrimination is not just enacted by those who are actively against the LGBTQ+ community, but sometimes it can even be perpetrated by those in positions of power who we are expected to trust, or our own peers and those we work with on a daily basis.
People may even sometimes do or say things that are unintentionally hurtful, and so it’s important to understand where you stand in regards to your rights in the workplace.
LQBTQ+ Discrimination and the Law
The Equality Act 2010 states that it is illegal for you to be discriminated against in the workplace if you are:
- heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual
- Someone thinks you are a particular sexual orientation (discrimination by perception)
- You care connected to someone of a particular sexual orientation (discrimination by association)
First-hand Experiences of LGBTQ+ Discrimination at Work
For this article, I posted a survey to determine just how many people frequently receive negative discrimination in the workplace because of their sexuality.
55% of participants reported that they had been treated differently or been discriminated against at work due to being LGBTQ+.
One participant stated that “When I worked as a waitress in a pub, a large group of men working in the kitchens used to call me homophobic names and joke about my sexuality frequently.”
Another participant who identifies as non-binary stated that “my manager told everyone I was non-binary without my consent and he only knew because I had to show my name change documents.”
Additionally, they stated that: “I have had a manager at a different place ask me what I ‘really am’ and ask what was in my pants.”
Both these instances of discrimination in the workplace show how bad things can be for LGBTQ+ people at work, even with modern equality laws in place.
Many employees feel like they have no choice when it comes to working at certain places due to their circumstances and may feel like they can’t report it for fear of further harassment or potentially losing their job completely.
Unfortunately, the testimonies given represent common occurrences even in today’s society and can have a very damaging effect on someone’s mental health, causing some people to possibly become depressed or anxious and therefore unable to work.
Feeling uncomfortable and discriminated at work can also lead to poor performance overall and low attendance which can risk job security which adds another level of stress for people struggling with money and providing for themselves.
This discrimination can cause many people to hide their sexuality at work for fear of being treated differently and can have lasting effects on their mental health and quality of life.
While there any many laws in place to try and prevent people of the LGBTQ+ feeling discriminated against at work, more things need to be done to promote inclusivity in all workplaces.
Pride month is the perfect starting point for this as it allows many companies to show a stance on their LGBTQ+ views and makes it easier for people to find employers willing to put in the effort to show solidarity and compassion.
If you are a member of the LGBTQ+ community at work – either an employee or an employer – show your support for Pride month and allow more people all over the world to feel safe and secure in their workplace.
What can be done to improve LGBTQ experiences in the workplace?
While there are now laws in place to protect LGBTQ people in the workplace, there is still a lot that can be done by managers and people in positions of power to help fight against any form of discrimination that may occur.
The goal should be to make LGBTQ+ people feel accepted and comfortable at work, allowing them to perform at their best and therefore making them a more powerful addition to the company.
Many companies have stepped up their employee support over the last few years.
One example of a large company doing so is Microsoft, through their GLEAM (Global LGBTQI+ Employees and Allies at Microsoft) group resource.
Another example is IKEA, who have taken many steps to celebrate Pride and the LGBTQ+ community.
IKEA has co-created and endorsed the UN Standards of Conduct on tackling discrimination against LGBTQ+ people in the workplace and in the community.
What else can be done?
If you are a manager or a person with the power to implement new tactics at your company then there are many steps you can take to make LGBTQ+ employees feel more included:
- Put out a mission statement across the company on inclusivity and diversity rules and policies to inform people about what the company believes in.
- Implement a zero-tolerance policy for any kind of discriminatory behaviour in the workplace
- Show support through celebrating Pride Month, this can be done through simple decorations, support events or even just making a statement of support for the community during the month of Pride.
- Support transgender employees and make sure there are appropriate bathroom facilities for people of all gender identities.
I hope to see as many companies as possible taking action to support LGBTQ+ employees in the workplace over the next few years as inclusivity and diversity improves all over the world.
If you believe that you are facing any of these forms of discrimination in the workplace it is your legal right to report it to someone in the company who can help you and if there is no one trustworthy for you to confide in where you work then you can seek legal action.
The Digital Equality Network Kirklees aims to share equality legislation for all with a specific view to African & Asian descendants as well as minority rights.
We give the voluntary, third, public and private sector a platform to collaborate and celebrate diversity and inclusion. It debates and explores how individuals organisations can make a difference within their local authority, community, and businesses to eradicate all forms of discrimination. Find out more about the den at www.kirkleeslocaltv.com/the-den