Lesbian, gay and bisexual workers face prejudice and discrimination when seeking work and once they are in a job. Every trade unionist has a responsibility to challenge this discrimination. It is part of our core agenda for workers’ rights.
A large-scale national study (Ups and downs of LGBs workplace experiences, 2014), found that lesbian, gay and bisexual workers were more than twice as likely to be bullied and discriminated against than heterosexual workers. The figures were particularly high for lesbian and bisexual workers. The study revealed a strong correlation between bullying and poor health, physical and mental.
Persistent harassment commonly leads to poor work performance and attendance, which in turn may lead to dismissal, with the root cause - homophobia or biphobia - never acknowledged. Many lesbian, gay and bisexual workers seek to avoid discrimination by concealing their sexual orientation. But such concealment comes at great personal cost. Bisexual workers can face particular issues of isolation, invisibility and prejudice.
The Equality Act 2010 bans workplace discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and requires public bodies to take positive action on sexual orientation equality. Civil partnership and same sex marriage laws mean that same sex spouses or civil partners must be treated the same as mixed sex spouses in terms of workplace benefits.
But laws on their own don’t stop discrimination. It is up to us to negotiate policies and practices that make a real difference to the working lives of our lesbian, gay and bisexual members and to challenge prejudice and discrimination.
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