Today is the International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), a day to raise awareness on the continued work against discrimination based on an individual’s sexuality or gender identity. It is celebrated every year on May 17th, and the theme for this year is “Our Bodies, Our Lives, Our Rights”.
From what we know, there are more than 1.1 million LGBT+ workers in the UK. Yet unfortunately, not everyone is being treated fairly at work. Trade unions, and trade union activists, have a long history of supporting LGBT+ communities. As trade unionists we have a responsibility to support all of our members.
Nobody should face discrimination in their workplace. Everyone has the right to equal treatment, protection from discrimination and support from their union.
What laws protect LGBT+ people at work?
Under the Equality Act 2010, people are protected from discrimination based upon nine different protected characteristics. These are:
- Gender reassignment
- Marriage/civil partnership
- Race (including colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin)
- Religious/philosophical belief
- Sexual orientation
It is important to note that not all illegal workplace behaviour against LGBT+ people will fall neatly into these categories, and they may overlap. It is also important to remember that you may be discriminated against for being member of more than one protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, such as being black and a lesbian.
What does this mean?
For LGBT+ people at work, this means that their employer must not:
- Refuse to employ/dismiss someone because they are LGBT+
- Refuse them access to training or promotions
- Give them an unfair reference when they leave
- Deny them benefits/services given to non-LGBT+ workers, e.g. accommodation or childcare
What constitutes discrimination?
The four main types of illegal discrimination against LGBT+ workers are direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and failure to provide reasonable adjustments.
Direct discrimination is when you are treated less favourably due to being LGBT+, such as being passed over for promotions or opportunities, or not hired for a certain position.
Indirect discrimination is where a policy, provision or criteria applies equally to everyone but has the effect of unfavourably impacting LGBT+ people. Unless an employer can show that their provisions are objectively justified (by being proportionate, appropriate and necessary to achieve a legitimate aim), this is against the law.
Harassment is unwanted conduct that relates to a person’s sexuality or gender reassignment. It has the purpose or effect of violating a person’s dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person. It doesn’t matter whether a harasser intended their behaviour to be offensive – it is the effect that is covered in the law. When it comes to harassment related to sexual orientation or gender reassignment, the remarks or behaviour don’t have to be directed to someone who is LGBT+ to be against the law – it is still illegal even if they are just assumed or believed to be LGBT+.
Victimisation is where someone is treated badly because they have made or supported a complaint about discrimination.
What protections are there for trans people?
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 enables people over 18 to gain full legal recognition for the gender in which they live. A person can do this by applying for a gender recognition certificate (GRC). However, many trans people do not apply for a GRC- this might be for health, personal, family, financial reasons or because they are unable to undergo permanent gender reassignment.
A person’s employment rights do not depend on whether they have a gender recognition certificate- to get one the person must show that they have been living and working in the gender they want the GRC to reflect for at least 2 years. That means employers should not ask workers to show a GRC before allowing them to change their employment details.
How can Community support me?
We’re here to support all of our members, and that’s why we’ve released a guide for LGBT+ workers and allies, explaining what rights you have at work, and best practice for workplaces to make LGBT+ people feel supported and safe.
Our Service Centre is on hand to support you if you face discrimination at work. Should this happen, speak to a Community rep for advice and support. If the informal route is unsuccessful you can raise a formal grievance with your employer. Community can support you in this, and advise on the best course of action to take. To contact the service centre, click here.