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Challenges for LGBT people in the workplace and how to overcome them

While progress has been made, many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people still worry that revealing their sexuality at work will have negative consequences. What can businesses do to support LGBT employees?

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people who are 'out' at work waste little energy hiding aspects of their personalities, meaning they feel more confident and progress within the business. However, many remain in the closet. It is estimated that 34% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the UK choose not to disclose their sexuality at work. They hide their private lives from colleagues and clients for fear of homophobia, exclusion or in case they are overlooked for valuable promotions.

Be it on the factory floor or in a board meeting, evading questions about family life can be like dodging bullets if you think that revealing your sexuality will make work relations difficult.

Statistics set out that:

  • One in five (19%) lesbian, gay and bisexual employees have experienced verbal bullying from colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation in the last five years
  • One in eight (13%) lesbian, gay and bisexual employees would not feel confident reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace
  • A quarter (26%) of lesbian, gay and bisexual workers are not at all open to colleagues about their sexual orientation
  • Nearly half (42%) of trans people are not living permanently in their preferred gender role stating they are prevented from doing so because they fear it might threaten their employment status
  • Over 10 % of trans people experienced being verbally abused and 6% were physically assaulted at work. As a consequence of harassment and bullying, a quarter of trans people will feel obliged to change their jobs

Using a combination of subtle signals and bold statements, companies can create an inclusive atmosphere that permeates throughout the entire organisation – and ultimately throughout society. The solutions can, as we have seen, be simple and yet have extremely positive outcomes; all that is required is an open mind and responsible leadership.

Office "banter" can establish a culture of subordination and complaints should be taken seriously. A clear message from management about the importance of diversity can help eliminate any doubts as to who or what can be made light of while recruitment processes, training and communications can help make the company's stance clear.

This growing area has become a minefield for employers and employees alike on what is deemed acceptable and what is not. It is therefore important to take independent legal advice on this area.

If you are an employer, it is important to have the correct policies and procedures in place to avoid what could be a costly application to the courts. At present compensation for discrimination is unlimited, leading you wide open to potential large figure compensation claims.

If you are an employee, and you feel you have been discriminated against, its important that you seek legal advice to protect your position and ensure you follow the correct procedure in making a potential claim. The Employment Tribunal can be very strict on time scales and therefore it is important to obtain advise as soon as possible

Please do not hesitate to contact our employment solicitors on 01254 872272 to discuss this area further. We offer a range of ways in which your case can be funded and are committed to delivering an exceptional client service.

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