LGBT discrimination in the workplace – your rights

1st Feb 2020
Lisa Boyle

LGBT discrimination in the workplace – your rights

LGBT History Month and LGBT Rights

Today marks the start of LGBT History Month, and Watermans takes a look at which types of LGBT discrimination could mean you’re entitled to compensation.

Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Compared to other forms of workplace discrimination such as age, race, religious and philosophical belief, disability or gender; fewer claims appear in the Employment Tribunal for sexual orientation discrimination.

In 2018, figures by the Employment Tribunal revealed that no compensation was awarded for sexual orientation discrimination cases, and only a small amount of compensation was awarded in 2019. Fortunately, this is largely down to companies making a conscious effort to be more inclusive, and tackling LGBTQ+ discrimination in the workplace head-on.

While the majority of workplaces show all employees equal treatment, there is still work to be done to stop LGBT workplace discrimination. In a survey conducted by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights charity Stonewall, it was revealed that more than a third of LGBT staff did not feel comfortable enough to disclose their sexuality for fear of bullying or discrimination.

The report also revealed that almost one in five LGBT staff were the target of negative comments or conduct due to their sexuality/gender orientation.



What are your rights?


Recent media coverage shows that gender identity is a hot topic and very much a current issue. Record numbers of children and adults are choosing to live in a different gender to the one that they were born in, and many would now argue that gender extends beyond male and female.

Despite this, unfortunately, not all of those who have faced bias surrounding their gender in the workplace can claim compensation for discrimination.

Media reports have shown people who identify as gender-neutral, non-binary, genderfluid, intergender, cis female and cis male, among other titles.

At the moment, The Equality Act 2010 defines sex as male and female. Other types of gender identity are not covered at all. As such, if an employee is claiming that they are being discriminated against on the grounds of their sex then it cannot be due to the fact that they are gender fluid or non-binary. It also would not offer legal protection to someone who occasionally cross-dresses.

In relation to transgender people, the Equality Act of 2010 only covers male moving to female, or female moving to male individuals.


What are the signs of sexual orientation discrimination?


The Equality Act 2010 states that employees should not be discriminated against on the grounds of their sexual orientation.

Discrimination occurs when an employee is treated less favourably than others due to their sexuality, gender identity or perceived sexual orientation.


Examples of LGBT discrimination in the workplace include:

  • Referring to a colleague by using a feminine or male version of their name, in order to belittle them
  • Use of derogatory language and name-calling
  • Insults and threats
  • Harassment
  • Being hostile or creating an intimidating environment
  • Disclosing a colleague’s sexual orientation without their consent
  • Refusal of colleagues to work with an employee because of their sexual orientation
  • Asking intrusive questions regarding a person’s sexual orientation


Tackling workplace LGBT discrimination



If you are an LGBT employee, business owner or work with someone who identifies as LGBT, there are many ways in which you can create an LGBTQ+ friendly workplace.

  1. Ensure that your company policies and practices are fully inclusive of LGBT employees.

From family leave and adoption policies to healthcare, ensure your policies are inclusive

2. Have a clear strategy to ensure LGBT colleagues are not being discriminated against.

Consider organising LGBT training in the workplace to raise awareness and ensure no one faces unconscious or bias or discrimination.

3. Encourage staff to speak out.

Ensure everyone in your company is aware of signs of prejudicial treatment, and that there is a safe place to go and report any signs of discrimination.

4. Engage with all staff members.

Engage with employees who do not identify as LGBT, and educate them in ways they can be an LGBT ally at work. This champions inclusivity and makes it part of your company’s culture.

5. Continue to develop inclusivity.

Ensuring LGBT inclusivity is an ongoing journey and workplaces should be continually moving towards acceptance without exception for LGBT people.


How we can help you


If you have faced workplace discrimination, Watermans can help you.

Our employment law specialists can provide a free assessment of your case. Discrimination cases are complex, and time limits for pursuing a claim are short. We can assist you in a sympathetic and sensitive manner and make the process as stress-free and straightforward as possible. We’re here to listen.