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Know your workplace rights... LGBTQ+

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In 2017, this is not a conversation we should still need to have, but that fact is LGBTQ+ people still experience discrimination in the workplace.

Sure things have come a long way for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people in the workplace, but it is still worth knowing what your rights are and how you can protect them.

Under current legislation it’s unlawful to discriminate at work on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.These laws are designed to protect you from direct or indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation at work, whether you identify as LGBT or are perceived to be LGBT.

Despite the changes in the law to support LGBTQ+ staff incidents of abuse are more common than you might think.

Stonewall suggest that over the last five years, 2.4 million people of working age have witnessed verbal homophobic bullying at work; a further 800,000 people of working age have witnessed physical homophobic bullying at work.

According to the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights, 47% of trans staff have experienced negative comments or conduct at work over the past five years. This bullying and harassment can come in many forms, from continually questioning someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity to offensive jokes and ‘banter’.

Landing your first job after university can be daunting - even more so if you’re worried about coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans in a new environment. This means many young people go back into the closet after graduating, forcing them to hide part of who they are.

When researching potential employers you can look out for signs which indicate the organisation values diversity:

  • Are they a Stonewall Diversity Champion? Stonewall works with nearly 800 organisations and being a Diversity Champion demonstrates a strong commitment to creating an inclusive workplace for LGBT staff.

  • Are they a Stonewall Top 100 employer? Every year Stonewall runs the Workplace Equality Index, a definitive benchmarking exercise to assess what organisations are doing to promote LGBT equality; the Top 100 of whom are published and celebrated as Britain’s top employers for LGBT people.

  • Do they have a staff network group or senior champion? Many organisations have an LGBT network group to connect LGBT staff with someone at the top who champions equality.

  • Do they publicly show their commitment to LGBT equality? Lots of organisations are proud to celebrate diversity through social media, for example attending Pride or celebrating IDAHoBiT

What should you do if you’re in employment and experiencing homophobic, biphobic or transphobic bullying?

  • Every organisation should have discrimination, bullying and harassment policies. If you believe you’re being bullied or harassed, you should follow the dedicated reporting route through HR.

  • If your organisation has an LGBT network group you may be able to seek advice from members, it’s always valuable to discuss your experiences with others in a safe space.

  • If your organisation has an employee assistance programme, you may be able to contact them for confidential support either over the phone or face to face.

  • Remember that bullying and harassment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity can take place against people who do not define as LGBT.

The best employers for LGBT people know that when employees feel comfortable to be themselves, it allows them to be the best they can be. This is essential for wellbeing at work.

Many employers such as the Royal Navy have an active and open policy of supporting all people who want to work for them.

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