Research Highlights Continued Workplace Bullying For LGBT+ Staff

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The Law Of... standing up to workplace bullying

In the lead up to this year's Pride parades, a report has highlighted that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT+) members of our society continually feel the need to hide their sexuality, with a portion feeling that their sexual orientation and gender identity could make them more susceptible to workplace bullying.

Workplace Bullies

Responding to the research Linda Stewart, Partner and expert in discrimination law for Simpson Millar LLP, outlines why this is a worrying trend and how LGBT+ staff can tackle bullying in the workplace.

Hiding Sexuality

The report, which was organised by Pride in London, interviewed more than 1,000 LGBT+ people and correlated data on how comfortable they were with showing or discussing their sexual orientation or gender identity in public.

One of the most striking figures from the report highlighted that only 50% of those questioned had come out to all of their colleagues.

This could be in direct relation to another headline figure, which showed that 10% of the LGBT+ respondents had been bullied at work because of their sexual orientation or gender identity – this compares to 2% of the population that have been bullied at work because of their gender.

A massive 77% of LGBT+ people asked felt uncomfortable being their true self in public, this compared to 23% of the general population.

Workplace Bullying

Speaking of the figure highlighting the prevalence of LGBT+ workplace bullying, Linda Stewart said:

"The figures are unsurprising. Until employers start to address issues of diversity and inclusion at work, LGBT+ employees will continue to feel that it's unsafe to be their true self."

"This is damning for employers. Those who fail to address bullying and harassment of LGBT+ employees not only risk litigation but damage to their reputation, along with poor staff morale and engagement which, in turn, affects productivity."

"Employers should not be afraid to tackle gender identity and sexual orientation bullying in the workplace; sending a clear message to staff that discrimination against LGBT+ workers will not be tolerated".

Employers have a duty to provide safe working environments, with Acas advising employers to have a specific company-wide framework in place to prevent bullying and harassment at work.

Tackling Discrimination

The Equality Act 2010 protects against bullying and harassment in the workplace because of age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, marital status, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

LGBT+ workers who suffer unfavourable treatment because of sexual orientation or gender reassignment should not hesitate to take full advantage of the law by raising grievances and where appropriate, pursuing litigation.

Following the ACAS guidance will help employers stay on the right side of the law, as Linda comments:

"As a minimum measure, employers should have clear policies on bullying and discrimination in the workplace, with robust disciplinary procedures for handling individual cases."

"Employers who confidently address unlawful harassment in the workplace will go a long way to creating a safer working environment for LGBT+ employees."

"LGBT+ employees who work for a company that does not have a clear internal policy on bullying and harassment in the workplace should nevertheless report their concerns to managers. Where no action is taken to address the situation LGBT+ employees will be able to rely on the Equality Act 2010 to pursue claims in the Employment Tribunal"

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