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Supporting employees in the LGBT community

View profile for Julie Temple
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In recent times, gender pay, sexual harassment and especially mental health in the workplace have been under the spotlight for good reason and with positive effect. However, there is always more to be done and always other things which are just outside or well beyond the spotlight.

In July 2017, the government carried out the largest national survey of the LGBT community at that time. It’s results, relating to the workplace, included:

  • 19% had not been open about their sexual orientation or gender identity in the workplace
  • 23% had experienced negative or mixed reactions in the workplace due to being LGBT or because they were perceived to be LGBT
  • 11% had experienced someone disclosing that they were LGBT without their knowledge or agreement
  • 9% had been subject to verbal harassment, insults or other hurtful comments
  • Focusing on the most serious incident, 57% of respondents said it was perpetrated by a colleague at the same or lower level and 21% said it was by a line manager, immediate manager or supervisor and most did not report it

During Pride Month these statistics are well worth revisiting. They serve as a useful reminder that, whilst great steps have been taken, there is still a long way to go before we can say that inclusivity for the LGBT community in the workplace has been achieved.

Despite protections against discrimination, which includes unlawful harassment, extending to the so called ‘protected characteristic’ of sexual orientation, individuals continue to experience negative behaviour and take no action for all manner of reasons. This is not unique to treatment connected with sexual orientation but ultimately it likely means that bad behaviour in the workplace goes unchecked. If bad behaviour continues, in all likelihood, this will result, for example, in a deterioration in performance, increased absences, a higher turnover of staff not to mention the impact personally on the individuals involved.

Employers need to be more proactive in monitoring behaviour in the workplace and dealing with bad behaviour identified or suspected, whether a complaint is made or not. This, in turn, will encourage those who are the targets of bad behaviour or witnesses to it to speak up, safe in the knowledge that the complaint will be acted on and appropriate steps are taken. This will have a positive impact on all concerned.

Birkett Long’s team of employment lawyers work with employers to review behaviours in the workplace as well as policies and procedures and advise on specific issues. We also advise employees if they have been subject to bad behaviour on their legal rights, which could include claims, for example, for discrimination and/or unfair dismissal.

Julie is Head of Employment at Birkett Long and can be reached on julie.temple@birkettlong.co.uk or 01206 217318 if you would like to find out more about how we might be able to help.

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