For many people, bringing their whole selves to work is an essential part of being content in their role. This includes being open about sexuality and gender identity. Coming out at work can feel extremely daunting for those who have not publicly shared information about their sexuality at work before. However, it’s important to remember why many people choose to come out at work and the benefits of being open about who you are.
In this guide, we will talk through some of your rights as an LGBTQ+ person in the workplace to ensure that you feel protected and confident when choosing to come out. And we will discuss some of the things to remember before you come out.
Your rights as an LGBTQ+ employee
First and foremost, it’s essential to recognise that you have absolutely no obligation to discuss your sexuality at work. Even if your employer asks you to fill out an equal opportunity form that asks questions about your sexuality, these are entirely optional and come with no legal requirements. Whether you choose to discuss your sexuality or not is entirely your choice.
Another important reminder is that everybody is different; some members of the LGBTQ+ community may feel comfortable sharing information about their identity and sexuality and may not even consider the concept of ”coming out”. In contrast, others may be more apprehensive.
Under the 2010 Equality Act, sexual orientation, sex and gender reassignment are defined as protected characteristics. This means that it’s illegal in any place or context, including the workplace, to discriminate against a person based on these characteristics. This means that if you do choose to come out at work, you are protected by law from direct or indirect discrimination, including bullying, harassment and limiting of opportunities.
If you are unsure of any legal or contractual reasons which may affect your choice to come out at work, speak to your HR department. They will also be able to provide support on discrimination and unfair treatment.
What to remember when coming out at work:
- It can be easier for you if you start by confiding in somebody you trust, such as a close colleague. They can support you to come out to the broader team and management if you want to do that.
- Coming out at work is not always a simple, one-time process. It can be a repetitive process in which you may need to come out to different people on multiple occasions. This is something to bear in mind if you are worried about the mental and emotional toll of coming out at work.
- Unfortunately, you may face some ignorance. Not everybody has the same level of knowledge and experience when it comes it sexuality and gender identity. This means that choosing to come out at work may result in some unfair treatment or ignorance. This kind of behaviour is illegal and should be reported immediately.
Why choose to come out at work?
- It can help you to feel more authentic at work.
- Connect better with your colleagues by sharing more of who you are. As well as showing support to other LGBTQ+ members of staff.
- So, you can ask for any extra support or adjustments that you need.
- To highlight a discrimination or bullying problem
- Encourage others to bring their whole selves to work.
For more LGBTQ+ employment support, visit the dedicated section on our site.