If you belong to the LGBTQ+ community, you are protected from discrimination at work or during the hiring process by current UK legislation. Read this guide to get to grips with the laws and how they apply to you.
In recent years, there have been some significant changes in the inclusion and understanding of LGBTQ+ people in the workplace and society in general. However, there is still a long way to go and the next steps can’t be enforced from above.
Having a complete understanding of the laws pertaining to the rights of LGBTQ+ people will help to educate and spread awareness to colleagues and employers about discrimination, which will help to root it out of the UK work environment.
For a complete guide to our use of acronyms and terminology, we have written a dedicated page to explain our decisions and usage throughout this site.
What is the law?
In 2010, the UK government collated several different pieces of legislation into one act, the Equality Act 2010. This act defines sexual orientation and gender reassignment at protected characteristics, meaning that if anyone treats you unfairly for those characteristics it classes as discrimination.
Furthermore, the laws don’t just apply to the person who identifies with or belongs to the LGBTQ+ community. It still counts as discrimination if you are treated unfairly as the result of a perception of belonging to the LGBTQ+ community or being associated with it in any way. This is significant for those in the LGBTQ+ community as there is no way of knowing someone identifies with or belongs to the community without them disclosing it to others.
These rights are not impeded by any circumstance, such as the size or value of the company.
Under the Equality Act 2010, successful claims of discrimination against your company give out an average of £20,000 in the UK.
This form of discrimination is the most clearly defined in that it is where a person is treated unfairly for identifying with or belonging to a protected characteristic, such as those in the LGBTQ+ community. This includes if the person is perceived as being a member of the LGTBQ+ community or is associated with it in some way.
For example, if your employer removed you from the running for promotion after you came out, that would be direct discrimination against you for having a characteristic that is protected by the Equality Act 2010.
Being ‘outted’ by a colleague or another person working for the company, or forced to ‘out’ yourself in any form, would class as direct discrimination.
If your employer has a set of rules, conditions or plans that appear to be indiscriminate but actually neglect or diminish the opportunity of someone based on their identity with or belonging to the LGBTQ+ community in some way, that is indirect discrimination. An example of this would be if a sign-up process for a training opportunity was asked to be organised by being a man or a woman, that would indirectly discriminate against those who do not identify as either.
Such issues are usually the result of ignorance and so can usually be resolved by highlighting the issue to a superior.
Under the Equality Act 2010, it is legal for an employer to make a choice that is beneficial to a person with a protected characteristic. This is known as ‘positive action’, which used to be referred to as ‘positive discrimination’.
However, an important thing to note is that ‘positive action’ cannot take place if it is at the unfair disadvantage of another person. For example, ‘positive action’ can be used as a ‘tie breaker’ should two candidates be of equal competency in a bid for promotion and one of the candidates is from an underrepresented group. However, if the candidate that is not from an underrepresented group is more competent, the more competent candidate must still be chosen or else that would be unfair discrimination against them.