There is protection at work from discrimination, harassment and victimisation in respect of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, these being, age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation or for anyone who experiences discrimination because they associate with LGBTQ+ people (or any people who have any of the protected characteristics as listed).
The history of employment laws regarding sexual orientation and gender identity are a very different story though, and it was only when the Human Rights Act 1998 came into force in 2000 that protections under employment law in these areas started to cultivate. Before this came into force, case law had held that there was no protection for discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, meaning that in the workplace, there were no legal foundations for bringing a discrimination claim on the grounds of a person’s sexual orientation.
Thankfully, now there are protections in place, and employers in the UK mostly understand the need to comply with the equality laws which we have. That being said, this does not mean that no discrimination takes place in the workplace. Therefore, employers will need to ensure that they are training their staff, raising awareness and creating a culture of good communication to ensure that their employees do not discriminate against other colleagues. They can do this by having clear policies and procedures in place and ensuring that these are readily available to all employees.
Employers must ensure that they, or their employees do not discriminate against employees, workers or candidates at interviews on the basis of their sexual orientation.
The employment team at Smith Partnership acts for both employers and employees on discrimination matters. We can help with training, drafting policies and advise on how best to change organisational cultures and management where there are issues, as well as advising employees when they feel as though they have been discriminated against.