Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia still alive in UK workplaces, says TUC report

  • 29 Jun 2023

LGBT+ workers are lowering their expectations of working life to cope with discrimination and harassment, according to a report based on interviews with a diverse range of LGBT+ people and union reps.

Common themes and experiences that emerged are:

LGBT+ people have low expectations 

Most respondents pointed to improvements over time, but LGBT+ workers still have low expectations for how they will be treated at work. Workers described feeling “lucky” if they have inclusive managers and colleagues, and “grateful” when basic equality standards are met. Everyone could easily recall recent instances of workplace homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, including many which would constitute gross misconduct.

Transphobia may be increasing 

Most workplaces are still not experienced as trans inclusive. Workers expressed concerns that anti-trans views in the media are filtering down into anti-LGBT+ behaviour in workplaces. Recruitment discrimination is a particular concern.

Inclusive culture is important

While inclusive policies are important and essential, they are seen as not enough – employers should also foster an inclusive workplace culture.

LGBT+ networks and unions should work in tandem

LGBT+ workplace networks are on the rise and are seen as valuable supportive spaces. But unions are seen as more important in providing protections – and have rights to represent workers that are not dependent on management goodwill. It is important that unions and LGBT+ workplace networks work closely together to create workplace change.

The TUC is calling on the government to:

  • Consult with unions on a strategy to make sure workplaces are safe for all LGBT+ people and introduce legislation that would protect workers from harassment by customers and clients.
  • Reform the gender recognition act, giving trans and non-binary people the right to self-determination, and maintain protections for trans and non-binary people in the equality act.
  • Act to stamp out the insecure work that disproportionately hits LGBT+ workers, by banning zero-hours contracts, raising the national minimum wage to £15 per hour as soon as possible, and acting on fire and rehire and bogus self-employment.

And calling on employers to:

  • Regularly review workplace policies and how they are experienced on the ground by LGBT+ workers and customers/service users.
  • Take action to make sure that workplace policies translate into an inclusive culture. Provide training and information about LGBT+ issues and identities. Ensure that staff and managers can identify homophobia, biphobia and transphobia when it occurs, and work with unions to design safe reporting systems.
  • Review recruitment processes and introduce steps to support LGBT+ staff to thrive, such as training for hiring managers, and providing information to candidates about the employer’s commitment to inclusion.

The report is published as the TUC’s annual LGBT+ conference takes place (29-30 June).

This year’s conference includes sessions on the impact of the cost of living crisis on LGBT+ workers, and solidarity in opposition to the far right. Delegates will also debate motions on trans rights, attacks on LGBT+ people in Russia, and the need for legal protection from conversion therapy – without loopholes.

Paul Nowak, TUC general secretary  said:

“Everyone should feel safe and welcome where they work. But homophobia, biphobia and transphobia are still commonly experienced in the workplace. And LGBT+ workers are concerned that anti-trans views in the media are filtering into workplaces. Ministers need to take the lead in setting expectations that every workplace will be safe and inclusive for all LGBT+ workers – starting with changing the law to outlaw harassment by customers and clients.  Employers should work with unions to make sure that inclusivity policies don’t just live on a page, but are lived-out in workplace culture. Whatever your job, you and your colleagues will always achieve more if everyone feels accepted and welcome for who they are.”

Full report 

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