It is against the law for your employer to discriminate against, victimise or harass you because of your sexual orientation, or your perceived sexual orientation. Find out about your rights and what to do if you are treated unfairly because of your sexuality.
Protection from discrimination
You are protected against sexual orientation discrimination if:
- you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or heterosexual
- people think you are gay, lesbian or heterosexual when you are not
- you have gay friends or visit gay clubs
Protection against discrimination starts when you apply for a job and continues through your employment. Discrimination protection covers:
- terms and conditions of employment (including benefits such as pensions)
- employment status (e.g. if you are a worker or an employee)
- promotion and transfer opportunities
If you are a same-sex couple in a civil partnership you are entitled to the same benefits as a married person (for example, survivors benefits under a company pension scheme) if the benefits have been in place since 5 December 2005 (when the Civil Partnership Act came into force).
If your employer gives benefits to opposite sex, unmarried partners of its employees (e.g. the employees opposite-sex partner is able to drive the company car), refusing the same benefits to same-sex partners could be discrimination.
Sexual orientation and religion in the workplace
You may work with a colleague who has strong views on your sexual orientation because of their religion. However, this does not mean they can bully or harass you. In the workplace, everyone has the right to be treated with respect, no matter what their sexual orientation.
Disclosing your sexuality to your employer
Some employers ask for details of the sexual orientation of employees,either for monitoring purposes or as part of an equal opportunities questionnaire.You do not have to give this information.
Civil partnership paperwork
After entering a civil partnership you should receive a ‘civil partnership certificate’. If you or your partner want to change your name, employers should accept the certificate as evidence of the name change.
What to do next
If you think you have been discriminated against, victimised or harassed at work because of your sexual orientation, talk to your employer or personnel officer. If you belong to a trade union, you can contact your union representative. If you cannot resolve the matter informally, you can follow the grievance procedure set out in your contract of employment. Keep a written record of any harassment to show your employer.
You could make an application to an employment tribunal for sexual orientation discrimination if you:
- are unhappy with the way your employer deals with your discrimination complaint
- have been sacked because of your sexual orientation
- feel you were not offered a job because of your sexual orientation
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