Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Section 12 of the Equality Act 2010 states that sexual orientation is a protected characteristic and prohibits unlawful discrimination, victimisation or harassment.

It is against the law for you to discriminate against, victimise or harass any of your employees because of their sexual orientation, or their perceived sexual orientation.

Workers are protected against sexual orientation discrimination:

  • because of his/her sexual orientation;
  • because of the sexual orientation of any other person;
  • because of a worker's perceived sexual orientation.

The protection covers discrimination against workers who are wrongly perceived to be of a particular sexual orientation, or because they are associated with a person of a particular sexual orientation. It affords protection for workers who refuse to comply with an instruction to discriminate against a lesbian or gay man.

Protection against discrimination begins when a person applies for a job and continues throughout their employment. They are protected in relation to:

  • recruitment
  • terms and conditions of employment (including benefits such as pensions)
  • pay
  • employment status (eg if they are a worker or an employee)
  • training
  • promotion and transfer opportunities
  • redundancy
  • dismissal

Your employees have the right not to be harassed by colleagues even if the sexual orientation of those employees goes against their religious beliefs.

You may wish to ask your employees for details about their sexual orientation, either for monitoring purposes or as part of an equal opportunities questionnaire, but you should be aware that your employees are not obliged to give this information.

The discrimination suffered by an employee does not have to be intended or obvious and it is well recognised by tribunals that discrimination is often subtle or even accidental.

If you would like more detailed information about discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation, Ashby Cohen can help you. We specialise in employment law cases, and our years of experience as employment lawyers make us uniquely qualified to assist you with any sexual orientation issues you may have. Please contact us for an initial free telephone consultation.

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