More than a third of LGBT people bullied at work

Employees left feeling ‘ashamed and frightened’, but only a fraction raise their concerns with HR

More than a third (36 per cent) of LGBT people have been bullied or harassed at work, research out today has revealed.

The survey of more than 5,000 LGBT people by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) also found that just half (51 per cent) were open about their sexuality in their workplace, dropping to only a third (36 per cent) among young people. Roughly a quarter (23 per cent) of those surveyed said they had been ‘outed’ without their consent.

However, around three out of five of those who had experienced harassment or bullying did not report it to their employer and just 12 per cent raised the issue with their HR department. Among those who had reported an issue, only a third felt it had been properly resolved and a fifth believed they had later suffered because they had made a complaint.

“I had a colleague who said that all gay people should be put to death,” said one respondent. “When I complained to HR, they said: ‘It’s his opinion, there’s nothing we can do,’ even though it was expressed in the workplace.”

Another added: “My manager made homophobic comments in front of me knowing that I was gay. I made this known to HR, her manager and the director of nursing – no action was taken.”

Dr Jill Miller, diversity and inclusion adviser at the CIPD, said: “The figures are shocking, and in 2017 it is wholly unacceptable that we are facing these issues. Discrimination at work needs to be firmly stamped out, and that means taking complaints seriously and taking firm action to ensure that we turn the aspiration of equality into reality.”

In light of the findings, the TUC is urging employers to make equality training mandatory for all employees, review HR procedures to make sure complaints are dealt with as quickly as possible and develop coaching and mentoring programmes aimed specifically at LGBT staff to give them the best possible access to career development.

“Let’s be clear – homophobia and transphobia at work is undermining, humiliating and can have a huge effect on mental health,” said TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady. “LGBT workers are often left feeling ashamed and frightened. It has no place in a modern workplace, or in wider society. Employers must be clear that they have a zero-tolerance attitude to harassment of their LGBT staff – and stand ready to treat any complaint seriously.”

A poll ran by the British LGBT Awards last year revealed that almost three-quarters (73 per cent) of lesbian and bisexual women had not disclosed their sexuality to all of their colleagues and business contacts.