To mark LGBT history month, Joanne Davies, partner in the employment law team at Blake Morgan, explains the importance of sexual orientation acceptance and how employers can take steps to prevent any potential discrimination. There is no doubt that diversity is good for business. A diverse workforce provides a wide range of individual skills and perspectives and a broad understanding of service users and clients. But are there benefits for the individual?
This can have an impact on health and well-being. Being committed to equality and diversity as an employer is not simply about legal compliance but being a model employer and employer of choice.
This will be beneficial to current staff and will also help in the retention of staff and future recruitment. EqA defines sexual orientation as orientation towards:. It is essential that the recruitment process is carried out fairly and free from discrimination and bias whether conscious or unconscious so that the successful candidate is chosen on merit.
An employer may use an equality and diversity monitoring form as part of the recruitment process and this may ask about sexual orientation. This will mean that the information has not been taken into account during the shortlisting stage.
The interviewers should not ask the candidate any questions of a personal nature which are unrelated to role. This would be discrimination by association with someone who has a protected characteristic. An employer is vicariously liable for the acts of its employees during the course of their employment. To reduce the risk of liability for any discriminatory recruitment processes, employers should have in place an equal opportunities policy and ensure that all staff involved in recruitment have received training on equality and diversity.
This will help to show that all reasonable steps have been taken to prevent discrimination occurring. To try and avoid unconscious bias, interviews should be carried out by more than one person and reflect diversity. An individual should not be discriminated against in relation to the terms and conditions of employment such as salary, pensions and health insurance.
A good starting point is to ensure that policies and procedures are inclusive of lesbian, gay and bisexual staff. For example, all the family friendly policies such as maternity, adoption and shared parental leave for example, should make it clear that they include lesbian, gay and bisexual staff.
The organisation should make it known that bullying and harassment because of sexual orientation is a disciplinary matter and will not be tolerated. Staff should be informed that any complaints will be investigated promptly and thoroughly and dealt with appropriately. Monitoring diversity and equality can be difficult especially in smaller organisations.
Many people are reluctant to disclose personal information about their sexual orientation, religion or disability for example and there is no requirement to answer these questions. The best approach for employers is to Sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace uk ltd that the information provided is strictly confidential and is to be used only for monitoring purposes. There is extensive guidance available including the comprehensive Employment Statutory Code of Practice produced by the Equality and Human Rights Commission which provides practical advice on complying with EqA and avoiding discrimination in recruitment.
Stonewall also has extensive resources on its website covering topics such as discrimination, parenting rights, best practice guides and details of its current campaigns.
Perhaps one of the most challenging issues for employers is handling conflicting rights in the workplace, for instance, between individuals who have certain religious beliefs and who hold particular attitudes about homosexuality.