Devastating numbers of LGBT+ workers still face abuse and harassment ‘simply because of who they are’

Gay and bi men earn thousands less than straight peers

LGBT+ people experience higher levels of humiliation, verbal abuse and discrimination at work than their straight counterparts, according to new research.

Upsetting figures show that two in five (40 per cent) of lesbian, gay and bisexual workers experienced a work based conflict in the last year, compared to 29 per cent of heterosexual workers. These conflicts usually involved being undermined, humiliated, shouted at, insulted or experiencing direct discrimination at work.

The figures become more staggering when narrowed down to the experiences of transgender people, as over half (55 per cent) of trans workers said they had experienced conflict at work over the last twelve months. At least 50 per cent of these conflicts were unresolved, the workers said. 

The figures come from new research from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), which released its report on the quality of LGBT+ working lives as part of LGBT history month. The research was also supported by academics at the University of Bath. 

‘Yet another reminder that LGBT+ people still face abuse and harassment in UK’s workplaces’

Kate Williams, associate director of workplaces at Stonewall, said she wants to see a world where every LGBT+ person is “safe, treated fairly and able to achieve their potential”, and this includes in their working lives. She added: “But these upsetting figures are yet another reminder that LGBT+ people still face abuse and harassment in Britain’s workplaces simply because of who they are.”

Williams said employers need to be clear that they have a zero-tolerance approach to anti-LGBT+ discrimination and take steps to ensure that their LGBT+ staff are “safe, confident and supported at their workplace”. 

According to the CIPD’s research, a fifth (20 per cent) of LGB+ workers reported being undermined or humiliated at work. Fourteen per cent said they experienced being shouted at or being part of a heated argument at work, while the same percentage said they were verbally abused or insulted.

Four per cent reported receiving physical threats at work. Two per cent said they had been physically assaulted, and one per cent said they suffered sexual assault at work.

Around half of the cases involving discrimination because of a protected characteristic (51 per cent), verbal abuse/insults (49 per cent), and physical assault (47 per cent) had not been resolved. 

More than half (55 per cent) of trans workers surveyed said they had experienced conflict over twelve months, at least half (50 per cent) of these conflicts were unresolved. Twelve per cent of trans workers said they have experienced unwanted sexual attention at work, and two per cent have experienced sexual assault.

Melanie Green, research adviser for the CIPD, said the research suggests that many LGBT+ workers don’t feel safe to express themselves and be accepted at work. She said: “This can have a negative impact on their working relationships, wellbeing and overall job satisfaction.

“It’s particularly concerning to see how many LGBT+ workers have experienced conflict and that more often than not, these conflicts are not resolved. 

“This must stop. Everyone has the right to feel safe, to be themselves and to flourish at work.”

Green said employers should create safe spaces and employee resource groups where LGBT+ and minority groups can come together with allies to support each other. The CIPD’s research found that only 40 per cent of trans respondents said their organisation had an LGBT+ staff network, and just half (50 per cent) of trans workers said they actively attend and participate in meetings and socials connected with the network. 

Both LGB+ and heterosexual workers reported similar job satisfaction levels, with around 66 per cent of both groups saying they felt somewhat to very satisfied at work. Nineteen per cent of LGB+ workers said they were dissatisfied with their job, compared to 15 per cent of heterosexual workers.

Fifty per cent of trans workers reported feeling somewhat to very satisfied with their job and a third (33 per cent) said they felt somewhat to very dissatisfied.

The report draws on LGBT+ data across three surveys the CIPD ran in 2018, 2019 and 2020. The data is based on 15,620 workers across the UK of which 13,733 are heterosexual. 1,357 people reported being part of the queer community, while 530 did not report. 

The CIPD also created a separate, more detailed survey of trans workers to gather their experiences of work. A total of 193 trans and non-binary workers completed the survey between May and June 2020.