Dealing with anti-LGBTQ+ bullying at work? Here’s what to do

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Navigating a job can be tiring, but if you’re in the LGBTQ+ community, it can often be exhausting. The sad fact remains that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience outright and subtle forms of discrimination and bullying at work than their cishet colleagues.

The Inclusion at Work report from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) found that LGBTQ+ workers are more likely to face conflict at work. 40 per cent of LGBTQ+ employees experience issues compared to 29 per cent of their heterosexual, cisgender colleagues. For trans and non-binary employees, it’s even more stressful, with 55 per cent saying that they’ve encountered conflict at work.

Discrimination towards queer employees comes in many forms, including harassment. A report from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) found that 68 per cent of LGBTQ+ employees have experienced harassment at work. Sadly, harassment is often invisible as two-thirds who were harassed didn’t report it, with 25 per cent saying they didn’t due to fear of being ‘out’ at work.

Know the laws that are designed to protect LGBTQ+ people at work

The UK Equality Act of 2010 is one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation to protect against all types of discrimination in the workplace and wider society. The law prevents discrimination against individuals on the basis of their age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion, sex, and sexual orientation. This includes harassment and bullying.

The law applies to all employers regardless of the organisation size, the amount of income generated and if it is a public or private entity. The act replaced a series of anti-discrimination laws, essentially making the law easier to understand and even strengthening protections in some situations.

One important thing to note about the Equalities Act is that it protects the LGBTQ+ community in every facet of the work experience. This includes hiring, promotions, and interviews, so if any inappropriate questions come up about sexual or gender identity during the recruitment phase, you are also protected.

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Employers should be protecting their LGBTQ+ employees

While there is personal accountability for those who discriminate and harass their LGBTQ+ colleagues, every employer is responsible for making sure the working environment is safe for all employees to be productive and to succeed.

However, a poll from the Trades Union Congress (TUC) revealed a widespread lack of employer support for LGBTQ+ employees. 21 per cent of workplaces polled said that don’t have policies in place to support their LGBTQ+ workers and only 51 per cent said they have a policy in place that prohibits bullying and harassment against LGBTQ+ employees. 

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Aside from simply following the law, there are other things businesses should be doing to protect their LGBTQ+ employees. “LGBTQ+ inclusion should be a core part of an organisations equality and diversity policy,” says Amy Forshaw, an employment solicitor at MSB Solicitors, “having a separate policy for LGBTQ+ inclusion is an even clearer way to show commitment to tackling discrimination in this area.” 

“Also, it is imperative that all policies are LGBTQ+ inclusive, for example, policies on parental leave, adoption, and pensions.”

In the foreground, a pair of black hands are typing at a computer. In the background there is a silhouette of a distressed person..
LGBTQ+ people are more likely to confront bullying, harrassment and discrimination at work. (Getty Images/PinkNews)

What to do if you’re being bullied at work

Facts are facts: any kind of discrimination, harassment or bullying is unacceptable and cannot exist in any workplace. If you are a victim of bullying at work for your gender or sexual identity, you have rights and there are steps you can take to resolve the issue that don’t involve simply quitting. 

“Trust your gut instinct,” says David Greenhalgh, a partner and specialist employment lawyer at Excello Law. “If you feel you are being targeted because you are LGBTQ+ you are probably right, but the key is being able to produce some evidence that you are being treated less favourably than a non-LGBTQ+ colleague.”

Paul Britton, founder of the London and Brighton-based law firm Britton & Time offers up some initial steps that people can take when the bullying has gone too far.

Speak to HR

“If your workplace has an HR representative, it is important to inform them of the bullying behaviour. They can help you file a complaint and start an investigation.”

Start a paper trail

“Keep a record of the dates, times, and details of each incident of bullying. This can help support your case if you need to take further action.”

Talk to your supervisor

“If the person bullying you is a colleague or supervisor, consider speaking to their superior about the situation.”

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Seek support

“Reach out to friends, family, or a support group for emotional support. It can also be helpful to seek out resources provided by LGBTQ organisations or hotlines.”

Consider legal action

“If the bullying behaviour persists or your employer fails to take appropriate action, you may need to consider legal action. Consult with a solicitor who specialises in employment law to explore your options.”

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