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Discrimination at work for the LGBTQ+ community | Advice for Employers

Employment Law

The Equality Act 2010 protects LGBTQ+ staff from all forms of discrimination in the workplace, including recruitment, promotion, training, or any other detrimental treatment because of sexual orientation. Transgender workers are also protected under the gender reassignment protected characteristic state in the Act.

If an employee feels that they have been discriminated against or treated less favourably at work because of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation, they may be able to bring a claim against their employer.

There are some circumstances where an employee can be treated differently because of their sexual orientation. If an employer can show that you need to be of a particular sexual orientation to carry out a certain job, they can insist on employing someone of that sexual orientation. This is known as occupational requirement and does not count as discrimination.

The types of LGBTQ+ discrimination

Direct discrimination

This is where someone is treated less favourably due to their (perceived) sexual orientation or the sexual orientation of people they associate with such as family, friends etc.

Indirect discrimination

This is where a criteria, provision or practice puts people of particular sexual orientations at a disadvantage unless the practice can be objectively justified. The law defines justifiable in these circumstances as where an action is a proportional means of achieving a legitimate aim.


This is any unwanted conduct that creates an intimidating, hostile, humiliating, degrading or offensive environment. Harassment is unlawful whether it is intentional or not.


This is where someone is treated less favourably because they have made, or intend to make, a complaint or allegation against another member of staff. Also, where they give or intend to give evidence to someone else’s complaint of sexual orientation discrimination at work.

What can employers do?

Studies have shown that LGBTQ+-inclusive processes in a workplace positively impact job satisfaction and staff retention rates. Creating a diverse workforce begins at the recruitment process. One simple way that an employer can be more inclusive is to use inclusive language considering requirements for pronouns and titles on applications and job descriptions. This easy but effective change can be followed throughout the business practice such as language used in the office, email signoffs and employee bios.

Employers can also implement policies and a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination in the workplace and these must be effectively communicated across all levels of staff. This can help to build a culture of inclusivity and acceptance in the workplace alongside regular diversity and inclusion training.

How can we help?

We can help with drafting and/or reviewing required policies and highlighting where any genuine Occupations Requirements apply. We can also advise on putting in place measures and/or procedures to prevent discrimination claims arising.


For more information or to seek advice on any Employment Law matters, please contact Katie Bowen Nicholas by calling 01733 295 672 or by emailing

See our Employment Page for more information

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