Almost all employers now have a policy referring to discrimination on the grounds of sex, race, disability and, in Northern Ireland, religion. These are included because discrimination on these grounds is unlawful.
Good policies will also include age, marital status, gender (which will cover Transexual people) and sexuality or sexual orientation. A good employer will also have a policy on HIV and AIDS.
The policy should be incorporated into the Contract of Employment.
It is especially important for lesbians and gay men,to have a specific commitment to equality in policy statements.
Surveys have shown that having an explicit policy can help lesbian and gay men to feel confident that they can come out at work and that they can raise issues of discrimination or harassment with their employer. The union should be involved in formulating and reviewing the policy and should be consulted on implementing it.
Policies alone are not enough. There must be a commitment to put them into practice by specific measures and this should be the responsibility of management at a senior level. The policy should be publicised to all staff and job applicants.
Equal Opportunities policies should state that there will be no discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in recruitment, promotion, training or transfer, terms and conditions of service, discipline or dismissal, and that harassment of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals will not be accepted.
The Civil Service Management Code, which outlines Civil Service-wide policies and instructs Departments and Agencies on the policies and procedures they should implement, states -
"2.1.1 Civil Service equal opportunities policy provides that all eligible people must have equality of opportunity for employment and advancement on the basis of their suitability for the work. There must be no unfair discrimination on the basis of age, disability, gender, marital status, sexual orientation, race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, or (in Northern Ireland) community background."
It goes on to say that each Department and Agency is responsible for implementing this policy in its own organisation, using it as a basis for their own strategies and action plans. They must communicate the policies to all staff and must set up procedures to handle complaints of discrimination and harassment. And they must identify equal opportunities officers to oversee implementation in the department.
An important part of implementing Equal Opportunities policies is monitoring their effectiveness. In the case of sex, race or disability, there are usually arrangements to collect statistics to ensure that these groups are represented in the workforce.
This is not appropriate for lesbians and gay men. The issue is not one of under representation, although there is evidence of discrimination in recruitment and dismissal.
More importantly, because of the reluctance of many lesbians, gay men and bisexuals to come out at work for fear of discrimination or harassment, they might be reluctant to fill in monitoring questionnaires.
Some Departments are adding questions on a person's sexuality to their questionnaires. This should only happen if the survey is anonymous and after negotiation with trade union representatives.
Make sure your employer has a comprehensive equal opportunities policy.
Make sure the policy is incorporated into the Contract of Employment
ensure the union is involved in formulating, implementing and reviewing the policy.
Make sure the policy specifically refers to ‘sexual orientation’ or ‘sexuality’ or to ‘lesbians, gay men and bisexuals’.
The policy should state clearly a commitment to equality for lesbians and gay men (whether using these words or others) and to tackling discrimination on grounds of sexuality particularly in the areas of:
The policy should be publicised to all staff, and to all new entrants and job applicants.
Training should be provided to raise awareness, on sexuality and other equal opportunity issues, perhaps by including on training courses on issues such as recruitment, personnel management, tackling harassment.
Contact Proud for a programme that can be used by the union or management.
You should also use the Civil Service Management Code to ensure the policy is implemented, if in the civil service, or good practice examples if elsewhere.
Make sure senior managers or equal opportunity officers oversee implementation of the policy.
Monitor effectiveness of the policy, but anonymous methods might be necessary.
Make sure there is regular review of the policy and renegotiate it if necessary.
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