Time For A New Plan Stan?
The headlines focused on the proposal to ban gay conversion therapy, but the Government’s LGBT plan published yesterday also contained a chapter on LGBT issues in the workplace.
There is a lot of discussion about the workforce of the future and the need for employers to adapt to the millennial generation. A topic often covered in the discussion is how employers should respond to new gender identities. I came across a facebook post recently that made me think. It said “millennials aren’t creating new gender identities, they’re only giving language to ones that have always existed under the burden of shame”. Perhaps, like the #metoo movement, the change is more people in the LGBT community are finding their voice in the workplace and prepared to highlight and challenge discriminatory behaviour.
LGBT individuals have protection in the workplace from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation under the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment has been unlawful since 1999 and on the grounds of sexual orientation since 2003. Despite those protections being in place the statistics in the Government LGBT survey published [yesterday] alongside their LGBT plan don’t make easy reading. 28% of respondents said they had experienced a negative or mixed reaction from others in the workplace due to being LGBT. 11% of respondents said someone at work had disclosed their sexuality without their permission. 11% had been subject to inappropriate comments or conduct and 77% of those that had experienced a negative incident at work hadn’t reported it because they thought it wouldn’t be worth it as nothing would change. A Stonewall survey found that 26% of LGBT workers are not open to colleagues about their sexual orientation and 42% of trans people felt they were prevented from living permanently in their preferred gender role because of fear it would threaten their employment status.
So is it time for a new plan to deliver equality in the workplace for the LGBT community? The Government Plan contains four actions – the provision of free training materials to support inclusion in the workplace, ensuring that LGBT harassment is included in sexual harassment policies and guidance issued by ACAS, convening a working group of employers to understand the experiences of LGBT staff in different sectors and ensuring the Civil Service continues to role model best practice in establishing working environments that are inclusive for LGBT staff. The plan as a whole has been criticised as not going far enough. It doesn’t seem likely that the four actions being heralded as actions to address LGBT issues in the workplace will have much impact. In the words of Paul Simon, it probably is time for a new plan Stan.
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