Lesbian and gay workers still facing discrimination

Jun 29 2006 by Nic Paton Print This Article

British lesbian and gay workers now have much more protection under the law, but many still face homophobia and discrimination in the workplace, trade unions have warned.

According to the TUC, until the UK undergoes a real shift in social attitudes, life will continue to be tough for many lesbian and gay workers.

TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said the introduction of civil partnerships and changes giving same sex partners similar access to pensions as that enjoyed by married couples had been significant advances.

But, addressing a conference, he added: "Unfortunately, while the legal framework may have changed beyond recognition, we've yet to see a parallel shift in social attitudes.

"For the most part we appear to live in a largely liberal, tolerant society Ė but scratch beneath the surface, and homophobia is alive and well," he added.

He pointed to statistics showing there had been 1,300 homophobic crimes reported in London alone in the past year.

"It's a battle we must fight in the workplace as well as in society. And despite the lengths some employers have gone to promoting diversity and tolerance, and rooting out homophobic bigots, others simply turn a blind eye, or actively encourage a workplace culture that makes it difficult for their lesbian and gay staff to be 'out' at work for fear of falling victim to the office or the factory bullies," Barber continued.

"Four in ten gay employees have faced abuse at work as a result of their sexuality. And new rights on the statute book mean nothing if they don't have an impact where they are most needed.

"Encouraging a change of attitude towards gay people at work is vital if we are to tackle homophobic abuse head on," he added.