Workplace Guides: Religion and Sexual Orientation

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In August 2008, researchers interviewed 30 equality and diversity specialists from a range of sectors about their experiences of sexual orientation and religion and belief in the workplace. In October 2007, researchers also conducted six focus groups with people who are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and Hindu about their attitudes to lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

This report presents the findings of that research. Organisations work to achieve equality for all staff and service-users. They are confident that they are able to take steps to prevent and respond to discrimination against lesbian, gay and bisexual people. They are less confident about tackling negative attitudes and responses when these are justified and motivated by religion and belief. They acknowledge that incidents are very rare and that working to prevent such incidents is a priority.

Organisations most confident about responding to, and preventing, issues of perceived conflicts are those that have explicit and clear policies about equality and diversity. These policies are understood by all staff, all suppliers, and all service users. Successful organisations have thought in advance about how they might respond to issues of conflict, and have established where they would draw the line between acceptable expression of faith and unacceptable discrimination in employment and service delivery. They have ensured that senior staff, including those at the very top of the organisation, agree with that position. Organisations have communicated these policies to all staff, and have proactively worked with their lesbian and gay staff, and their staff who belong to religious networks, to find areas where they can work together. When incidents do occur, successful organisations use third party mediators to try to resolve issues, but have robust disciplinary procedures to help resolve more complex issues.

By putting in place effective processes for maintaining the dignity of all staff in the workplace, organisations feel able to respond positively and effectively to any issues that may emerge.


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