Employment and the workplace


Stonewall work with a wide range of private, public and voluntary sector organisations to ensure that employers throughout Britain provide an equal environment for all staff that is free from discrimination based on sexual orientation.  The Diversity Champions Programme offers a comprehensive programme of support to its members, including a seminar programme, a programme of activity, and guidance on how to make progress.

What we know

Stonewall research found that nearly one in five lesbian and gay people, almost 350,000 employees in Britain, have experienced bullying from their colleagues because of their sexual orientation (Serves You Right). Almost four million people (13 per cent of the national workforce) have witnessed verbal homophobic bullying in the workplace and over one million people (4 per cent of the national workforce) have witnessed physical homophobic bullying at work (Living Together). However, more than nine in ten people are in support of laws introduced in 2003 protecting lesbians and gay men from discrimination at work.

Stonewall’s pioneering research on the productivity of lesbian and gay staff in the workplace, Peak Performance found that gay staff who can be out at work in a safe environment are more productive than their gay colleagues who have to hide their sexual orientation at work and/or work in less inclusive environments. 

Following the findings from research on the productivity of lesbian and gay staff, Stonewall decided to investigate why there are so few openly gay women in the workplace.  In Stonewall’s report The double-glazed glass ceiling researchers interviewed a range of lesbian and bisexual women in depth about their experiences at work. 

Researchers found that gay women often see their gender as more of a barrier at work than their sexual orientation and so they often decide to hide their sexual orientation if possible.  However for those who do come out at work, the benefits have proved to be considerable. 

What we have done

One of Stonewall’s first and longest campaigns was to lift the ban on lesbians and gay men serving in the armed forces – a campaign finally won in 1999.  Stonewall now work in partnership with the armed forces to ensure they are providing an inclusive environment for their lesbian and gay staff. Please visit armed forces for further detail.

Stonewall worked closely with the Government on the Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations which became law on 1 December 2003 making it unlawful to discriminate in employment on grounds of sexual orientation. These Regulations have since been replaced by the Equality Act 2010, although the legal protection remains the same.

Stonewall campaigned for the Civil Partnership Act, which took effect in December 2005, and which affords lesbian and gay people exactly the same package of rights and responsibilities that heterosexual people can derive from marriage and requires employers to treat staff who are married or in civil partnerships in exactly the same way.  For more information on Civil Partnerships please download Stonewall’s Get Hitched guide.

Stonewall supported and funded an employment tribunal case against the Bishop of Hereford who was found to have acted unlawfully by blocking the appointment of John Reaney to the post of Diocesan Youth Officer.  For more detail on the case, and others, please visit the court battles section. 

Stonewall published the Sexual Orientation Employer Handbook as a guide for employers on the relevant legislation that affords lesbian and gay employees equal treatment with their straight colleagues at work.Stonewall published the booklet Discrimination at work: It’s so over as a guide for lesbian and gay employees to their rights at work. 

Stonewall have published a series of guides for employers on best practice for a number of initiatives for sexual orientation equality at work:

  • Monitoring:  How to monitor sexual orientation in the workplace
  • Network Groups:  Setting up network groups for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees
  • Bullying:  Preventing the bullying and harassment of gay employees
  • Career Development:  How to support your lesbian and gay employees

Please visit best practice guides for employers to download any of these guides.

Stonewall worked hard to secure the Equality Act 2010 which has an impact for lesbian and gay people in the provision of public services and employment. For more information on the Equality Act, click here.

What we are currently doing

The policy and research team monitor outcomes from employment tribunals as well developing new research to support employers and employees in implementing a full programme of equality relating to sexual orientation. The policy and research team support Stonewall’s Workplace Team both through the Diversity Champions programme and through Stonewall Consult.

Stonewall’s main avenue of work with employers is through our Diversity Champions programme which works with over 480 organisations across the private, public and voluntary sectors to develop and share best practice for creating an inclusive environment for lesbian, gay and bisexual employees.  Organisations that partner with Stonewall through this programme receive tailored advice on policies and practices from their dedicated account manager at Stonewall, have access to the latest research and attend seminars to network with other member organisations and share best practice. 

The Stonewall policy and research team also work with employers through Stonewall Consult through which we provide training, offer tailored advice as consultants and attend speaking engagements as experts on sexual orientation issues in employment and service provision.

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