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Sexual Orientation Discrimination

Under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful to discriminate against workers because of sexual orientation.

Sexual orientation is defined as:

  • Orientation towards people of the same sex (lesbians and gay men)
  • Orientation towards people of the opposite sex (heterosexual)
  • Orientation towards people of the same sex and the opposite sex (bisexual)

The Act applies to goods and services and all employment and vocational training and includes recruitment, terms and conditions, promotions, transfers, dismissals and training. The Act make it unlawful on the grounds of sexual orientation to:

  • Discriminate directly against anyone and to treat them less favourably than others because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation;
  • Discriminate indirectly - to apply a criterion, provision or practice which disadvantages people of a particular sexual orientation, unless it can be objectively justified;
  • Subject someone to harassment - harassment is unwanted conduct that violates a person's dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment;
  • Victimise someone because they have made or intend to make a compliant or allegation in relation to a complaint of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Employers should ensure that sexual orientation is included in their Equality Policy and have policies in place which are designed to prevent discrimination in:

  • recruitment and selection
  • determining pay
  • training and development
  • selection for promotion
  • discipline and grievances
  • countering bullying and harassment.

Employers should also consider adding all forms of discrimination, harassment and bullying to their disciplinary and grievance rules.

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