Standalone Accessible Element

Sexual Orientation

Under employment equality legislation 2003 it is unlawful on the grounds of sexual orientation to discriminate directly against anyone – that is, to treat them less favourably than others because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or because they associate with someone of a particular sexual orientation.

Within the regulations, sexual orientation is defined as:

  • Orientation towards persons of the same sex (homosexual – now to be termed lesbian/gay)
  • Orientation towards persons of the opposite sex (heterosexual)
  • Orientation towards persons of the same and the opposite sex (bisexual)

Since these regulations came into effect, however, the terms used for sexual orientation have become more numerous and nuanced. Thus we must now assume that people who identify as asexual, pansexual, questioning and any other of the many terms to describe their sexual preference or orientation are covered by this legislation.

Note: The term ‘Homosexual’, on the other hand, is now no longer considered acceptable. Thus ‘Lesbian’ and ‘Gay’ should be used instead.

These regulations apply to all forms of employment, training, recruitment, promotions, transfers and dismissals.

It is also unlawful to:

  • Discriminate indirectly against anyone – that is, 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 for them.
  • Victimise someone because they have made or intend to make a complaint or allegation or have given or intend to give evidence in relation to a complaint of discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation
  • Discriminate against someone, in certain circumstances, after the working relationship has ended.

For more information see the Equality and Human Rights Commission document on sexual orientation in the workplace (PDF)

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