LGBT Equality and Diversity at Work

Equality in the workplace is a key priority for the approximately 170,000 lesbian, gay and bisexual and transgender (LGBT) at work in Ireland.

There has been huge social and legislative progress for LGBT people in Ireland over the last 20 years. There are a substantial range of legal protections in force which protect LGBT employees including the Unfair Dismissals Act, the Parental Leave Act, the Employment Equality Acts, the Civil Partnership Act and the Gender Recognition Act.

Despite this progress many workplaces are not yet fully inclusive of their LGBT employees.

Challenges in the Workplace

1 in 4 LGBT employees surveyed have been verbally abused at some stage in their careers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

LGBT employees regularly have to decide if disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity in a particular work context will negatively impact their working lives.

  • 1 in 4 LGBT employees surveyed have been verbally abused at some stage in their careers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. 
  • LGBT employees regularly have to decide if disclosing their sexual orientation or gender identity in a particular work context will negatively impact their working lives.

Certain employment sectors are still perceived to be difficult places to work in if you are LGBT.

The education sector is a particular case in point. Section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Acts allows religious employers in for example education and health, to discriminate against employees if the employer can make a case that it needs to discriminate against certain employees to protect its religious ethos.

Given the official discriminatory position of many religions to LGBT people, and despite the protections afforded under the Unfair Dismissal Act, many LGBT teachers do not feel it is safe to be "out" at work. See our LGB teachers' section section for more information on these issues.

Coming Out in the Workplace

“Coming out” describes the process of understanding and disclosing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Disclosing one’s sexual orientation, be it same sex or opposite sex is part of the daily fabric of working life.  For many LGBT people however “coming out” can be one the biggest personal decisions to make in the workplace.

We regularly share personal information about our lives with colleagues and clients which indicate our sexual orientation e.g. family situation, relationships, friends, clothing etc. Most heterosexual employees do not give the matter a second thought. However many LGBT employee are afraid to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identiy because of previous experiences of having been discriminated against. 

A 2009 survey found that just under half of LGBT employees surveyed were out generally in their workplaces (Mayock et al, 2009).

Deciding whether to “come out” at work is always an individual and personal decision. LGBT people will consider the benefits and disadvantages of coming out in a particular workplace.  The benefits include:

  • Feeling more confident at work.
  • Fostering openness and stronger relationships with colleagues and clients.
  • Not having to worry about being “outed” and wasting energy having to cover up an intrinsic part of one’s life.
  • People perform better when they can be themselves: US research found that LGB respondents who were “out” in safe work places earned 50% more than LGB people who were not out.

For information on GLEN's workplace programme, see Diversity Champions.

 

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