Accessing the Labour Market: Sexual Orientation


Research exploring sexual orientation and workplace experiences suggests that although attitudes towards the LGBT community have evolved, people still appear to experience some form of prejudice or discrimination due to their sexuality.

Furthermore, there appears to be some evidence suggesting LGBT people face (although admittedly to a lesser degree than in previous years) difficulties when integrating themselves into specific work environments (i.e. manual trades, armed forces).

It should be noted that the research does not suggest LGBT persons are unable to work in such areas, nor that these sectors entirely homophobic, but rather, that they have historically contained elements of institutionalised discrimination.

This section should be examined in conjunction with:

Furthermore, issues pertaining to work and worth are also strongly related to the other workstreams covered in this review:


Discussion: Workplace Discrimination

Stonewall’s survey of 2,092 people highlighted, that whilst in work:

  • 35% aren’t open about their sexual orientation with management
  • 26% aren’t open about their sexual orientation with colleagues
  • 57% aren’t open about their sexual orientation with customers or clients
  • 19% have experienced verbal bullying from colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexuality in the last 5 years.
  • 15% gave experienced homophobic bullying from their colleagues in the last 5 years.
  • 8% have experienced homophobic bullying from customers, clients and service users in the same period.
  • 1/3 of those who have been bullied, have been bullied by their manager

Source: Stonewall. 2013. Gay in Britain. Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Peoples Experiences and Expectations of Discrimination.


Broader Discussions: Best Practice

Stonewall's current programme, "Role Models, being yourself: Sexual Orientation and the Workplace", offers an insightful example of how role models can promote under-represented and traditionally marginalised communities within the labour market. This programme utilises senior, visible figures as active role models for the LGBT community.

Despite numerous advancements regarding the professional acceptance of the LGBT community, research demonstrates that the workplace can be one of the most demanding and strenuous environments for LGBT people. However, in recent years a change of culture appears to have occurred, with openly LGBT people occupying senior roles and perhaps more importantly operating as role models for others. Saying this, critics still suggest a high degree of discrimination occurs through the use of inappropriate language and behaviour within places of work throughout the country.

Source: Stonewall. 2014. Diversity Champions Programme


Broader Discussions: Transgender Experiences

The Scottish Transgender Alliance conducted a UK wide survey of transgender people in the workplace. The research provides an insight into the issues faced by transgender people in a cross-section of professional environments:

  • 19% have experienced harassment in the workplace
  • 18% believe they were turned down for a job due to their transgender stats
  • 16% have not applied for jobs in fear of harassment due to their transgender status
  • 9% hadn’t provided references due to their gender history
  • 7% had left their job due to harassment or discrimination, even though they had no other job to go to.

Source: McNeil, J., Bailey, L., Ellis, S., Morton, J., and Regan. 2012. Trans Mental Health Study 2012. Sheffield Hallam University.

Unfortunately very little evidence is available regarding transgender peoples working experiences. However, from research which has been conducted, there appears to be a continuing narrative of lack of acceptance, bullying and harassment, alongside a distinct fear of social exclusion from those who identify as transgender.

The current situation for transgender people appears to echo previous experiences of the LGB community, suggesting further, targeted interventions are needed to educate people regarding the experiences of transgender people.