Rights at work

You have the right to be free from discrimination at work

As an LGBTQ+ person, you might have concerns about discrimination in the workplace. We want to make sure that you know what your rights are, and what to do if they aren’t being protected! 


You have the right to be happy and healthy in the workplace, and the law provides you with some protection.


The Equality Act 2010 – what does this mean for LGBTQ+ people?

The Equality Act 2010 protects you from discrimination because of your sexual orientation or gender reassignment. You may also have protections because of other protected characteristics, such as: 


  • Age
  • Disability
  • Marriage and Civil Partnership
  • Pregnancy and Maternity 
  • Race
  • Religion or Belief
  • Sex

Gender Reassignment in the Equality Act means anyone who plans to take or has taken steps to transition from one gender to the other. You do not need to have had any medical treatment or a formal diagnosis. In 2020, the courts found that this also protects people who identify as non-binary (Taylor versus Jaguar Land Rover Limited).

You are also protected from direct discrimination or harassment if other people think you have the protected characteristic even if you don’t. For example, if people think you are trans even though  you are not, and treat you badly as a result.  


What am I protected from?

The Equality Act 2010 protects you from 


  • Direct discrimination
  • Indirect discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Victimisation

Direct discrimination is when means that you are treated worse than someone else because of your actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender reassignment. 


For example:


  • Chloe isn’t offered a job she is qualified for because the interviewer finds out she is bisexual.
  • Mark’s manager gives his colleague’s opportunities to develop that she doesn’t give to him, because he is gay.
  • Noah isn’t allowed time off to attend an appointment at the Gender Identity Clinic, even though others are allowed time off for medical appointments.

Indirect discrimination happens when your workplace has a policy or practice which disadvantages people more if they have a protected characteristic.


For example:


  • Jenny’s workplace has a policy that staff aren’t allowed to change their name on official records. This has a bigger impact on her, as a trans woman.
  • Sam’s workplace has a strict dress code based on the gender binary.

Harassment is unwanted behaviour related to a protected characteristic which violates your dignity or creates a degrading, humiliating or offensive environment. Examples of this could be: 


  • Jo is non binary and their colleagues refuse to use their correct pronouns, and make fun of them for asking.
  • Alice’s colleagues make lots of jokes about gay people around her. It doesn’t matter whether they intended to be offensive, or even whether they know that she is an LGBTQ+ person.

Victimisation is when you are treated badly because they have taken part in what the law calls “a protected act”. For example:


  • Billy is refused a promotion because he made a complaint about being discriminated against.
  • Dax isn’t allowed access to a training opportunity because they objected to the last trainer making transphobic remarks.

What can I do if I’m being Discriminated Against?

If you think you are being discriminated against, it’s important to get some advice and find out what options are open to you. For example you can:


  • Speak to your HR team, diversity and inclusion officer within your workplace for advice and support.
  • Speak to your trade union representative. Your trade union might have an LGBTQ+ network who are a useful source of support. You can find out about joining a Trade Union through the Scottish Trade Union’s Council.
  • Contact the Citizens Advice Bureau for information and advice.
  • Consult a solicitor. If you need assistance finding a solicitor, you can use the Law Society of Scotland’s website.
  • Contact the ACAS helpline for specialist employment law or workplace advice.

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