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Gay Times Law by Clive Sanders LLB

6 : Employment

Summary of Employment law

Your relationship with your employer is primarily governed by your contract. In addition "The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003" provides protection against discrimination in the workplace on the grounds of sexual orientation.


The European Employment Directive -Council Directive 2000/78/EC of 27 November 2000 forced the UK government to outlaw discrimination at work on the grounds of sexual orientation. In December 2003 new anti discrimination legislation was introduced.

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003

On 1st December 2003 "The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003" came into effect which protects against discrimination (whether direct or indirect) on the grounds of sexual orientation in the work place, in training, promotion and transfers. To be discriminated against means not only to be treated less favourably on the grounds of sexual orientation but can also include victimisation and harassment.

The regulations govern the training, employment and membership of the following categories of people:

  • Employees
  • Contract Workers
  • Office Holders
  • Members of Trade Organisations
  • Members of Professional Bodies
  • Career advice or employment agency clients
  • Students of further and higher education

    Bringing a Claim

    Claims under the regulations must be brought before the Industrial Tribunal within THREE MONTHS of the matters complained of. An employer will be liable for the acts of their employees whether or not such acts were done with their approval and knowledge. In addition the burden of proof is on the employer to prove that they did not discriminate in the ways complained of.

    Equal Opportunities Policies

    Many employers now have an equal opportunities Statement or Policy that include lesbians and gay men by making reference to equal treatment on the grounds of sexual orientation.

    You may find that if your company has such a Policy it may be incorporated into your employment contract and if you are discriminated against you might additionally be able to rely upon it.


    Two options are now open to victims of homophobic harassment. Harassment in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation can be dealt with under the "The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003" (See above). Enforcement of these regulations is throught the Industrial Tribunal with a strict 3 month time limit for claims to be brought. All other types of homophobic harassment can be dealt with through either the Criminal or the Civil courts by the use of The Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Section 1 of the Act states that

    'A person must not pursue a course of conduct

    (a) which amounts to harassment of another, and

    (b) which he knows or ought to know amounts to harassment of the other.'


    If you start to have serious problems at work perhaps involving discrimination or harassment I would recommend you IMMEDIATELY get in touch with LAGER (Lesbian and Gay Employment Rights) who provide help to gays and lesbians with work related problems.

    You should not delay at all because before things get out of hand there may be steps that you can take to resolve matters for example getting your employer to stop the harassment or discrimination by pointing out their potential liability.

    Alternatively, there maybe protective steps you can take such, as careful note-taking and preparing your evidence for a possible claim. Many cases are won on the evidence. You may have a brilliant case on paper but without supporting evidence you may be in a hopeless position. The other crucial consideration is time limits. Industrial Tribunal claims must be brought within THREE MONTHS which is a very short period of time.

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