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LGBT+ and sexual orientation


It is a basic human right to work in an environment free from harassment and discrimination. A person’s sexuality or gender identity should not determine whether they are employed, promoted or selected for redundancy – nor indeed should they be the brunt of discriminatory jokes.

The law

According to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, the Equality Act says you must not be discriminated against because:

  • You are heterosexual, gay, lesbian or bisexual
  • Someone thinks you have a particular sexual orientation. This is known as discrimination by perception
  • You are connected to someone who has a particular sexual orientation. This is known as discrimination by association

In the Equality Act, sexual orientation includes how you choose to express your sexual orientation, such as through your appearance or the places you visit.

A difference in treatment may be lawful if:

  • Belonging to a particular sexual orientation is essential for a job. This is called an occupational requirement. For example, an employer wants to recruit an advice worker who has experience of coming out for a young person’s LGBT+ helpline. The employer can specify that applicants must be lesbian or gay
  • An organisation is taking positive action to encourage or develop gay, lesbian or bisexual people to participate in a role or activity
  • The treatment by an employer or organisation falls within one of the exceptions that permits people to be treated differently based on their sexual orientation. For example, a charity can provide a benefit only to lesbians and gay men in certain circumstances
  • A religious or belief organisation is excluding persons of a particular sexual orientation from its membership or participation in its activities, or its provision of goods, facilities and services. This only applies to organisations whose purpose is to practice, promote or teach a religion or belief, whose sole or main purpose is not commercial. The restrictions they impose must be necessary either to comply with the doctrine of the organisation, or to avoid conflict with the “strongly held religious convictions” of the religion’s followers.

The Act also outlaws discrimination, harassment and victimisation on the grounds of gender reassignment. The protected characteristic of gender reassignment applies where a person is proposing to undergo, is undergoin, or has undergone a process or part process to reassign their sex.

Our guidance

Prospect is committed to:

  • securing equal opportunities policies that include sexual orientation and gender identity
  • ensuring that workplace procedures dealing with discrimination and harassment cover sexual orientation and gender identity
  • ensuring that employment benefits and agreements, such as pensions and family leave arrangements include same-sex couples
  • supporting lesbians, gay men, bisexuals and trans people in the workplace and in the union. 

We have produced:

Our network

Prospect runs a network for LGBT+ members to provide support and advice, campaign against discrimination in the workplace and facilitate contact between network members. Members of the network provide Prospect with their experience and views on legislative and workplace developments. They are also able to contact and support each other. For more information or to join our LGBT+ Network, please email Learn more about Prospect’s networks and how to join.

Our campaigns

LGBT+ History Month: Prospect supports LGBT+ History Month, which takes place in February every year. It celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT+ community.

Public resources for sexual orientation

Please let us know if any of the links on this page are not working by emailing so that we can either remove or fix them where possible.

Prospect resources for equality and diversity

Prospect provides advice and guidance on a range of equalities issues, which can be accessed under the Resources tab in the left-hand navigation menu. This includes links to guides, posters and leaflets etc.