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Sexual orientation

Author: Shelagh Prosser


  • Sexual orientation is a term used to describe an individual's sexual identity, attraction and behaviour. An individual's sexual orientation may be to persons of the same sex, persons of the opposite sex or persons of either sex. (See What does sexual orientation mean?)
  • An inclusive workplace is one where all employees, whatever their sexual orientation, feel that the organisation respects and values them and that they belong. (See What is an inclusive workplace?)
  • Creating an inclusive workplace for lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) employees is likely to benefit the organisation in terms of morale, productivity and external reputation. (See The importance of creating an inclusive workplace)
  • Fear of harassment and discrimination can prevent LGB employees from feeling that they can be themselves at work. (See Barriers to creating an inclusive workplace)
  • Having inclusive policies and practices is essential in creating an inclusive workplace for employees, whatever their sexual orientation. (See Policies and procedures)
  • Employers can demonstrate support for LGB employees by engaging in external campaigns and events designed to celebrate and raise awareness about LGB issues. (See Raising awareness externally)
  • Where LGB employees are visible, particularly in senior roles, this is likely to help other LGB employees to feel that they belong and can thrive in the organisation. (See Raising the profile of lesbian, gay and bisexual employees)
  • Employers should ensure that employees are aware of how discrimination, bullying and harassment due to sexual orientation can occur in the workplace and what to do if they experience or observe such behaviour.(See Training)
  • Employers that wish to attract applicants from as wide a talent pool as possible should ensure that their recruitment practices and procedures do not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and that all individuals feel that they will be treated with fairness and respect. (See The recruitment process)
  • Providing all employees, regardless of their sexual orientation, with the opportunity to access training and development to enhance their knowledge and skills will help to make them feel valued and committed to making the business a success. (See Career development)
  • Employers should deal with complaints of bullying and harassment due to sexual orientation, promptly, transparently and firmly. Employees should know what procedure they need to follow should they wish to make a complaint about bullying and harassment, including to whom they can talk informally. (See Bullying and harassment)
  • Employers should support LGB employee networks. Internal LGB networks can be a source of peer support, provide a forum for raising workplace issues and a means whereby employers can engage directly with LGB employees to seek their views. (See Employee networks)
  • Monitoring employment practices on the basis of sexual orientation can help employers identify underrepresentation and barriers to inclusion, and target action to create a more inclusive workplace for LGB employees. (See Monitoring)
  • Employers should ensure that line managers feel confident in handling conflicts that may arise between religion and sexual orientation in the workplace. (See Tensions between sexual orientation and religion)