Employment Protection – Sexual Orientation
Why did the UK government introduce employment protection regulations?
The government responded to a European Union (EU) Law. A lot of EU law is written as ‘directives’. A directive is an instruction to member states to change things by a certain date. Member states often make their own new laws to do this.
The EU Employment Equality Directive (2000) gave workers employment protection because of their religion or belief, disability, age or sexual orientation. Some member states already had laws for this. Some member states did not. They had until the end of 2003 to introduce the protection.
What sort of discrimination did lesbian, gay and bisexual workers face?
The UK did not have employment protection for lesbian, gay and bisexual workers. At that time it was still lawful to sack a worker because of their sexual orientation. Employers could discriminate against LGB people through not hiring them or not promoting them because of their sexual orientation. LGB people didn’t have much protection from bullying. Sometimes they weren’t offered the same benefits as other colleagues. Sometimes they were unfairly affected by rules at work.
Why weren’t transgender workers included?
The UK government had already introduced employment protection for transgender people. This also happened because of an EU directive. You can read about transgender employment rights in this Legal Dateline.
When did the UK government introduce employment protection regulations?
The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations came into force just before the EU deadline, in December 2003. It was now against the law to discriminate because of someone’s sexual orientation.
Who was protected by the regulations?
For the first time, the regulations recognised the existence of bisexual workers, as well as lesbian, gay and heterosexual workers. The regulations protected people from discrimination in employment and vocational training.
Have the regulations been replaced?
The 1999 gender reassignment regulations and the 2003 sexual orientation regulations have now been replaced by the 2010 Equality Act. This new Act makes the law simpler and gives stronger protection. The Act puts into action four important EU directives.