General secretaries from more than three dozen British trade unions have written to UK equalities minister Liz Truss to call for an urgent reset in the government’s approach to LGBTQ+ rights.
The open letter – signed by general secretaries representing over five million union members – criticises the government for its “inaction” on tackling discrimination and harassment faced by LGBTQ+ people.
The intervention follows the government’s recent decisions to scrap its “LGBT Action Plan” and to disband its advisory panel on LGBTQ+ issues.
The union leaders say these moves have “dismayed” many in the LGBTQ+ community and sent out a worrying message to wider society.
TUC evidence shows that nearly two in five LGBTQ+ workers have been harassed or discriminated against by a colleague, while one-quarter have been discriminated against by their manager, and around one in seven by a client or patient.
Nearly half of all trans workers have experienced bullying or harassment at work, while seven in ten LGBTQ+ workers have experienced sexual harassment at work.
The union leaders say ministers must urgently develop a new strategy in consultation with unions to make sure all workplaces are safe for LGBTQ+ people.
They call on the government to introduce a new duty on employers to protect workers from harassment by customers and clients, and a specific duty to protect workers from sexual harassment.
Unions also call for employment tribunals to have powers to make wider recommendations to employers “to root out systemic failings and cultures of bullying and harassment”.
The letter also urges Liz Truss to swiftly recruit a new LGBTQ+ advisory panel with a clear mandate and trade union representation.
TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said: “Everybody deserves to be treated with dignity and to be safe at work. But many LGBT workers still experience shocking levels of discrimination and harassment in workplaces across the UK.
“Ministers must take a lead, and change the law so that employers have to protect their staff from homophobic and transphobic abuse by customers and clients. The UK should be a world leader in LGBT rights.”
Equity General Secretary Paul Fleming said: “The pragmatic, straightforward changes called for in this letter could make an immeasurable difference to LGBTQ+ people across the economy. And in so doing make the world of work a better place for all.”
Julia Georgiou, chair of the National House Building Council Staff Association, added: “This letter isn’t about political point-scoring. It’s about getting ministers to recognise the bullying and harassment LGBT+ people face on a daily basis.
“Giving employment tribunals wider powers to protect employees from bullying and harassment will benefit not only LGBT+ employees. It will give much better protection for all employees in UK.”