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The TUC and general secretaries of more than 39 British trade unions have today (Monday) written to equalities minister Liz Truss to call for an urgent reset in the government’s approach to LGBT 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 LGBT people. 

The intervention follows the government’s recent decisions to scrap its LGBT Action Plan and to disband its LGBT Advisory Panel. 

The union leaders say these moves have “dismayed” many in the LGBT community and sent out a worrying message to wider society. 

TUC evidence shows that: 

  • Nearly two in five LGBT workers have been harassed or discriminated against by a colleague.  

  • A 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. 

  • Seven in ten LGBT 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 LGBT 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. 

And they 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 LGBT 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.    

“And they need to reconsider scrapping the LGBT Action Plan and LGBT Advisory Panel. 

“The UK should be a world leader in LGBT rights.” 

Equity General Secretary, and proud gay man, Paul Fleming said: 

“We are coming together as a trade union movement to show our commitment and determination to counter LGBT+ prejudice in all its forms.  

“The pragmatic, straightforward changes called for in this letter could make an immeasurable difference to LGBT+ 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 and a trans woman, said: 

“We need the government to urgently improve protections for LGBT+ workers so they can be their true selves – both at work and in wider society. 

“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.” 

Editors note

- A full copy of the letter can be seen below 

Dear Minister 

As Minister for Women and Equalities, we look to you to be a champion of equality, respect and safety in government.   

There are more than a million working people who are LGBT+ in the United Kingdom.   

We write to express our concern at government inaction to address the inequality experienced by LGBT+ people.   

We were dismayed that you have jettisoned the 2018 LGBT Action Plan, which was based on evidence from more than 100,000 LGBT+ people. And we were disappointed at the decision to disband the LGBT Advisory Panel.   

Nearly two in five LGBT workers have been harassed or discriminated against by a colleague. A quarter have been discriminated against by their manager, and around one in seven by a client or patient. That rises to nearly half of all trans workers experiencing bullying or harassment at work. Seven in ten LGBT workers have experienced sexual harassment – and one in eight LBT women have experienced sexual assault or rape at work.  

We urge you to consult with unions on a strategy to make sure workplaces are safe for all LGBT+ people. As a minimum, the government should introduce a new duty on employers to protect workers from harassment by customers and clients.  

It should also create a specific duty on employers to prevent sexual harassment. And it should reinstate employment tribunals’ powers to make wider recommendations to employers, to root out systemic failings and cultures of bullying and harassment.   

We call for the recruitment of a new LGBT Advisory Panel, with a clear mandate and trade union representation.   

We add our voices to those calling for an immediate ban on all forms of conversion therapy, and for a simplified, free, statutory gender-recognition process, based on self-declaration.   

We look to the government not only to promote equality and eliminate discrimination against LGBT+ people but also to take a principled lead in building an inclusive culture in words and deeds that supports LGBT+ people’s safety, dignity and equality so that LGBT+ people can thrive and live authentically.   

The UK can do better. Let’s lead the world in LGBT+ equality once again.    

Yours sincerely 

Frances O'Grady, General Secretary, TUC  

Christina McAnea, General Secretary, Unison 

Len McCluskey, General Secretary, Unite 

Gary Smith, General Secretary, GMB 

Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, NEU 

Paddy Lillis, General Secretary, USDAW 

Patrick Roach, General Secretary, NASUWT  

Dave Ward, General Secretary, CWU 

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, PCS 

Mike Clancy, General Secretary, Prospect  

Jo Grady, General Secretary, UCU 

Michael Lynch, General Secretary, RMT 

Larry Flanagan, General Secretary, EIS 

Paul W Fleming, General Secretary, Equity 

Claire Sullivan, Director of Employment Relations and Union Services, CSP 

Jon Skewes, Executive Director, RCM 

Matt Wrack, General Secretary, Fire Brigades Union 

Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, NUJ 

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary, Community  

Horace Trubridge, General Secretary, MU 

Nicola Hubert, General Secretary, POA 

Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, NAHT 

Ged Nichols, General Secretary, Accord 

Mick Whelan, General Secretary, ASLEF 

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, TSSA 

Dave Penman, General Secretary, FDA 

Sarah Woolley, General Secretary, BFAWU 

Mark Dickinson, General Secretary, Nautilus International 

Tim Rose, General Secretary, Nationwide Group Staff Union  

Steve Jamieson, General Secretary, Royal College of Podiatry 

Andy Burman, General Secretary, BDA 

Zita Holbourne, Joint National Chair, Artists' Union England  

Ian Lawrence, General Secretary, NAPO 

Brian Linn, General Secretary, Aegis the Union 

Paul Donaldson, General Secretary, HCSA 

Sam Aitkenhead, General Secretary, British Orthoptic Society 

Michele Gregson, General Secretary, NSEAD 

Julia Georgiou, Chair, NHBC Staff Association 

Michael Schwaabe, President, The Association of Flight Attendants 

Maria Exall, Chair, TUC LGBT+ Committee 

Gloria Mills, Chair, TUC Race Relations Committee 

Dave Allan and Ann Galpin, Co-Chairs, TUC Disabled Workers Committee 

Sue Ferns, Chair, TUC Womens Committee 

Patrick Roach, Chair, TUC Anti-Racism Task Force  

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