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The Cost of Being Out at Work

LGBT+ workers' experiences of harassment and discrimination
Report type
Research and reports
Issue date
Key findings
Key findings relating to LGBT+ workers are:
  • Nearly two in five (39 per cent) of all respondents have been harassed or discriminated against by a colleague, a quarter (29 per cent) by a manager and around one in seven (14 per cent) by a client or patient.
  • Only a third of respondents (34 per cent) reported the latest incident of harassment or discrimination to their employer, one in eight (12 per cent) reported it to HR.
  • Only half (51 per cent) of all respondents are ‘out’ (open about their sexuality) to everyone at work. This falls to just over a third (36 per cent) of young people. Over a quarter (27 per cent) of bisexuals are out to no one.
  • Almost half of trans people (48 per cent) have experienced bullying or harassment at work compared to just over a third (35 per cent) of non-trans respondents.
  • Over three fifths (62 per cent) of all respondents have heard homophobic or biphobic remarks or jokes directed to others at work, while over a quarter (28 per cent) have had such comments directed at them.
  • Just under a quarter (23 per cent) of all respondents have been outed against their will, while almost a third (30 per cent) of transgender respondents have had their trans status disclosed against their will.
  • Only a third of respondents reported the latest incident of harassment or discrimination to their employer, one in eight reported it to HR.

Executive summary

Legal rights for people who are LGBT+ have seen huge changes over the past few years. As a result, it would be easy to assume that LGBT+ people have finally gained the equality that they, and we, fought so long to achieve. But reports from trade union reps suggest that lived equality in the workplace is still not the experience for many LGBT+ workers. The TUC undertook this research to better understand the experiences of LGBT+ workers across the UK. This TUC research gives us solid statistical evidence as well as the stories of LGBT+ workers to give voice to those
(often hidden) experiences.
We used an online survey to reach as many LGBT+ people as possible including those that are not part of a trade union. We wanted to collect individual stories and understand, if people experienced discrimination and harassment, what form it took, how it impacted them and how they sought redress.


The final section of this report sets out clear recommendations to government, employers and unions.

For government

  • Ban zero hours contracts. Individuals who work regular hours should have a right to a written contract guaranteeing their normal working hours.
  • Abolish employment tribunal fees.
  • Promote the importance of LGBT+ inclusive equality training in all sectors.
  • Make Sex and Relationship Education statutory and LGBT+ inclusive with no exemptions for faith schools.
  • Ensure that the EHRC has sufficient funding and resources to promote LGBT+ rights, carry out investigations in sectors where LGBT+ discrimination is identified as a problem, and to take more strategic legal cases.
  • Legislate to place a duty on employers to protect workers from third party harassment.

For employers

  • All employers should have an equality policy in place that includes a zero tolerance approach to all forms of harassment and should ensure that equality policies are understood and that staff at all levels have relevant training.
  • HR procedures should be reviewed to ensure that complaints can be resolved in as short a timeframe as possible.
  • Develop mentoring and coaching opportunities for LGBT+ staff to ensure they can access development opportunities.

For unions

  • Develop guidance for reps to support LGBT+ workers working with third parties.
  • Review training for union reps on transgender and other sexual and gender identities.
  • Extend training on the Equality Act 2010 / employment tribunal process for more union reps, equality reps and LGBT+ officers.
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