Employment law to counter discrimination against gays

10th Jul 2002
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Barbara Roche, Minister for Women and Equality, spoke at the TUC’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Conference last week, and drew attention to legal developments:

"I recognise that we need to continue to tackle discrimination against the LGB community more widely, so we will be implementing the European Employment Directive to outlaw discrimination (both direct and indirect) in the workplace on the ground of sexual orientation by the end of 2003. The UK government played a very active and significant role in the negotiations to implement the directive - and I am grateful for the support of the TUC, Stonewall, EOC and other partners in that process.

"Clearly, implementation of the directive is badly needed - as figures from the TUC suggest. One report showed that 44% of employees have suffered harassment on the grounds of their sexual orientation. Some of the stories are truly shocking - one gay man ended up trying to commit suicide after a noose and a ransom note were left on his desk at work. The final straw came when his colleagues found out where he lived, and damaged his house. The man was never able to return to work.

"But not all discrimination is so blatant, although it can be just as damaging. Some lesbian and gay employees find themselves socially ostracised, others are barred from promotion or put under extra pressure at work. That is why we must ensure the directive has a real impact on the ground. And that means implementing it in a way that fully engages business.

"So our first priority has to be getting the legislation on employment and training right, and ensuring that the rights and obligations under the directive are understood and widely supported. We shall, of course, monitor the impact of the new legislation. This is not the end of the road in terms of the Government’s commitment towards creating a fair and just society.

"As you are probably aware, the directive will also have an impact on pensions, although whether employers have to pay out benefits from pension schemes to same [***] partners will depend on the rules of the scheme.

"Where the rules say that benefits should be paid to married and unmarried heterosexual partners, it would be directly discriminatory to deny those rights to same [***] partners."


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