EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

Working life experiences of LGBT people and initiatives to tackle discrimination

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This article provides an overview of surveys on the working life experiences of LGBT people in the EU and initiatives that aim to tackle this issue. The information is based on contributions from Eurofound’s network of European correspondents. 

Discrimination towards and harassment of LGBT people in the workplace appear to be a widespread problem in the EU. The research shows that many employees do not in fact disclose that they are LGBT in order to avoid discrimination in the workplace. Governments, social partners, NGOs and other actors have recently undertaken various initiatives aimed at addressing the plight of LGBTs in the workplace. Such initiatives seem to be more prevalent in countries where the social climate towards LGBT tends to be more positive. This situation is worrying, because it means that the lowest activity regarding LGBT rights in the workplace is taking place in countries where it is needed the most. This EurWORK topical update is part of a series of articles which are compiled on the basis of contributions from Eurofound’s network of European correspondents

According to the Oxford Dictionary, LGBT (also LGBTI) is an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people:
Lesbian refers to a homosexual woman and gay to a homosexual man.
Homosexual is a person sexually attracted to people of one’s own sex.
Bisexual is a person who is sexually attracted to both men and women.
Transgender is a person whose sense of personal identity and gender does not correspond with their birth sex.
Intersex refers to a person that has both male and female sex organs or other sexual characteristics.
Coming out means to openly declare that one is LGBT.

Introduction

The  Employment Equality Directive (2000/78/EC) has banned employment discrimination based on sexual orientation in the European Union. The aim of the directive is to ensure that sexual minorities enjoy equal treatment in the workplace. Both direct discrimination (differential treatment based on specific characteristics) and indirect discrimination (any provision, criterion or practice which puts the included categories at a disadvantage) was covered by the directive – and harassment was also deemed to constitute discrimination. All 28 EU Member States have already transposed this directive. It is important to mention that the directive covers gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals, but not transgender and intersex persons. The  Employment and Social Security Directive (2006/54/EC) aims to combat discrimination based on sex, including against trans people, in relation to employment and social security, including access to employment, training, pay and working conditions, and the freedom to join unions and professional organisations.

Research suggests that gay and lesbian employees report more incidents of harassment and are more likely to report experiencing unfair treatment in the labour market than heterosexual employees (Drydakis, 2014). Unlike the case of other vulnerable groups, there are few specific labour market programmes addressing LGBT issues included in national actions plans for social inclusion or employment strategies (SEN, 2010).

Despite the reported evidence of widespread discrimination and harassment experienced by LGBT persons, so far only limited action has been taken at EU level to address the problem. In December 2015, the European Commission published a list of specific targeted actions aiming to combat LGBTI discrimination in the EU in 2016–2019. The actions have been defined in consultation with the European Parliament, civil society and Member States in the light of research carried out by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), information from relevant international bodies, and the Commission’s own data. The actions include supporting businesses and workplaces that are inclusive for LGBTI persons. The Commission aims to continue monitoring the implementation of the Employment Equality Directive, including specific aspects related to sexual orientation, notably as interpreted by the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union. In February 2016, the Permanent Representatives Committee of the Council of the EU reached an agreement on a list of actions to promote LGBTI equality. Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland have maintained general scrutiny reservations. In March 2016, despite the efforts of the Luxembourg and the Dutch presidencies of the Council, the EPSCO Council was unable to reach a majority support for the text. Nearly all Member States supported the list of actions, but Hungary prevented the conclusion of a final agreement in the Council. The Hungarian representative stated that the LGBTI equality issue is complex and politically sensitive in many countries and that it touches upon questions belonging to the exclusive competence of the Member States.

This EurWORK topical update provides a brief overview of research into the experiences of LGBT people in the workplace in Europe. The position of the social partners and governments across Europe will be briefly addressed, as well as workplace-related legislation in the area. Finally, the initiatives (or their lack of) addressing the position of LGBT in the workplace will be discussed. The reader should bear in mind that this article does not attempt to provide an exhaustive overview but instead provides illustrative examples of recent developments.

Situation in the labour market 

Attitudes towards LGBT

According to SEN (2010), the situation of LGBT people in the labour market in the EU is influenced by the general social and legal context. The public opinion towards LGBT people is very diverse within EU Member States and in several of them negative attitudes prevail. Openness within a society towards different sexual orientations is the key to greater equality for LGBT people in the labour market.

The Eurobarometer 83.4 survey (2015) mapped the attitudes of European citizens towards LGBT colleagues at work. Figures 1 and 2 show how comfortable/uncomfortable respondents would feel about a work colleague who is LGBT. While relatively high proportions of respondents in the northern and western parts of the EU claim to be comfortable about LGBT colleagues, the situation is the opposite in the eastern and southern Member States. In all Member States, discomfort with having a transgender colleague is even stronger than discomfort with lesbian, gay or bisexual colleagues.

Figures 1 and 2: How comfortable would you feel about having a colleague at work who is: a) gay, lesbian or bisexual (EU28, 2015) or b) transgender or transsexual (EU28, 2015)

Source: Author’s calculation based on Eurobarometer 83.4 data. The maps were created using Tableau Public software.

Note: The figures present a weighted average of the answer per country. The potential responses ranged between 1 (not at all comfortable) and 10 (totally comfortable): the actual range of responses given is indicated in the legend.

Studies on discrimination of LGBT at work

According to the EU LGBT survey 2012 carried out by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA), a considerable proportion of LGBT in the EU feel discriminated against at work. The degree of reported discrimination varies between countries – and also between groups within the LGBT community.

One in five (19%) LGBTs in the EU report feeling discriminated against at work because of being LGBT in the 12 months preceding the survey (see figures 3 to 7). The intergroup differences were not large, ranging from 15% among bisexual men to 23% among transgender people. However, considerable differences were found across countries. LGBTs in Denmark (11%), Netherlands (12%) and the Czech Republic (13%) appear to suffer the least from discrimination at work. On the other hand, workplace discrimination seems to be more prevalent in Cyprus, Latvia and Lithuania, where more than quarter of respondents reported feeling being discriminated against. The data indicate that homophobia in the workplace still remains a problem in the EU – and more so in some countries than in others. This is especially the case in the new Member States where LGBTs more frequently report feeling discriminated against. An exception to this are the Czech Republic and Slovenia, which score relatively well in this respect.

Figures 3 to 8: Proportion of LGBT who felt discriminated against at work (in the 12 months preceding the survey) and who ‘always’ hide or disguise being LGBT at work (in the 5 years preceding the survey) per country (EU28, 2012)

Source:   FRA LGBT Survey 2012 data explorer

National surveys and studies

FRA’s findings are also reflected in several national studies. As table 1 indicates, all national survey data indicate that LGBT people experience discrimination and harassment in the workplace. In the majority of surveys, the proportion of LGBT respondents reporting having experienced harassment or negative reactions at the workplace because of being LGBT ranges from 10% to 20% (with the lowest proportion being 5% and the highest 31%). These percentages are dependent on country, type of discriminatory behaviour and respondent characteristics. The discriminatory behaviours experienced include verbal or physical harassment, exclusion from their work group, non-recruitment or non-promotion.

An Estonian study into LGBTQ people (LGBT plus Q for ‘queer’ or ‘questioning) from 2016 (based on 28 qualitative interviews) found that respondents experienced negative attitudes and also discrimination in their working life. Transgender people experienced this to a greater degree, because it is more difficult for them to hide their identity. Interestingly, none of respondents perceived this as unequal treatment, nor mentioned the Equal Treatment Act prohibiting such behaviour in working life. This indicates low awareness of legal protection among LGBTQ people. Still, the negative experiences mentioned by LGBTQ people could be regarded as minor transgressions that the law does not address.

There is a significant cost to businesses which are not communicating strong leadership messages and inspiring LGBT inclusion in the workplace – in Ireland one in four LGBT people have experienced bullying and harassment at work and one in ten have missed work as a result.

Table 1: Overview of outcomes of surveys on the discrimination of LGBT people in EU Member States

Country

Main findings

Source

Finland

20% of 780 respondents belonging to a sexual minority reported being harassed at the workplace.

Ministry of Justice, 2016

France

In a survey of 7,126 lesbian and bisexual females, 11% encountered hostile behaviour at the workplace, including mockery (48%), misunderstanding (36%), rejection (36%) and discrimination (30%). In 63% of cases, such behaviour came from colleagues and in 36% from the line manager.

SOS homophobie, 2015

Workplace discrimination accounted for 5% (191) of all complaints received. In 77% of cases, the complaint was filed by men, in 18% by women and in 3% by trans persons. The victims complained about insults (54%), harassment (29%), rejection/ignorance (28%), discrimination (27%) and defamation (23%) from colleagues (45%) and line supervisors (31%).

SOS homophobie, 2014

Ireland

27% of LGBT respondents reported being called hurtful names by work colleagues, 15% were verbally threatened and 7% were physically threatened. One in ten people have been absent from work as a result.

Mayock et al, 2009 by GLEN

Malta

13.4% of LGBT respondents reported knowing or suspecting they were subjected to discrimination in employment or promotion. Furthermore, 5.6% reported being refused employment, 1.8% being denied promotion, 4.5% being dismissed and 5.6% facing higher expectations when compared to other employees. More educated respondents are less likely to report discrimination and tend to be more open about their sexual orientation and/or gender identity at the workplace.

National Commission for Promotion of Equality, 2011

Netherlands

18% of LGB reported discrimination in looking for work while another 27% reported the possibility of discrimination. With regard to the terms of employment, these figures were 3% and 6% respectively.

SCP, 2014

14% of gay men and 5% of lesbian women experienced negative reactions to their sexual orientation at the workplace (mainly consisting of annoying or overtly personal questions, dismissive looks, dull jokes or ridicule).

SCP, 2011

In approximately half of SME companies, jokes are occasionally made about LGB. This was more often the case in transport, metal and engineering sectors than in wholesale and retail. The majority of SME employers do not use specific measures to improve the working environment for LGB.

EIM/Panteia, 2011

Norway

More than 90% of LGBT respondents had never experienced discrimination due to sexual orientation at work.

Anderssen and Malterud (2014)

Poland

About 25% (out of 240) of all discrimination inquiries by LGBT people related to workplace discrimination.

Campaign Against Homophobia, 2011

Slovenia

About 15% of LGBT respondents who have ever been in employment reported being discriminated against at the workplace (0.7% discriminated against often and 13% a few times). In 83% of cases, the perpetrators were co-workers, in 67% the supervisors and in some cases both. Only 40% of participants revealed their sexual orientation at work. Almost 10% of those who lost their job stated that it was due to their sexual orientation.

LGBT pravice, 2014

Spain

31% out of 703 respondents said that they sometimes felt discriminated against at work. 73% of this proportion had been laughed at or were the subject of jokes, while 48% experienced discriminatory behaviour from their colleagues.

State Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transsexuals & Bisexuals, COGAM, 2013

UK

19% out of 2,092 LGB respondents reported having experienced verbal bullying from colleagues, customers or service users because of their sexual orientation in the last five years. About one third of them were bullied by their manager, while half were bullied by people in their work team. 

Stonewall, 2013

 

A fifth of transgender respondents reported experiencing harassment in the workplace. 18% believe they were turned down for a job due to their transgender status and 16% did not apply for jobs for fear of harassment. 7% of respondents left their job due to harassment or discrimination, even though they had no other job to go to.

Scottish Transgender Alliance

According to a 2015 report of the Cypriot Labour Institute, transgender persons face a difficult situation when looking for a job and the majority of them end up in prostitution. This is directly related to the lack of an official procedure for the recognition of their gender identity, especially when the transition from one gender to another is not completed. Also a Norwegian study from the Centre for Gender Equality shows that transgender people have experienced considerable discrimination (van der Ros, 2013).

Lack of reliable information and research on the experiences or situation of LGBT in the labour market was reported from a number of countries, such as Portugal. ILGA Portugal reported that this is one of its priorities in a near future.  

Opinion polls

The frequency of discrimination reported by LGBTs themselves is backed by national opinion polls carried out among the general population. Between a quarter and half of respondents think that LGBT people are disadvantaged against in recruitment and promotion or are discriminated against at work (see table 2). Paradoxically, only a small proportion of respondents reports discrimination against LGBTs at their workplace. Possible explanations are the relatively small proportion of LGBTs in the population, the fact that they may hide being LGBT or their unwillingness to bring to light such discriminatory treatment.

Table 2: General population opinion poll outcomes

Country

Main findings

Source

Denmark

34% of the respondents reported that condescending language was used at their workplace when discussing LGBTs. There are large differences between men’s and women’s experience of openness and acceptance of LGBTs at work: it seems to be more difficult to be LGBT in male-dominated workplaces.

LO

Finland

Fewer than 2% of respondents observed discrimination based on sexual orientation at their workplace.

Quality of Work Life Survey 2013 by Statistics Finland

France

A survey of 1,000 respondents showed that about a quarter of employees (26% in the private and 27% in the public sector) considered that LGBT candidates are disadvantaged against during recruitment. In this respect, LGBTs ranked (together with, for example, women or inhabitants of rural areas) as one of the less disadvantaged groups. Furthermore, 31% of respondents from the public sector considered that being LGBT constitutes a disadvantage in one’s professional career.

IFOP, 2013

Italy

About half of the respondents believed that homosexuals had fewer opportunities to find a job or to obtain a job promotion compared to heterosexuals. Although the majority of Italians (especially the female population) consider discrimination at work on the basis of sexual orientation as unacceptable, discrimination is tolerated more easily when the victim is transsexual.

Istat, 2011

Romania

52% of Romanians think that LGBT persons are discriminated against at the workplace because of their sexual orientation. 47% also consider that it is much more difficult for non-heterosexual persons to find a job

National Council for Combating Discrimination, 2015

Norwegian study from 2010 focused on LGBT employees in Bergen and found that they experienced little discrimination. However, negative attitudes seemed more prevalent in the technology and education sectors. The workplaces had little focus on topics of inclusion and anti-discrimination in their training of managers, union representatives and safety representatives, and general insecurity regarding how to handle complaints related to LGBT discrimination or harassment (Grønningsæter and Lesch-Nuland, 2010).  Tronstad (2010) concludes that only one in five organisations in the public sector and one in six in the private sector have set equality goals that include sexual orientation.

Academic research

Although academic research into the experiences of gays and lesbians in the labour market is limited, it does indicate that LGBT persons encounter discrimination in the labour market. The reported extent of disadvantage varies between countries, occupations and groups compared. In terms of recruitment, Belgian research did not detect any differences between lesbian and heterosexual women, while homosexual job applicants experienced considerable disadvantage in Cyprus. In terms of wages, evidence from France and Sweden indicates that gay men earn less than their heterosexual counterparts. No such difference was found for lesbians. For more research into this topic, see Klawitter (2015).

Table 3 provides a brief (and not exhaustive) overview of relevant academic research that has been recently conducted in the EU. 

Table 3: Findings of academic research on LGBT

Country

Main findings

Source

Belgium

Heterosexual and homosexual women seem to be treated equally in hiring in the Flemish labour market. Young lesbian women were at an advantage compared to their heterosexual counterparts, with the latter encountering discrimination possibly due to their greater likelihood to have children.

Baert (2013)

Cyprus

Compared to heterosexual men and women, gay men and lesbians have a lower probability of being invited for a job interview (39% and 42% respectively).

Drydakis (2014)

France

Compared to heterosexual men, gay men have a wage penalty of -6.5% in the private sector and -5.5% in the public sector. The penalty is higher for older workers than for younger ones. No wage discrimination was found against lesbians.

Laurent and Mihoubi (2011)

Germany

Lesbians had a lower probability of being invited for interview (11%–12%) than heterosexual women in Munich but not in Berlin.

Weichselbaumer (2015)

Greece

Lesbians in Greece had a 28% lower chance of being invited for a job interview than heterosexual women.

Drydakis (2011)

Sweden

There are significant discrepancies between the conditions for heterosexual and homosexual workers. For instance, gay men earn less than heterosexual men and have a lower employment rate. On the other hand, the employment rate among lesbians is higher than among heterosexual women.

Ahmed et al (2011) and Ahmed et al (2013a)

Employers’ response rates were lower for homosexual applicants than for heterosexual ones, indicating the existence of discrimination.

Ahmed et al (2013b)

UK

Gay and lesbian job seekers are 5% less likely to be to be offered a job interview than heterosexual applicants with comparable skills and experience. Gay men receive the fewest invitations for interviews in traditionally male-dominated occupations, while lesbians receive the fewest invitations for interviews in traditionally female-dominated occupations.

Drydakis (2015)

Some LGBTs face indirect discrimination in employment. For example in Cyprus, when applying for public service positions, a person has to produce an 'army release certificate'. Due to frequent cases of bullying in the army, some LGBT people may be exceptionally released from the army and granted a ‘personality disorder’ certificate – which can have potential negative effects on their employment opportunities.

Compared to heterosexuals, LGBT individuals seem to encounter discrimination when looking for employment. The level of discrimination varies across different contexts – and in certain circumstances being LGBT can be an advantage. Once employed, LGBT employees may receive lower remuneration and be a target of bullying and harassment. The extent of this seems to differ between sectors and occupations, with male-dominated environments cited as being more homophobic. The majority of the national survey data indicate that between 10% and 20% of LGBT respondents experienced harassment or negative reactions at the workplace because of being LGBT (the lowest proportion was 5%, the highest 31%). This percentage varies according to country, type of discriminatory behaviour and respondent characteristics. The data need to be interpreted with caution because a considerable proportion of LGBT employees do not disclose their sexual orientation/identity in the workplace.

Disclosure of sexual orientation in the workplace

The observed extent of discrimination is especially worrying when considering that almost a third of LGBTs in the EU always hide or disguise being LGBT at work.

Unlike sex or race, a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity often cannot be identified by others, unless it is explicitly disclosed. LGBTs may disguise their sexual orientation or sexual identity – and pass as heterosexuals – in order to avoid discrimination or harassment. Disclosure of sexual orientation is not a matter of ‘once and for all’ but is rather a continuous process. Many LGBTs are continuously confronted at work with situations where they have to choose whether or not to disclose their orientation to new colleagues, clients, and so on. A 2010 study  by Vytautas Magnus University mentions that LGBT people tend to keep their orientation/identity hidden because they are usually exposed to various forms of discrimination at their workplace (including humiliating or offensive jokes, worsening relationships with colleagues after coming out and ignorance). This further reinforces the invisibility of the LGBT community in the labour market. Similar conclusions have been made in studies carried out by the Network of socio-economic experts in the non-discrimination field across the EU (SEN, 2010) and by University College Dublin for Ireland (UCD, 2010).   

The extent of discrimination presented above is especially worrying when taking into consideration that almost a third of LGBTs (29%) in the EU always hide or disguise being LGBT at work (see figures 3 to 7). This percentage is even higher in bisexual men (56%) and transgender persons (46%). The readiness to disclose one’s sexual orientation varies also between countries, possibly reflecting general public attitudes towards sexual minorities. The Netherlands (12%), Denmark (12%) and the UK (14%) have the lowest proportion of LGBTs who stay completely in the closet at work. On the other end of the spectrum are Romania, Lithuania (both 58%) and Cyprus (54%).

Again, national research confirms the European data. An Austrian study from 2015 showed that 48% of the study's participants in Vienna have not come out at their workplace. It can be assumed that in Austria as a whole, the share of ‘outed’ LGBT persons at the workplace is even lower. According to a Dutch report, around 80% of Dutch gay men and lesbians were open about their sexuality in the workplace, while a Norwegian report shows that 7 out of 10 LGBT people are generally open about their sexual orientation at work (Anderssen and Malterud, 2014).  A third of LGB workers in the UK are not open about their sexual orientation with their managers, with 26% concealing their orientation from their colleagues.

According to research carried out by the Lithuanian Gay League, the majority of homosexual and bisexual people hide their sexual orientation at their workplace. This results in very few complaints alleging discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation in the area of employment relationships being lodged with the Office of Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson and national courts. For example, in 2015 only 5 (or 1.5%) complaints alleging discrimination were based on sexual orientation. No data at all is collected on discrimination of transgender people. Similarly, the Romanian National Council for Combating Discrimination revealed that only 2% of submitted complaints referred to discrimination on sexual orientation criteria. The council explained that the social stigma attached to the LGBT persons is so strong that it even discourages them from complaining about discrimination. According to KISA, the lack of reliable information on the situation of LGBT remains among the biggest barriers in addressing the problem of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation in Cyprus. However, similar issues have been reported in many other European countries.

In Ireland, the National Lesbian and Gay Federation’s Burning Issues Survey 2014 found that being able to work in an environment where one can be fully open about sexuality without fear of discrimination was rated the most important issue in the survey. Its overall importance level was 8.3 on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 stood for least important and 10 for most important. This shows that issues about the workplace surface as the fundamental concern of LGBT respondents. Furthermore, a report from the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), notes that being out at work positively influences LGBT employees’ engagement, as employees who are out are 10% more engaged than those who are not out (McIntyre and Nixon, 2014). A Norwegian study points to the general importance of openness about sexual orientation at work, as nondisclosure ‘drains one’s energy’. The National Office against Racial Discriminations (UNAR) in Italy commissioned a review of existing studies indicating that while homosexuals tend to hide their sexual orientation at the workplace, this leads to lower job satisfaction and developing fewer social relationships with colleagues. The study found that transsexuals face direct discrimination (for example, obstacles in entering the labour market) due to their visibility and low acceptance of their identity.

According to Kontra (2009), the vast majority of LGBT people who experience discrimination and violence in Croatia never report such incidents. The reasons are lack of confidence in the legal system and fear of disclosure of sexual orientation or gender identity, as the majority of LGBT usually hide their sexual orientation and gender identity. However, due to other economic and social issues, the protection of LGBT people in the labour market is a topic which is not much debated in Croatia.

Due to the prevalence of various forms of discrimination and harassment, many LGBTs choose to hide their sexual orientation. For this reason, many standard measures of discrimination based on sexual orientation are likely to be underestimated. The lack of reliable information forms a barrier in addressing the discrimination of LGBT in the labour market. Furthermore, hiding sexual orientation at work appears to be linked to negative working life outcomes such as lower job satisfaction, lower ability to participate in teamwork, lower employee engagement and fewer social relationships with colleagues. 

Position of the social partners and governments

‘… hiding one’s sexual orientation [in the workplace] is often stressful and may have a negative impact on the individual’s productivity, self-esteem, depth of friendships, and ability to work as part of a team…’

 Tilcsik (2011)

Several northern and western EU countries reported that their governments and/or social partners play a pro-active role in preventing and combating discrimination of LGBT in the labour market. In Austria, the government and social partners are opposed to the discrimination of LGBT workers. In 2013, the Trade Union Federation (ÖGB ) adopted an initiative resolution on the rights of LGBTI persons at the workplace. ÖGB’s official work programme 2013–2018 mentions its opposition to discrimination of LGBTI persons. According to Danish employer organisation DI, LGBTs should never feel constricted at their workplaces. Moreover, the government and trade union LO made statements indicating that they find it important that employees can be themselves at their workplace regardless of their sexual orientation.Given the variety of public attitudes towards LGBT community across EU Member States, the research looked at whether public attitudes are reflected in the social partners’ and governments’ official positions on LGBT issues. SEN (2010) mentions that equality bodies, NGOs, trade unions and employers’ organisations can play a central role in combating discrimination in the labour market. The amount of attention these bodies pay to LGBT issues seems to vary between the Member States. In only a few Member States do the social partners demonstrate sustained engagement with regard to tackling LGBT discrimination.

 The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) has been actively promoting gay rights among trade unions since the 1980s. Both the trade unions and business and employer association Ibec were to the fore in supporting the recent marriage equality referendum. In the Netherlands, both the government and social partners actively oppose all forms of discrimination. In Sweden, almost all employer and employee organisations take an official stance against any discrimination. The three Finnish peak-level trade unions seek to promote LGBT rights. They urged reform of the Non-Discrimination Act and have participated in Helsinki Pride since 2014. On the employer side, the Confederation of Finnish Industries EK agrees that equal treatment in the workplace is ‘part of modern-day business’, but believes that companies today have enough equality obligations. Meanwhile, the current Finnish Government has no specific focus on LGBT issues and no new initiatives are foreseen in the near future.

In other countries, actions aimed at preventing and combating discrimination of LGBT in the workplace were less common or involved only specific actors. The social dialogue in Belgium pays attention to diversity but most debates and activities focus on gender issues and the group of nationals with a foreign background. Opportunities to tackle issues of discrimination, mobbing etc. by workplace social dialogue were created by new legislation on preventing psychosocial risks  from 2014. German trade unions are active in the promotion of equal rights for LGBT predominately at sectoral level. However, the political debate in the last decade focused rather on legal issues, such as marriage and adoption rights. According to the Hans Boeckler Foundation’s Works Agreement, the works agreements of DGB on anti-discrimination do not specifically address LGBT. Some French unions (such as CGT) launched projects related to sexual orientation. Most trade unions also have LGBTI branches. Still, according to the Defender of Rights, the country is behind in terms of considering sexual orientation as a work-related issue. The organisation highlights the low awareness and weak mobilisation among public and private employers and social partners. Sexual orientation is rarely addressed in companies that conduct anti-discrimination and diversity policies.

 In Italy, CGIL and UIL believe that the lack of specific law provisions recognising same-sex couples has negatively influenced the rights that LGBTs enjoy at the workplace. These unions have been campaigning in favour of draft acts discussed in recent years with a view to recognising LGBT people’s rights. UIL has created an internal commission aimed at promoting research on LGBT rights, implementing campaigns jointly with NGOs and promoting policy initiatives. CISL and major employers’ organisations have not expressed an official position on this issue. In this regard, on 11 May 2016, an act aimed at recognising the rights of LGBT couples was approved by the Italian Parliament. The approval follows months of social and political discussion as well as several demonstrations in favour of and against the law. In Malta, the General Worker's Union has been supportive of LGBT workers’ rights. The Maltese government has been actively fighting the discrimination of LGBT persons but the initiatives are not focused on the area of working life. In Poland, discrimination in employment on the grounds of sexual orientation is explicitly forbidden by the Clause 18/3a of the Labour Code. Nevertheless, there are no public programmes focused specifically on the issue of LGBT integration in the labour market. Among the representative social partners’ organisations, only All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ) takes an active approach in the field of LGBT. 

Finally, some EU countries (including, for example, the Czech Republic) reported that although the governments and social partners’ officially oppose discrimination of LGBT in the workplace, they have taken no specific initiatives in this direction. The Slovak representatives of employers (RUZ SR and AZZZ SR) and trade unions associated in the Confederation of the Trade Unions of Slovak Republic reported that they have not dealt with this issue so far. In Cyprus, many negative attitudes towards LGBT people are still prevalent and even reported on behalf of some politicians or members of the parliament. LGBT issues are not in the agenda of the social partners. In Hungary, working life aspects of the LGBT are neither a subject of public discourse nor a topic for social dialogue. Reportedly, the social partners have not been dealing with this issue so far. In many countries, where the government and the social partners have not actively picked up on the problematic issue of LGBT at the workplace, the burden to combat discrimination is on the shoulders of NGOs. 

Legislation

All Member States have transposed The Employment Equality Directive (2000/78/EC) into their legislation, meaning that direct or indirect discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment is forbidden across the EU. While this resulted in a considerable improvement in LGBT’s legal position in labour-related issues, full equality has not yet been reached. For example, the Croatian legal framework for combating discrimination against LGBT people in the labour market has significantly improved in 2008 through the adoption of the Anti-Discrimination Act and in 2014 through the adoption of the Same-Sex Civil Partnership Act. However, Croatian society is characterised by the discrepancy between the guaranteed legal framework for the protection of LGBT people in the labour market and everyday practice. Nowadays, the main problem is not the legal framework but rather the daily experience of forms of harassment, discrimination, or fear as a consequence of established stereotypes, intolerance and inability to accept differences in life and in the labour market (Vinković, 2015).

In Greece, there has been a lack of laws and provisions guaranteeing basic rights to LGBT people, with this issue only recently acquiring publicity and becoming the centre of attention. A law protecting homosexuals against unequal treatment on the basis of sexual orientation was adopted in 2005 (Law 3304/05). Passing of this legislation was a breakthrough in promotion of the principle of equality and the protection of rights of people in Greece. The law incorporated EU Directives 2000/43/EC and 2000/78/EC. However, according to OLKE, Law 3304/2005 remains essentially unenforceable. In December 2010, Law 3896/2010 was passed, making any discrimination against transgender people equivalent to sexual discrimination. Any protection against discrimination based on gender, applies for transgender people. In Portugal, the Labour Code guarantees non-discrimination with respect to sexual orientation. In April 2015, Law 28/2015 amended the Portuguese Labour Code and enshrined gender identity within the right to equal access to employment and on the job.

Inequalities stemming from other laws

While direct and indirect discrimination in employment is forbidden, LGBT individuals may experience disadvantage – compared to heterosexuals – stemming from other provisions. In Italy, trade unions CGIL and UIL hold the view that the lack of specific legal provisions recognising same-sex couples in Italy has denied LGBT people the possibility of enjoying the same rights as other couples at the workplace. These may include the possibility of benefiting from marriage leave or leave in the case of illness of their partner, as well as lower protection in the case of collective dismissals (the number of dependent relatives is a legal criterion that can influence the choice of workers to be laid off). Many such disparities should now be overcome by the recently approved act aimed at recognising the rights of LGBT couples. Legislation in Slovenia includes discriminatory provisions as the employed partner has no right to absence from work due to illness of his/her same-sex registered or non-registered partner and for compensation for lost income due to taking care of a family member. In addition, there are two discriminatory provisions for LGBT regarding the voluntary inclusion of partners in unemployment insurance (only valid for spouses, unmarried partners of diplomats and other civil servants who work abroad) and financial compensation for unemployment if a person quits his/her job due to the relocation of his/her partner. It is likely that similar disadvantages are experienced by LGBTs in other EU Member States.

In Ireland, ICTU and the teacher unions campaigned to repeal section 37.1 of the Employment Equality Acts 1998 and 2011. This entitled religious-run schools (and other workplaces such as hospitals) to an exemption from the discrimination law whereby they could take action to prevent an employee or prospective employee from undermining the religious ethos of the institution. The campaigners argued that LGBT teachers would remain on the periphery and would not be free to be open about their lives and their identity. The section was repealed in December 2015. In the UK, the TUC campaigns for equality for LGBT people at work. It has, moreover, been involved in all the campaigns to end legal discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity since the late 1990s. This work included challenging the government over the employment regulations (now contained within the Equality Act 2010) in the High Court in 2004, after which a partial victory was won regarding survivor benefits in occupational pensions. The TUC now supports the campaign to end the exemptions altogether.

Partnered LGBTs who need to move for work to another EU Member State may experience challenges not experienced by heterosexual couples. All EU Member States are obliged to facilitate the entry and residence of de facto partners of EU citizens, provided that the partners shared the same household in the country from which they have come or if they have a ‘durable relationship’ which is ‘duly attested’. Since this provision is vague, the level of implementation at the national level varies. See FRA’s 2015 report for more information.

Additional legal protection for LGBT

Three countries reported extending legal protection in the recent period. In Finland, the Non-Discrimination Act and amendments made to the Act on Equality between Men and Women in 2014 have been the two main initiatives promoting non-discrimination in the labour market. The former broadens non-discrimination principles to apply to all public and private activities (excluding only private/family life and religious practices) and requires most employers to draw up non-discrimination plans. The latter broadens the scope of equal treatment to apply to sexual minorities (transgender, intersex, etc.) in addition to men and women, and requires preventive measures to be taken against sex-based discrimination. Several Spanish autonomous communities (Navarre, Basque Country, Andalusia, Canary Islands and Madrid) have introduced specific Integral Laws of Transsexuality for equality and against discrimination in the workplace – and also in culture, labour, sports, education and all social order in general. In 2015, the autonomous community of Extremadura approved a Law in favour of the social equality of LGTB, which was the first one of its kind in Spain. Associations campaigning for LGTB rights argue that these laws should be also passed at national level.

In 2009, the Swedish Discrimination Act entered into force, and with it the Equality Ombudsman, a public agency with the purpose of ensuring compliance with the Discrimination Act. If a worker has been discriminated against in working life and this is related to their sex, transgender identity or expression, ethnicity, religion or other belief, disability, sexual orientation or age, they can report the matter to the Ombudsman (or to his/her union). On its website, the Ombudsman also provides information about the responsibility of the unions as stipulated in the Discrimination Act, which mainly concerns cooperating with the employer in active measures to achieve equal rights and opportunities in the workplace, acting to even out differences in wages and other working conditions and representing members who have been subject to discrimination. 

Initiatives to promote the position of LGBT in the labour market

This section will present examples of various initiatives that aimed to create an inclusive workplace for LGBT employees. The reader should bear in mind that this is by no means an attempt to compile an exhaustive list of initiatives in the area of LGBT equality in the workplace.

Action plans and public commitment

‘…despite […] widespread discrimination and harassment experienced by LGBTI persons, so far, only limited action has hitherto been taken at the EU level...’

Action plans consist of a series of actions that a given party aims to undertake. Public commitment is a more general statement in which organisations commit themselves to reach a certain goal. In Italy, UNAR has been supporting initiatives favouring the labour inclusion of LGBT, including career days and a web platform specifically aimed at matching persons with labour market opportunities, by involving companies willing to hire people belonging to these target groups. Furthermore, UNAR defined a multi-annual National strategy aimed at preventing discrimination towards LGBTs in Italy. In 2015, the Lithuanian government approved the Inter-Institutional Action Plan for Promoting Non-discrimination 2015 –2020. The plan includes one measure relating to LGBT people – an investigation into the status of transgender people residing in Lithuania and the situation regarding protection of their privacy. In Spain, the Ministry of Health and Social Services published a National Action Plan for Social Inclusion of the Kingdom of Spain 2013–2016, in which LGTB are considered to be one of the groups vulnerable to social exclusion.

In 2010, the UK government launched the first-ever cross-government work plan on LGBT rights, in which it pledged its commitment to breaking down barriers and advancing equal opportunities in all areas of society, including the workplace. In 2011, a further document set out the specific actions to be taken in order to deliver on those commitments. Later in 2011, the Government also published the first-ever transgender equality action plan to address the specific issues faced by the transgender community. In 2014, the Confederation of British Industry made a public commitment to become a more diverse employer. Its Leadership Programme explicitly supports diversity in the boardroom and this has involved CEOs nominating top talent for the initiative, including LGBT nominees. In FranceL’Autre Cercle (association of LGBT professionals working in the public and private sectors or in the liberal professions) launched in 2013, in cooperation with Accenture, a Charter of LGBT Commitment.  During a ceremony at the Ministry for Women’s Rights, the charter was signed by nine private and public sector organisations. In Germany, the Confederation of German Trade Unions (DGB) takes part in the annual Christopher Streets Day to draw attention to LGBT issues. To visibly support the LGBT community, many Swedish trade union take part in annual Pride parades and in 2010 Polish union OPZZ participated in Europride which was organised in Warsaw that year.

An ETUC report from 2009 looked at what trade unions could do on the issue of LGBT equality. The report suggests that the unions could raise LGBT issues in local branches and in workplaces and use this as a basis for support for LGBT equality policies at national level. The unions could ensure that the issue gets onto the policymaking agenda by adopting resolutions on LGBT rights. Policies to eliminate discrimination could also be adopted and implemented within union structures at local, regional and national levels. Where such commitments exist, resources should be allocated and the policy implemented widely. The LGBT equality issues should be mainstreamed in the collective bargaining and experiences from other countries should be used. The report also declares that the precondition would be that LGBT workers themselves act as a driving force.

Campaigns

Across EU Member States, the actors have availed of various strategies to increase awareness of LGBT issues in the workplace. For example, the Danish Confederation of Trade Unions LO published a flyer last year about the challenges confronting LGBT persons in their working life. The flyer also contains guidelines on how to avoid the exclusion of LGBT persons. Spanish trade union CCOO has actively collaborated with NGO FELGTB in promoting the labour integration and equal treatment of LGTB people at work. For instance, in November 2015, CCOO published in its magazine an article focused on LGTB rights at work. Moreover, in March 2016 CCOO and FELGTB jointly organised two workdays called Real rights for transsexual individuals at work. In 2015, the Cypriot Labour Institute collaborated with the NGO KISA in a number of activities: an awareness campaign, focus groups and a research study on ‘multiple discrimination and its consequences on everyday life’. The project aimed to fight discrimination on various grounds including sexual orientation. In Germany, in North-Rhine Westphalia, DGB, chemical workers union IGBCE and other partners launched Trans identity at the workplace, which gives online information and support regarding coming out at the workplace. The Estonian campaign ‘Diversity enriches’ promotes equal opportunities for all employees, aiming to avoid discrimination on the basis of sexual and other grounds. The movement has a Diversity Charter which lists principles promoting equal opportunities and valuing diversity in society and workplace. Companies who sign the charter demonstrate that equal opportunities are one of their core values.

In Belgium, some trade unions (in particular ABVV/FGTB) have developed specific brochures on, for example, the rights of transgender people at work or in support of particular campaigns or actions of the LGBT movement. Some Swedish trade unions use their websites to inform people about where to turn if a LGBT person has experienced discrimination. The campaign Stop the macho culture! (by building workers’ union Byggnads and the association for managers in the construction sector Byggcheferna) was launched in 2015. It was a response to studies showing that 80% of respondents felt the work culture in the construction industry was characterised by an overtly male and rough atmosphere, and that 90% of respondents had seen others been treated badly because of it. While the campaign was mainly aimed at making the industry more equal in terms of gender, it has also been a significant campaign for LGBT rights, as its purpose is to inform about and ultimately eliminate prejudice against workers who do not fit into the traditional male construction worker profile. In Greece, the joint action of Greek employees and employers (GSEE, SEV, GSEVEE, ESEE and SETE) sought to emphasise the value of social dialogue in raising awareness in the workplace about diversity. The 2014 National General Collective Employment Agreement features joint social dialogue actions regarding discrimination. Joint events involving the participation of all employee and employer organisations took place in March 2014 in seven cities across the country. A significant  joint statement was made by the social partners in November 2015 which referred to the need to promote awareness about diversity in the workplace. 

Training, workshops and conferences

Training and workshops can increase employers’ awareness of challenges facing LGBT workers and ways of tackling them. Another approach to increase awareness about this issue is to organise conferences. In April 2016, Czech NGO Platform Business for Society organised an informal workshop on LGBT and diversity in Czech companies. Several Large companies such IBM, Vodafone and Ogilvy shared their experiences and the programme included discussions on trends in LGBT diversity and LGBT as a HR issue. In 2015, Business for Society coordinated an international conference Pride Business Forum which addressed methods and measures to better adapt or include LGBT employees in working teams. The core idea behind this was that more diversified teams are able to find more original and unique solutions and processes. On this occasion, Business for Society ran a survey among its members (self-selection voluntarily sampling) which showed that only 10 % of companies reflected the specific needs of LGBT people in their diversity strategies. In Denmark, the IDAHO summit focuses on the labour market and government ministers participate in the summit. The event can act as a trigger for new initiatives. The government sends out an annual plan for initiatives related to gender equality, often with a focus on plurality in different spheres of the society. There are, however, no initiatives specifically aiming to LGBT persons in the labour market.  

In January 2016, the Luxembourg committee promoting the Charter of diversity organised in cooperation with the BGL BNP bank a conference on LGTB at the workplace that was opened by Deputy Prime minister Etienne Schneider. NGO Workplace Pride recently launched the Workplace Pride Academy in the Netherlands. The Academy is designed to provide professional training sessions for all types of organisations on the topic of LGBT inclusion at work. In Slovenia, the Municipality of Ljubljana in 2015 introduced training to raise awareness on the dilemma, difficulties and discrimination faced by LGBT persons that often goes unnoticed by heterosexuals. For instance, a chat about a person’s partner and children can be challenging for a person who hides being LGBT from colleagues. Participants of the training (municipal administration, enterprises, institutions and organisations situated in Ljubljana) receive a certificate of excellence on completion. ILGA Portugal conducted an awareness-raising action for workers of the Barclaycard company in 2015. Finally, in the UK, OUTstanding runs mentoring programmes and organises professional networking events. 

Networks of LGBT employees

Austria, Germany and the Netherlands reported the existence of work-related networks for LGBT people. In Austria, there are several examples of networking activities for LGBT persons at the workplace (so-called rainbow groups) – for example, at the Medical University of Vienna, Bank Austria and IBM. The group Gay Cops Austria, a member group of the European Gay Police Association, was created in 2005 and includes LGT employees in the police service. In Germany, there are various initiatives at regional level. The United Services Union ver.di has set up a forum for LGBTs for information exchange and also organises its own working group at the federal level. The largest Dutch union federation FNV set up a platform for LHTB issues which aims to create a safe and pleasant work environment for LGBT employees and to prevent discrimination.

Sharing of good practices among employers

Other networks and fora strive to promote best practices to promote inclusion of LGBT employees in the workplace. For example, Vision (the Swedish union of local government officers) has initiated a network for members who wish to find out more about LGBT issues in the workplace. Vision has also created checklists for employers and local union representatives in order to ensure a positive work environment for their LGBT employees and co-workers. Lastly, the organisation has created a web-based class aimed at helping people to understand their own prejudices and raise awareness about normative structures. In the Netherlands, Movisie has developed a dossier on LGBT issues and aims to connect governmental and other organisations with a view to exchange information and develop knowledge. In Slovenia, social partners (ZSSS, SVIZ and ZDS), research institutes and NGOs have been participating in the introduction of policies for non-discrimination and managing diversity in the workplace  –  starting with LGBT and then covering other vulnerable groups. They have developed special manuals and collections of best practices. The programme Safe and Equal: inclusive labour market for inclusive society is currently being implemented in Macedonia, last year they completed the programme in Serbia. The UK LGBT rights organisation Stonewall runs the Diversity Champions programme. This is a forum promoting employers’ best practices in the area of sexual orientation and gender identity equality, diversity and inclusion. Stonewall works with 750 organisations from across the public, private and third sectors, helping them to create inclusive and accepting environments. Features of membership include access to the UK’s only professional LGBT website. Participating organisations can use Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index in order to benchmark their progress on LGBT equality. 

Promotion of excellence

Other initiatives aim to reward employers having inclusive workplaces. Since 2011, Czech civic association PROUD coordinates the Be PROUD employer of the year competition. The prize is awarded to employers that are open, tolerant, and non-discriminating – particularly to those that are committed to meeting the specific needs of LGBT people. In Austria, the biannual merits prize is awarded to companies that have developed a discrimination-free work environment and are supportive of the coming out of non-heterosexuals at work. The award is supported by both the government and the social partners, who are also part of the jury. In the UK, LGBT rights organisation Stonewall publishes an annual list of the top 100 workplaces for LGBT employees. A similar initiative – but aimed at employees – is the list of the top 50 LGBT business role models published in the UK by OUTstanding (a professional network for LGBT executives and their allies), aimed at inspiring future leaders. 

Advice

A number of actors have published advice in various forms (such as guidelines or reports) for employers, trade unions and policymakers, in order to help to create an inclusive workplace. In 2014, the Dutch government and the social partners unanimously agreed on the tripartite advice of the Social and Economic council which pays specific attention to LGBT. 

In Spain, FELGTB works with public administrations and trade unions on the development of measures to support equality for LGBTs at work and has published guides to intervention in cases of labour discrimination and how collective agreements can fight discrimination based on sexual diversity. The latter guide, for example, recommends that collective agreements should include antidiscrimination clauses that explicitly mention sexual orientation and gender identity or that it should ensure that social benefits cover partners of the same sex. German NGO DGTI includes on its website a draft of a company agreement in support of transgender people. Dutch trade union FNV has developed a Rainbow checklist for collective agreements , aimed at employees and employers. Employees can check whether their rights are well defined and in which areas improvements are possible. Together with the trade union, they can work towards getting better agreements.

In Ireland, ICTU published the first guidelines for trade unions on LGBT rights in the workplace in 1982. Since then, ICTU has been actively promoting LGBT rights among unions. It has developed guidelines and assistance to all unions in fighting discrimination and in ensuring equality, even if there are no openly LGBT workers in the workplace. ICTU has been updating the guidelines in order to ensure that all unions continue to tackle discrimination based on sexual diversity as a key element of employee rights. ICTU emphasises that the policies should cover LGBT concerns (such as visibility, recognition and protection of LGBT members). In the February 2015 edition of its online magazine, Agenda, Irish employer body Ibec underlines that executive leaders can play a significant role in promoting more inclusive practices in business. Although LGBT people are more likely to come out to their peers rather than to their line manager at work, the relationship between line managers and employees is critical in managing, retaining and engaging employees. The national conference for LGBT trade unionists in the UK elects a special committee to advise the Trade Union Congress (TUC) on LGBT issues. The TUC regularly publishes guidance to help unions, union members and LGBT rights campaigners to promote LGBT equality in the workplace and to ensure the full inclusion of LGBT people in all areas. The latest workplace guidance, LGBT Equality at Work, was published in 2013.

The authors of an Estonian study made several suggestions to improve the position of LGBTs in the labour market, including the recommendation that state or local government should promote equal treatment and the Equal Treatment Act in all areas. The Greek Observatory on Combating Discrimination published a Code of Conduct against discrimination in the workplace and a report on Combating Discrimination in Greece: State of the art, challenges and policy interventions, which targets LGBT and other employees. The Greek National Commission for Human Rights has issued recommendations regarding the protection of the LGBT community. Their report notes that unemployment and exclusion from the labour market is a growing problem for transgender people, mainly due to the lack of legislation regulating the legal recognition of gender identification. The resulting inconsistency between the external appearance and sex in legal documents often leads to non-recruitment. At present, working transgender people are often treated differently, dismissed or forced to resign when their identity is revealed. The legal protection often covers only people who have undergone gender reassignment, excluding the majority of transgender who have not undergone this surgery. For this reason, the legislation should be modified to include gender identity as an area for which discrimination in employment is forbidden.

Help for victims of discrimination

Trade unions can create specialised posts to provide help to victims of discrimination. In Italy, CGIL opened help desks aimed at providing information and legal counselling to people who are victims of discrimination at work, including discrimination for their sexual orientation. In Poland, the All-Poland Alliance of Trade Unions (OPZZ) created a post of LGBT officer. The officer is a contact point for those who either fall victim to or witness acts of discrimination of LGBT in a workplace and would like to report it. The union might consider taking further steps.

Absence of initiatives

‘Policies aimed at improving access to work for LGBT people are inadequate throughout Europe. This is due not only to a lack of political will in some countries, but also to lack of knowledge about the labour market situation of LGBT people and their high level of invisibility.’       NSE (2010)

A number of Eurofound’s correspondents indicated that they could not identify any significant actions addressing the situation of the LGBT employees by the relevant actors. This was the case in Bulgaria, where no initiatives from social partners were found and no data concerning the position of LGBT in the labour market were available. The negative attitudes towards homosexuality might have been further exacerbated by Bulgarian media, whose publications are often stereotypical and homophobic. In Cyprus, the most specialised tripartite social dialogue body on labour issues, the Labour Advisory Body, has never addressed discrimination based on sexual orientation. An exception was a resolution of the Democratic Labour Federation of Cyprus declaring that the union is against all forms of discrimination, including sexual orientation. The government, apart from the relevant legislation or the relevant public authorities, has no other official position. No initiatives from the Czech and Hungarian social partners on LGBT issues were identified. However, Czech NGOs have developed some initiatives to promote the inclusion of LGBT in the labour market. In Estonia, LGBT integration in the labour market has not been a topic of discussion among the social partners and the government. 

Generally speaking, LGBT-related topics are very sensitive in Latvia and opinions about attitudes differ. According to LGBT rights organisation Mozaika, international studies depict Latvia as one of most homophobic EU member states. Latvian social partners seem neutral towards LGBT and their integration in the labour market. The social partners have not undertaken any initiatives recently with regard to this issue. The same applies to Lithuanian trade unions and employers’ organisations. The NGO LGL states that representatives of trade unions believe that the problem of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is invisible and thus not requiring any particular attention. Due to such attitudes, collaboration between LGBT people and social partners in Lithuania is very limited. However, some initiatives on the part of NGOs generally address the protection of the rights of LGBT people, raising public awareness. No targeted initiatives of the social partners were found in Portugal, although the National Plan for Gender Equality, Citizenship and Non-discrimination 2014-2017 includes ‘sexual orientation and gender identity’ as a strategic area. According to the Plan, the prevailing tolerant attitude towards discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity must be opposed. However, there is no specific measure regarding the integration of LGBTs in the labour market. A number of Eurofound’s correspondents indicated that they could not identify any significant actions addressing the situation of the LGBT employees by the relevant actors. This was the case in Bulgaria, where no initiatives from social partners were found and no data concerning the position of LGBT in the labour market were available. The negative attitudes towards homosexuality might have been further exacerbated by Bulgarian media, whose publications are often stereotypical and homophobic. In Cyprus, the most specialised tripartite social dialogue body on labour issues, the Labour Advisory Body, has never addressed discrimination based on sexual orientation. An exception was a resolution of the Democratic Labour Federation of Cyprus declaring that the union is against all forms of discrimination, including sexual orientation. The government, apart from the relevant legislation or the relevant public authorities, has no other official position. No initiatives from the Czech and Hungarian social partners on LGBT issues were identified. However, Czech NGOs have developed some initiatives to promote the inclusion of LGBT in the labour market. In Estonia, LGBT integration in the labour market has not been a topic of discussion among the social partners and the government. 

In Romania, LGBT integration in the labour market is not of particular concern for the government, nor for the social partners although their official position discourages all forms of discrimination. The government issued a national anti-discrimination strategy for 2015-2020 and the trade unions occasionally get involved in anti-discrimination campaigns. However, the labour market inclusion of LGBT persons is not specifically addressed in any programme or project of the government or of the social partners. Most of the initiatives addressing LGBT discrimination on the labour market emanate from civil society groups and NGOs. In January 2016, the Slovak government adopted the Action plan for the prevention of all forms of discrimination for 2016-2019. The plan includes education activities of trade unions and employers aimed at preventing any form of discrimination and supporting diversity in entrepreneurship. However, the plan does not specify any particular tasks regarding the working life of LGBT persons. Finally, social partners in Luxembourg have not undertaken any major initiatives regarding LGBT.

It is worth noting that the lack of initiatives was identified particularly in those countries where general attitudes towards LGBT individuals are relatively more negative. It seems that the stigmatisation of the LGBT community in these countries leads to lack of policy action and initiatives that would promote equality of LGBT in the workplace. This lack of initiatives in turn contributes to preserving the social stigma. In such a climate, NGOs are usually the only actors to take action to improve the position of LGBTs in the workplace.

Conclusions

The evidence shows that LGBT people face obstacles when accessing employment and this is especially true for transgender persons. Discrimination and harassment of LGBT people in the workplace appears to be a widespread problem in the EU. The majority of national surveys indicate that 10%–20% of LGBT employees experience harassment at the workplace. This is especially worrying given that many employees do not disclose that they are LGBT to avoid discrimination in the workplace. According to FRA data, 29% of LGBT employees in the EU always hide being LGBT at work and a considerable proportion discloses this information only to a limited number of colleagues (20% often hide being LGBT, 23% rarely hide it and only 27% never hide it at work).

The evidence indicates that hiding one’s sexual orientation at work appears to be linked to a number of negative working life outcomes. If discriminated against or harassed, many LGBT do not dare to take action, often out of the fear of being disclosed or because they do not believe that authorities and procedures would offer help. This contributes to the apparent invisibility of LGBT community and its problems in the workplace.

Governments, social partners, NGOs and other actors have undertaken many initiatives in recent years to address the position of LGBTs in the workplace. These initiatives include advice, campaigns, conferences, networks of LGBT in the workplace, training and workshops, sharing of good practices, promotion of excellence and help to victims of discrimination. In a few cases, trade unions or NGOs have given advice on how LGBT equality could be addressed in collective agreements. The research has detected significant cross-country differences in the incidence of initiatives targeting LGBT equality in the workplace. More initiatives were identified in countries where the social climate towards LGBT is relatively positive. In contrast, there was a lack of such initiatives in countries with relatively negative general attitudes towards LGBT. And where initiatives were identified, they were often driven by NGOs rather than by governments or social partners. This situation is worrying, because it implies that the promotion of LGBT rights in the workplace is occurring least in countries where it is needed the most.

Further information

FRA – European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2016), Professionally speaking: Challenges to achieving equality for LGBT people , Vienna.

FRA – European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (2015), Protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics in the EU – Comparative legal analysis – Update 2015, Vienna.

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Annex: Network of European correspondents

This report was made possible thanks to contributions from Eurofound’s  Network of European Correspondents

Austria

Bernadette Allinger, FORBA (Working Life Research Centre) 

Belgium

Guy Van Gyes, HIVA – KU Leuven 

Bulgaria

Ekaterina Markova, ISSK-BAS, IR Share 

Croatia

Predrag Bejakovic, Institute of Public Finance

Cyprus

Eva Soumeli, ΙΝΕΚ-ΠΕΟ 

Czech Republic

Renata Kyzlinková, Research Institute for Labour and Social Affairs 

Germany

Birgit Kraemer, Institute of Economic and Social Research 

Denmark

Tobias Bühring, Oxford Research

Estonia

Liina Osila and Ingel Kadarik, Praxis Center for Policy Studies

Finland

Anna Savolainen, Oxford Research AB

France

Frederic Turlan, IR Share

Greece

Elena Kousta, Labour Institute of GSEE –INE/GSEE 

Hungary

Annamária Kunert, Policy Agenda 

Ireland

Roisin Farrelly, IRN Publishing 

Italy

Feliciano Iudicone, Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini

Latvia

Raita Karnīte, EPC Ltd.

Lithuania

Inga Blaziene and Rasa Mieziene, Lithuanian Social Research Centre

Luxembourg

Frederic Turlan, IR Share 

Malta

Saviour Rizzo, Centre for Labour Studies

Netherlands

Robbert van het Kaar, University of Amsterdam

Norway

Johan Røed Steen, Fafo Institute for Labour and Social Research

Poland

Jan Czarzasty, Institute of Public Affairs (ISP) and Warsaw School of Economics (SGH) 

Portugal

Heloísa Perista and Paula Carrilho, CESIS

Romania

Victoria Stoiciu, Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Romania

Slovakia

Ludovit Cziria, Institute for Labour and Family Research

Slovenia

Barbara Lužar, University of Ljubljana  

Spain

Jessica Durán, Ikei research & consultancy 

Sweden

Anna-Karin Gustafsson, Oxford Research 

United Kingdom

 Claire Evans, Warwick Business School

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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