Recent research by the NASUWT has suggested that the majority of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teachers felt they had been discriminated against over the course of their careers.
Chris Keates, General Secretary at NASUWT stated: “It is clear from the feedback from delegates that there is still a huge amount of work still to do in schools to create a climate where all teachers feel respected and safe, regardless of their sexuality”.
Although the Equality Act 2010 was brought in to help safeguard LGBT right – it does not appear to have been successful in the education sector.
So what should schools do insure they are not discriminating LGBT teachers?
Anonymous equal opportunity monitoring can help a school understand the diverse nature of its workforce and highlight any areas of bad practice.
There has been a growing initiative of creating staff networks to give LGBT employees a platform for discussion and support. A school could look to support its own LGBT employees by aligning with LGBT networks in the community, starting one of its own, or creating a network with other local schools.
Promoting events or initiatives run by LGBT charities such as Stonewall, will help increase visibility of LGBT issues in the school and help create a respectful working environment.
Every school should have sufficient policies in place to safeguard all employees who make their sexuality public. The NASUWT survey suggested that, two thirds of LGBT teachers said it was ‘not safe’ for them to be open about their sexuality. In addition, 60 per cent of respondents said their school has no policy explicitly opposing homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.
It should also be noted that the prevalence of social media has led to an increase in LGBT discrimination claims. Schools should outline a specific policy for employees and pupils in respect of social media, both in and out of school hours.
Policies in action
Policies must not simply pay lip service to the legal requirements; the school management must sufficiently enforce the policy. This means adhering to the procedures put in place. If the policies are not administered properly, school employees will remain in the dark as to what behaviour is prohibited. Furthermore, schools will need to continually review their policies, in order to ensure they are compliant with changes in the law.
Providing adequate training to all members of staff helps support anti-discrimination policies. Training sessions can be conducted face-to-face or through an online training tool allowing employees to undertake independent diversity training. Providing training on best practice and grievance procedures will significantly reduce the chances of discriminatory behaviour arising, and in the event of a claim it will demonstrate to the tribunal the steps the school has taken to reduce LGBT discrimination.
If you have any questions or would like more information please contact Paul Maddock, Litigation.This information is intended as a general discussion surrounding the topics covered and is for guidance purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. DWF is not responsible for any activity undertaken based on this information.