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Friday 17 May 2019

It's time to end harassment of LGBT+ civil servants

By Jane Cockram
On International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, Equality Officer Jane Cockram calls on civil service leaders to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to all forms of discrimination and harassment.

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Today, to mark International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the TUC has published a new report revealing shocking levels of LGBT+ sexual harassment in the workplace.

The TUC’s research found that 7 in 10 (68%) LGBT+ people report being sexually harassed at work, with 42% of respondents saying that colleagues had made unwelcome comments about their sex life. 

As we unfortunately often see, the TUC also found that women were more likely to be the victims of sexual harassment. 21% of LGBT women had experienced sexual assault in the workplace, while 12% said they had been seriously sexually assaulted or raped at work. 

The figures make for harrowing reading and its clear more work needs to be done to protect LGBT+ civil servants against this kind of abuse. Indeed, in the civil service LGBT+ staff report much higher levels of discrimination and bullying than their heterosexual colleagues. 

Results of the recent FDA survey of LGBT+ members showed serious examples and concerns about homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. 40% reported having experienced or witnessing such behaviour, including one member who reported “an attempt to elicit sexual favours through blackmail”. 

Worryingly, our survey also showed a serious under reporting of such incidents, with 1 in 5 not coming forward after experiencing harassment. The most common reason given for not reporting was that LGBT members did not believe appropriate action would be taken if they did. Members also raised concerns over not being taken seriously and feared reprisals of damage to their careers of they spoke up. 

LGBT+ members deserve to work in a safe and inclusive environment and today the FDA fully supports the TUC’s call for a new duty on employers to properly protect their staff from sexual harassment. 

In her review of misconduct in the civil service, former Diversity and Inclusion Champion Sue Owen called for a zero-tolerance approach to bullying, harassment and discrimination. That was published in October 2018 and we are yet to see this implemented across the civil service. 

We’re calling on all civil service leaders to commit to adopt this zero-tolerance approach. Harassment and all forms of homophobia, transphobia and biphobia have no place in a 21st century civil service.


Jane Cockram is the FDA’s Equality Officer.
The FDA is here as a safe space to support members who have experienced or witnessed harassment or discrimination at work. If you need any support or advice, please contact your local rep or National Officer.
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