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Sexual orientation discrimination

All teachers and educational professionals have specific protection from discrimination at work on grounds of sexual orientation and civil partnership under the Equality Act 2010. 

Discrimination claim time limits

You are protected whether you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or straight. Discrimination because you are perceived as having a particular sexual orientation, or because you associate with someone who has a particular sexual orientation, will be unlawful. You are protected whether you are permanent, fixed-term, full-time, part-time, supply or agency.

Your colleagues, managers and governors are prohibited from discriminating against you. If you are an agency worker on a day-to-day or longer term contract, your agency and the hirers for whom you are working are prohibited from discriminating against you.

What sexual orientation discrimination is

Treating you less favourably than another colleague in similar circumstances on grounds of sexual orientation would be direct discrimination.

Applying to all staff a workplace policy or practice, that you and other colleagues of the same sexual orientation cannot comply with because you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or straight, would be indirect discrimination if it puts you at a disadvantage, unless the employer could justify the impact of the policy or practice.

When you are protected

You are protected from sexual orientation discrimination whether or not you are out at work. You are protected from discrimination before, during and after your employment.

There should be no unlawful discrimination in recruitment including advertisements, shortlisting and interview procedures; pay, including pensions; terms and conditions of employment; access to training; opportunities for promotion; transfers; dismissals; and after your employment has ended, for example, in the provision of references.

What is covered

Refusing to appoint you to a faith school on the ground that you are a lesbian would be discriminatory. Designated religious schools are permitted to discriminate against teachers on grounds such as religious opinion or willingness to teach religious education (RE), but this does not extend to discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation.

Imposing a more severe disciplinary penalty on a bisexual worker than a straight worker for similar conduct in similar circumstances is likely to amount to direct discrimination. Denying a gay worker the right to take time off in an emergency to look after their sick partner would be indirectly discriminatory if a straight worker in similar circumstances would be allowed time off. Workplace procedures must be applied to colleagues objectively and consistently, and processes and outcomes must be free from discrimination.

Subjecting a colleague to verbal or physical harassment on grounds of sexual orientation in the workplace is unlawful. 

What is not covered

Treatment that is nothing to do with your sexual orientation, which the employer can show is wholly and genuinely for a non-discriminatory reason, or treatment which lawfully can be justified by the employer, will not be unlawful. Treatment that you might feel is unfair will not necessarily be discriminatory.

If you are treated less favourably on grounds of your sex rather than on grounds of your sexual orientation, this will be sex discrimination. All workers have specific protection from discrimination at work on grounds of sex under the Equality Act 2010.

Employers may use 'positive action' to encourage applications for vacancies from groups of people who are under-represented in the workforce or at a particular grade in the workforce. Employers may use ‘tie-break’ provisions to appoint an individual from an under-represented group if two candidates are as qualified as each other for a post. Contact the NEU if you need advice on an employer's use of positive action.

Employers sometimes specify that it is an occupational requirement that a post is held by an individual with a particular equality characteristic. This option is rarely used in the education sector, but contact the NEU if you think that it has been used inappropriately to your disadvantage.

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