Pride flag crosswalk

Pride is not just a month

We are now in the midst of ‘Pride month’ which provides an opportunity to celebrate diversity and encourages us to continue to strive for further inclusivity in respect of the LGBTQ+ community. In this article, we look at the progress that has been made so far, as well as the path ahead.

1. What is Pride?

The first Pride event took place in June 1970, a year after the Stonewall Uprising which protested against police brutality of the LGBTQ+ community.

Pride has now evolved into an annual event which takes place each June. It represents the importance of equality and fair treatment of LGBTQ+ individuals. Whilst Pride month takes place in June, it’s values are not confined to just a month and must be addressed consistently and constantly throughout the year.

2. Progress so far

Initiatives aimed at promoting inclusivity and diversity within the workplace are becoming ever more popular among employers. Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index continues to gain traction and the rise in employee interaction with this scheme demonstrates an increased awareness of the importance in addressing issues of gender discrimination and harassment.

3. The current situation

There have been several recent cases on the topic of LGBTQ+ rights. This includes Meade v (1) Westminster City Council (2) Social Work England ET/2200179/2022, a 2024 judgment concerning a social worker who brought claims for harassment on account of her beliefs.

The Claimant made posts on a private social media account which one colleague complained were transphobic and supported organisations that were known to harass the trans community.

Social Work England (the regulatory body for social workers) commenced and investigation into the Claimant which resulted in a formal sanction. As a result of this, Westminster City Council (the Claimant’s employer) suspended the Claimant from work on charges of gross misconduct. The Claimant remained suspended for a year whilst the investigation progressed before she was issued with a final written warning. In the meantime, the Claimant had appealed the sanction given by Social Work England who concluded that the posts had not been offensive and that the disciplinary proceedings should be discontinued. Westminster Council subsequently upheld the Claimant’s appeal against her final written warning.

The Claimant issued claims against both Westminster City Council and Social Work England for harassment and discrimination.

The Employment Tribunal (‘ET’) found that the posts could not reasonably be regarded as offensive or inciting hatred and further, that all posts fell within the Claimant’s protected rights to freedom, thought and expression under Article 9 and 10 of the ECHR. The posts were also within the reasonable bounds of legitimate manifestation of the Claimant’s beliefs. Therefore, Westminster City Council and Social Work England were found to have discriminated against the Claimant’s gender critical views and were ordered to pay over £58,000 to the Claimant.

This case highlights the balance that must be struck between those supporting gender self-identification and those with gender critical views and significantly, how these views are expressed. Issues of gender equality are complex cannot always be resolved with a simple “yes” or “no” as to how things should be managed. Quite often, there are competing beliefs, as demonstrated in the case of Meade. However, there are many things that individuals and employers can do to ensure that all members of the LGBTQ+ community feel included and safe to be themselves.

For further information on managing competing beliefs in the workplace, please see Lynsey Blyth’s article here.

4. What still needs to happen

A lot has been done to reduce discrimination and hostility, but many individuals are still having to face such experiences on a daily basis, both in and outside the working environment.

In 2020, more than 100 organisations signed a public statement saying that trans rights are human rights. This project was initiated by Trans in the City and the uptake highlights that many employees are making an effort to make members of the LGBTQ+ community feel safe and comfortable. However, there remains work to be done and employers need to ensure that they foster safe and supportive environments where any harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender will not be tolerated, and clear avenues are visible for reporting concerns.

5. Key considerations for employers

Employers need to ensure that all their policies, particularly those relating to harassment and victimisation, are fully up to date and explicitly prohibit homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. In addition, routes for reporting such incidents should be made clear and easily accessible to all members of staff to create a culture where individuals feel that they are able to raise concerns and that those concerns will be addressed.

Stonewall has provided guidance on creating more inclusive workplaces and what can be done to support the LGBTQ+ community.

This article is for general information only and does not, and is not intended to, amount to legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. If you have any questions relating to your particular circumstances, you should seek independent legal advice.