sexual orientation regulations

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The UK's sexual orientation regulations give effect to the requirement in the Equal Treatment Framework Directive that EU member states should legislate against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The regulations outlaw direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimization, with the possibility of a defence where there is a genuine occupational requirement. Protection from discrimination is provided for those with a heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual orientation, but there is no protection for those with particular sexual preferences (this means that there is no protection for those engaging in paedophilia). It is important that protection extends to those who suffer discrimination because of the sexual orientation of another person; for example, a man who suffers harassment because his son is homosexual or someone who is discriminated against because they have gay friends. The genuine occupational requirement is intended to operate only in very restricted circumstances; the example given by ACAS is the employment of a gay chief executive for an organization promoting gay rights, where it is a genuine requirement that the leader and public face of the organization is themselves gay. The legislation also states that there is a special form of genuine occupational requirement, which applies to religious organizations. If the latter have a strong conviction that certain forms of sexual behaviour are wrong, then it is lawful for them to discriminate when making appointments. This latter provision is controversial and may well be tested in the courts. ACAS has conducted research on the types of case being taken under the sexual orientation regulations. It notes that there are relatively few cases (470 in the first two years) and that the most frequent complaint was harassment, including cases of sexual harassment and physical assault; for example, ‘The claimant was involved in an incident when a colleague spat on her and informed her that he had “people queuing up to do you in and you had better lock your windows, lock your doors and your car because you are going to get it” ’ (lesbian claimant, manufacturing industry).

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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