Workshop: Personal trainer

I understand that it is now illegal to discriminate against gay people. Do I need to change my equal opportunities policy?

Yes, and hopefully you weren’t discriminating before. New laws passed by the European Parliament mean that legis-lation on discrimination at work now includes discrimination based on sexual orientation. But most third-sector bodies would regard such discrimination as absurd, even without legal changes. We know that a diverse workforce makes good business sense and increases our effectiveness as organisations.

You certainly must review your policies to ensure that all of your practices in this area don’t discriminate, including reviewing whether your policies cover religion and age. And it is always sensible to have a regular review of your policies to ensure they keep up with legal changes and good practice.

Stonewall, an organisation that campaigns for gay, lesbian and bisexual people, offers advice and support to organisations that want to update their policies and practices. They also run a Diversity Champions programme through which they work with the employers of almost 3 million people. Stonewall has pointed out that by 2011, fewer than one in five workers in the UK will be white, male, under 35, heterosexual and not disabled. This rather stark statistic makes it clear that diversity is important not just because it is right morally but also because it can help in recruiting, retaining and motivating the best talents. You can read Stonewall’s guidance at www.stonewall.org.uk/stonewall/ but perhaps the most pertinent points for all third sector bodies can be summed up as follows: 1. building a culture of respect at work and with our clients and users 2. recruiting and selecting fairly – including volunteers 3. tackling harassment 4. reviewing policies on pay and conditions to ensure no discrimination 5. having effective performance processes

So it is about encouraging a culture that welcomes diversity. The recent cases of discrimination in the City show the reputational risk of not having effective policy and implementation. And, while organisations have moved a long way to ensure equal opportunities for women, disabled and black employees, this has not always extended to gay people.

For legal advice, read the Acas booklet, Sexual Orientation and the Workplace.

Stephen Bubb is chief executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (Acevo).

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