The Workplace

Equality, Why is it Important?

Equality and diversity have become a bigger talking point within the working environment in recent years, and is relevant for all places of work. Many incidents of discrimination, bullying or harassment do not get reported and this is something that needs to change. Being an Equal Opportunities Employer is more important today than it was 20 years ago, as the meaning of this statement has more weight attached to it for people in the LGBT+ community.

In 2019, the highest rates of discrimination in the workplace were reported by people who identify as LGBT+ (CSO, 2019). This can have a negative impact on a person’s life, and a sizable portion of these people will feel unmotivated, anxious and in more severe cases, depressed. Unfortunately, the majority of these cases do not get reported as some feel that it is not important enough, or they feel too embarrassed to bring up such issues. Secondly, younger employees are not confident on their rights within the workplace.

The aims of Equality and Diversity are simple: to ensure that everybody has access to the same opportunities and the same, fair treatment.

A more diverse team can give employees a better sense of belonging and build loyalty to the establishment. In today’s world, younger generations are more socially aware and hold their values to a high standard. They expect corporate entities, politicians and local businesses to be responsible with how they execute power, and monitor how inclusive they are by looking at the employees.

To enforce this, have an Equality Policy specific to the establishment and accessible to all employees. This should include the company’s mission statement specific to Equality, and a list of people who are responsible with handling such issues if they arise. Corporate social responsibility is more than supporting local communities, it is about supporting each and every member of staff within the workplace too. Always ensure that your Equality Policy is reviewed every 6 months to reinforce how serious your business is about Equality and Diversity.

Legislation on Equality, and LGBT+ people in the Workplace (Irish Laws).

The Employment Equalities Acts 1998-2015

The Employment Equalities Act protects you from being treated less favourably than others in a similar situation within the workplace. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of 9 grounds in employment-related areas. These are:

  • “The gender ground”
  • “The marital status ground”
  • “The family status ground”
  • “The sexual orientation ground”
  • “The religion ground”
  • “The age ground”
  • “The disability ground”
  • “The ground of race”
  • “The traveller community ground”


Any form of harassment based on each of these grounds is considered discrimination. Harassment or “unwanted conduct” includes:

  • Offensive verbal communication.
  • Visual harassment, (derogatory gestures, intimidation or imitation with cruel intentions).
  • Production and display of written words, pictures or other materials, including the misuse of social media that is directly targeting a person or persons within the workplace (offensive material, unwelcome emails, phone calls or messages).
  • Victimisation, (a person cannot be treated differently after reporting any form of harassment in the workplace).

Obligations of Employers:

Discrimination is outlawed in work-affiliated fields for instance:

  • Access to employment
  • Work experience
  • Vocational training
  • Advertising (e.g. for job roles)
  • Terms and conditions of employment
  • Classification of posts
  • Equal pay
  • Promotion, upskilling or regrading
  • Dismissal

Collective agreements may be brought to the attention of the Workplace Relations Commission for mediation or investigation. All workers have the right to join a union if they choose to do so.

Gender Recognition Act 2015

This legislation supports and provides a process that permits transgender people to attain full legal recognition of their gender identity. A new birth certificate can be given to the person to reflect this change. (TENI)

Discrimination towards a transgender person is under the ‘the gender ground’ within the Employment Equalities Acts 1998-2015. This protects any transgender person from being treated less favourably than another person in a similar situation within the workplace.

National Minimum Wage Act (From 1st of February 2020)

  • Any person under the age of 18 in Ireland is entitled to at least €7.07 per hour.
  • If you are 18, you are entitled to at least €8.08 per hour.
  • If you are 19, you are entitled to at least €9.09 per hour.
  • If you are aged 20+, you are entitled to at least €10.10 per hour.
  • If your employer refuses to pay you the National Minimum Wage, you are protected by law from victimisation.

“It wasn’t so good, you hid it from family and friends growing up. I knew in national schools that I was gay, I went to dances with my sisters and didn’t tell anybody. I danced with fellas, had crushes on girls at work, hiding it all the time. I was 26 when I had my first relationship, I grew up on a hillside farm, I hadn’t a word for what I was, there was no information around from school or locality.”

You Are Important

Everybody has a voice and just because you are a member of the LGBT+ community does not mean you cannot stand up for your right to work. Working can help you build on soft skills like communication, problem-solving and critical thinking.

If you are feeling that something is not right at work and you are getting harassed based on discrimination, speak up! It may be hard to put it into words at first but the first step is to verbalise it to a trusted friend or family member. Establishing how you are feeling and having a chat about it can give you the confidence to mention it to a manager, (HR or Equalities Officer).

You are not bothering anyone, you are not a hindrance and you are not ‘just a number’. By bringing your issues of discrimination to the attention of the employer, you are informing them that there is ‘unwanted conduct’ in the workplace, which is outlawed in Ireland.