49% fear to come out at work

// 29 January 2006

As the debate rages on about the manner in which Lib Dem leadership candidate and party chairman Simon Hughes came out (or was forced out), a new study reveals that 49% of gay people in Britain are too scared to come out at work.

The Independent covers the story well, and includes a number of testimonials from people who are either in or out of the closet while at work.

Most appalling is the cast of 29 year-old Christine Smith, who was sacked by the publishing firm she worked for when she told her colleagues she was a lesbian. Interestingly enough, she’s now happily working for Sussex Police.

It is illegal to discriminate in this way, but Ben Summerskill from Stonewall points out: “The new employer regulations have made a significant difference because people now have a legal remedy. But the vast majority of people don’t actually want to take their employer to the employment tribunal. They just want to get on with their work and feel comfortable.”

Some interesting stats from the Independent story:

6%: OF THE adult population is gay, according to official government figures

1967: YEAR THAT a homosexual act between two consenting adults over the age of 21 was legalised in the UK

28: SECTION 28 banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools. The law was abolished after Labour came to power in 1997

£9,400: DIFFERENCE IN earnings between gay and straight men. Gay men earn £34,200 on average; national average for all men is £24,800

2003: YEAR THAT discrimination on the grounds of sexuality was outlawed in the workplace

48%: OF GAY men do not reveal their sexuality at work

1898: YEAR OSCAR Wilde wrote ‘The Ballad of Reading Gaol’ after spending two years incarcerated for sodomy

22,000: COUPLES EXPECTED to register their relationships as civil partnerships over the next five years

£70bn: VALUE OF the pink pound – estimated amount spent each year by gay men and lesbians

12%: OF LESBIANS claim to have suffered harassment in the workplace in the past year because of their sexuality

1984: THE YEAR Chris Smith became the first openly gay Member of Parliament. In 1997, he became the first ‘out’ cabinet minister

9%: INCREASE IN physical assaults on gay and lesbian school pupils since 1984

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