I’m studying children and young people’s workforce early learning and childcare and doing my work placement in a nursery. I like working with children but I just don’t get along with the people I work with. I don’t feel comfortable to be ‘out’ as comments have been made about them turning down a ‘rough’ looking lesbian couple for their child to be in this nursery in the past. I would like to leave and work in a friendly welcoming place but am concerned I might end up in another place like this one. I’d like to finish my course without thinking I don’t want to do it anymore I’m finding it hard to feel enthusiastic about any of it. How would I find out if a different nursery is gay friendly?
Rachel, South West
We’re really sorry to hear this. Everyone should be able to go to work without fear that they will be treated unfairly just because they are gay. Stonewall knows, through our work with over 600 employers, that people perform better when they can be themselves. You should be able to be open about your relationship and your family, and it’s actually in your employer’s best interest to ensure this happens. In your case happy employees mean happy children and that makes good business sense.
First things first; you should know that under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against gay employees. There are three defined types of discrimination at work:
Direct discrimination: Treating people less favourably than others on grounds of sexual orientation.
Indirect discrimination: Applying ‘a provision, criterion or practice which disadvantages people of a particular sexual orientation’. For example, if an employer only offers benefits to the heterosexual partners of their employees and not to same-sex partners.
Harassment: Defined as ‘unwanted conduct that violates people’s dignity or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.’
Not only is it beneficial for your employer to challenge homophobic language or bullying, but they might be breaking the law if they don’t.
Public services like state-funded nurseries and schools have a duty to consider the needs of their gay service-users. They could provide diversity training for staff on sexual orientation, use books that include same-sex families and display some of Stonewall’s ‘Different Families, Same Love’ posters.
There are plenty of nurseries and schools who provide a gay friendly service to children and parents, and support gay employees. When approaching a future employer there are a few things you can do. Take a look on their website; does their equality and diversity policy mention sexual orientation? If they have a bullying policy, what does it say about homophobic bullying? Do they use any books including same-sex parents? If you’re feeling brave, ask them. They should be doing it anyway. If they have any sense they will see an opportunity to recruit someone who can help get this stuff right.
Consulting Room Expert: Louise Kelly
Louise is Stonewall’s information officer and manages Stonewall’s information service. The information services offer support to over 9,000 people every year.
Tel: 08000 50 20 20. stonewall.org.uk/info