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LGBTQ Workplace Rights
LGBTQ Workplace Rights

LGBTQ Workplace Rights

Sexual orientation – The term ‘sexual orientation’ refers to physical, emotional and romantic attraction (or a combination of these) rather than to specific sexual practices, the same sex or gender, or to both sexes or more than one gender.

As one of the world’s most progressive constitutions, South Africa’s Bill of Rights explicitly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender (among other things) and includes numerous protections relating to labour and employment. Trade unions have the responsibility to protect and advance the right to equality of all members.

It is evident that collective bargaining is an important tool in securing equality and justice in the workplace, especially when including the LGBTQ workplace rights, given the number of laws, policies, and agreements that address human rights at work. It is equally critical for trade union negotiators to have tools in place to ensure that workers experience no form of oppression or discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

Trade Unions

Trade Unions operate at both a local level and as larger federations (such as FEDUSA, COSATU, NACTU and CONSAWU). As a powerful force in defending the rights of their members, unions play a crucial role (between formal negotiations with unions and employers) in securing collective bargaining agreements.


LGBTQ is an acronym used as a collective term for all persons who are lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender and questioning this describing gay culture in distinctive groups.

LGBTIQA+ is an evolving acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning, asexual and new terms that could be added.

Since early gay initiatives focused mostly on men, “lesbian” is often listed first in an attempt to draw attention to issues specific to gay women.

Good Practice Workplace

Employers have a duty to ensure that workplaces are safe for and supportive of LGBTQ persons by doing the following:

  • Actively address instances of transphobia in the workplace by employing collective bargaining strategies to protect workers from homophobia and transphobia.
  • Develop and Implement Company-Wide Policy creating awareness and understanding of the challenges LGBTQ workers face.
  • Train your team to in your work environment to make it equitable to create change
  • Have a full understanding of the legislation setting out the minimum standards for protecting workers from homophobia and transphobia

Despite the many protections in place to eliminate discrimination and promote equality, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workers continue to experience discrimination, harassment and violence.

What should you do if you face discrimination in the workplace?

  • The onus is upon you to report any discrimination you experience in the workplace directly or indirectly.
  • Keep on record as much information as possible about what happened to you (date, time where, who and what is crucial information)
  • Follow up on the company’s grievance policy (if they have one) follow the steps for lodging a complaint
  • If your line manager is homophobic or transphobic, you can or may choose to escalate the matter with your HR department or senior management.

Tell your employer that you feel you have been discriminated against because of your sexual orientation or gender identity when making the complaint.