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Charity launches campaign to tackle workplace homophobia

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A national campaign that aims to end homophobic bullying at work has been launched by the charity Stonewall.

Construction workers, footballers, priests, police officers and firefighters are among the professionals highlighted in posters to be displayed on public transport and within workplaces.

Research conducted by the charity suggests 2.4 million employees have witnessed verbal homophobic bullying at work in the past five years, while 800,000 have witnessed physical homophobic bullying at their place of employment.

The posters depict two workers under the slogan: “One is gay. If that bothers people, our work continues”. They will adorn around 650 buses in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh as well 4,000 advertising spaces on the London Underground throughout January.

Law firm Charles Russell’s senior associate Ann Oliver backed the campaign and said employers that encouraged equal opportunities within the workplace would in turn have a “happier and thus more productive workforce”.

Oliver advised employers to ensure they put clear equal opportunities policies in place, and to promote them as “one of, if not the most, fundamental policies in the workplace”.

“The policy should not only be easy to access, but all staff should be trained in its contents and be encouraged to apply its principles on a daily basis,” Oliver said. "Breaches should be enforced rigorously in accordance with a disciplinary policy.

“Encouraging an environment in which equal opportunities is truly valued should encourage employees to feel comfortable to discuss such matters, as well as highlighting any challenges or issues.

“Taking these steps is also going to assist employers in avoiding, or at least limiting, legal liability under the Equality Act on the basis of discrimination because of sexual orientation.”

Stonewall deputy chief executive Laura Doughty said despite progresses in gay rights, such as equal marriage in England and Wales, more needed to be achieved within organisations.

“In workplaces right across the country, gay people still don’t feel able to be themselves,” she said. “It’s time to change that once and for all.”

In October 2012, Stonewall research found 26% of lesbian, gay and bisexual workers were not open to colleagues about their sexual orientation and 13% said they would not feel confident reporting homophobic bullying in their workplace.