Does my employer have to do something about the bullying I get because of my sexuality?

Yes, your employer must take all reasonable steps to stop harassment, such as bullying or any behaviour that is unwelcome, offensive, frightening or distressing (for example, name-calling or telling anti-gay jokes).

Your employer will be liable for this kind of bullying at work if they fail to take reasonable steps to prevent it. These steps, which must be taken before the incident takes place, include:

  • having a clear policy prohibiting bullying and explicitly stating that bullying related to someone’s sexuality is not tolerated under any circumstances;
  • clearly explaining the range of behaviours that are considered unacceptable. For example, low-level teasing and office 'banter' may not always seem like 'bullying' to the perpetrators but this kind of behaviour should be clearly identified in the policy as unacceptable;
  • spelling out that the prohibition extends to conduct online and to work-related activities outside working hours, such as office parties and training events;
  • providing clear induction and training on the policy;
  • publicising the policy, for example through posters advertising zero-tolerance of bullying;
  • signposting clear routes and procedures for complaints; and
  • robustly enforcing the policy with investigations and clear disciplinary responses where appropriate.

Employers are required to investigate any complaints of harassment (paying particular attention to the feelings of the person suffering from it), and if they find there has been harassment, to act to prevent it happening again, usually by disciplining the perpetrator.

If the individual concerned is not dismissed, a lesser sanction, such as a Formal Warning, can be accompanied by a requirement to apologise and, where appropriate, to undergo training to make sure they understand why their behaviour was offensive.

Note: This content is provided as general background information and should not be taken as legal advice or financial advice for your particular situation. Make sure to get individual advice on your case from your union, a source on our free help page or an independent financial advisor before taking any action.

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