Civil partnership law reminds employers to seek diversity

New laws giving same-sex couples the right to enter into an equivalent of marriage are a reminder to employers to promote diversity in the workplace, according to employment law advisers Croner.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004, which takes effect today, extends the same rights of civil marriage to lesbian and gay couples. This means employers should ensure they are complying with laws to protect employees from sexual orientation discrimination, which have been in force since December 2003.

Although the ruling does not introduce new employment rights, it will further clarify existing rights for the 22,000 people the government predicts could be in a civil partnership by 2010.

Certain areas of employment law concerning equality and family-friendly rights will be amended to formally recognise a ‘civil partner’ as equivalent to a spouse.

Richard Smith, employment services director at Croner, said: “This is a very significant piece of legislation for the UK lesbian, gay and bisexual community and will affect the workplace in a variety of ways. It may empower more people to take a stand against sexual orientation discrimination so we are advising our clients to check that their diversity policies state that such discrimination will not be tolerated.

“On a more practical level, we’re advising employers to make sure all employees are treated equally, regardless of their sexual orientation or marital status.”


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