Police force will ask all staff to declare sexuality

All
officers and civilian staff in the Police Service in England and Wales will be
asked to declare their sexual orientation by the end of 2004.

Staff
will be sent an audit form and one of the sections in it will be
self-identification of sexual orientation, to which they have the option of
answering ‘prefer not to say’.

Paul
Cahill, chair of the Gay Police Association, told Personnel Today that by
September, all new recruits will have to tick a box declaring their sexuality
on the Home Office recruitment application form.

The
scheme, which is presently being piloted in three forces in England, will be
extended to all staff as part of a diversity audit in October or November.

Cahill
said it was not a great leap in imagination to request information on staff
sexual orientation, since the police already do it with race, gender and
disability.

"In
the long-term, [gay people] will benefit from the development of the
organisation as it becomes more inclusive and respects its staff – that has to
be good for everybody," he said. "The fact you can’t quantify the
number of gay staff in your organisation has led our marginalisation."

Ben
Summerskill, chief executive of gay lobby group Stonewall, said the
organisation supported sexuality monitoring as long as the reasons for it were
explained to staff and workers were assured of anonymity.

"You
also have to assure individuals of confidentiality and that they are not
obliged to answer," he said. "The ‘prefer not to say’ option raises
issues of whether that answer will be followed up."

Summerskill
predicted that in the future staff and employers alike would use evidence of
the amount and way information was collected to launch and defend tribunal
claims in a manner similar to ethnicity claims.

A
spokesman for the Home Office said the department planned to make the
declaration of sexual orientation a standard requirement for its 16,000
employees.

By Michael Millar

For
the full interview with Paul Cahill, go to www.personneltoday.com/goto/24948

For
details of legal obligations regarding sexual orientation and legal advice, go
to www.personneltoday.com/legal

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