Employers that want to find out how many of their employees are gay and lesbian and how many of them might be happy for their workmates to know about their sexuality should think carefully before embarking on a monitoring exercise, the TUC has warned.
Although the law now prevents gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees from being sacked or treated unfairly because of their sexuality, the TUC says that homophobia and discrimination against gay workers has not disappeared from UK workplaces.
So any attempt to monitor employees must be confidential and sensitive, or it could end up causing more problems than it solves, it said.
It has published new guidance for both unions and employers, stating that they should proceed carefully, otherwise there is a danger that rather than enhancing equality at work, the opposite will be achieved.
The law does not require employers to monitor their employees for sexual orientation purposes, unlike the obligation to do so on the grounds of race and gender.
But the TUC guidelines say that if handled sensibly, finding out more about how many gay people there are in supervisory positions or how many are taking up employee benefits could help to encourage a more understanding and discrimination-free environment at work.
TUC general secretary Brendan Barber said: “Employers might think that discovering the numbers of gay people in their workforce will help them to provide a more pleasant environment in which to work.
“But unless handled sensitively, any monitoring exercise could be at best a waste of time and, at worse, backfire, with staff refusing to answer the questions honestly.
“Employers and unions need to work closely to establish what is best for their own particular workplace.”