In this section you can find out how ILGA-Europe is working against discrimination and exclusion of LGBTI people in employment.

European employment legislation and LGBTI people

LGBTI people in Europe face various forms of discrimination in relation to employment. They may be directly discriminated in recruitment procedures or declined a promotion due to their sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression. Additionally, they may experience harassment in the form of ‘jokes’ or LGBTI-phobic comments or threats to ‘out’ them and other forms of discrimination. Trans and intersex people may experience gender or sex discrimination related to the use of gender segregated facilities such as toilets or changing rooms or gender specific uniforms. As a result, LGBTI people are often under greater pressure our of a need to stay on guard, or may even hide their sexual orientation and/or gender identity (or sex in the case of intersex people) out of fear of discrimination or harassment.

In many European countries, LGBTI people do not have access to family related leave (maternal/parental leave, bereavement, etc.) or are denied dependants’ benefits and pension arrangements.

In 2000 the European Union adopted a law - the so-called Employment Framework Directive (2000/78/EC) - which prohibited discrimination in employment and occupation on the ground of sexual orientation (amongst other grounds). This Directive, was the first EU law to refer to sexual orientation and made a very significant impact for gay, lesbian and bisexual people in EU member states and accession countries, mainly due to the fact that this law obliged member states to include sexual orientation explicitly in national anti-discrimination law. Two important decisions in respect to the application of this Directive vis-a-vis pension and social security rights were taken by the Court of Justice of the European Union in Tadao Maruko v Versorgungsanstalt der deutschen Bühnen [2008] and Jürgen Römer v Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg [2011], both cases related to the survivor’s pension of registered partners.

In 2006, the European Union adopted another law - the so-called Gender ‘Recast’ Directive (2006/54/EC) - which brought together into one legal text all previous laws and case-law related to gender equality in matters of employment and occupation. This law contains a recital encoding the decision of the European Union Court of Justice in P v. S and Cornwall County Council[1996] stating that:

“the principle of equal treatment for men and women cannot be confined to the prohibition of discrimination based on the fact that a person is of one or other sex [...] it also applies to discrimination arising from the gender reassignment of a person.”

Employment equality and ILGA-Europe

Full equality for LGBTI people in employment and occupation cannot be achieved exclusively through sanctions against individual cases of discrimination. The achievement of equality requires a comprehensive strategy including positive measures.

To this end, ILGA-Europe continues to monitor the implementation of existing legislation and advocates for additional actions and measures promoting equality. Indeed, ILGA-Europe’s overall objective is for everyone to be protected against discrimination and experience full equality based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression and to enjoy full inclusion in the workplace.

To achieve this long-term aim, ILGA-Europe’s specific objectives are:

  • To extend implementation of the European anti-discrimination legislation and other soft law measures on LGBTI inclusion and anti-discrimination in employment across Europe
  • To increase awareness and improve application of existing European legislation in relation to trans persons
  • To improve application of existing European legislation in relation to social security and other benefits linked to employment as they relate to LGBTI families
  • To increase the number of trades unions and businesses which adopt LGBTI-specific policies in Europe by building or strengthening alliances with trade unions and public and private employers at European and national level
  • To increase the capacity of equality bodies to effectively tackle discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender expression.

ILGA-Europe’s work on employment is identified as a priority issue for in the Strategic Objectives 2011-2013 .

The key ILGA-Europe (and other) publications on the theme of employment equality are available here.

More information about the work of ILGA-Europe on employment, write to Sophie Aujean, Policy & Programmes Officer.

Trade Unions & LGBT Equality

Trade Unions have a significant role to play in promoting equality in work places. International and European Trade Unions have embraced LGBT equality in their policies and work programmes.

International Business Equality Index

The International Business Equality Index is an exciting new development that challenges the international leading corporations to improve their performance on issues concerning Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) employees, suppliers and consumers.

Resources on employment

In this section, we are gathering resources on the topic.

Mailing list for employment and LGBTI issues

ILGA-Europe is facilitating and moderating a mailing list for information mainly around trade union LGBTI work and business diversity.

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