Ending LGBT discrimination in the workplace


The world of work has been a crucial arena for spearheading legal change, ending stereotypes and promoting understanding of the need for dignity of all human beings.

Through advancing workplace rights for women, persons with disabilities and people living with HIV, the ILO has been, and continues to be, at the forefront in advancing human rights for all workers.

The progress in recognizing the rights of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) people over the past decade is undeniable. However, major challenges remain.

On this important day for world recognition of equality for all, the ILO affirms its commitment to strive for workplaces free of discrimination on all grounds, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Using international labour standards to end discrimination and the 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, member States have been vigilant in identifying and opposing unfair treatment in the workplace; yet until recently, discrimination against LGBT persons has not been a specific focus of action.

This has changed and we are now undertaking targeted research in a selected number of countries to start tracking workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, with a view to promoting workplaces that champion equality and diversity in all its forms.

Promoting workplace rights for LGBT women and men reflects the attention being given to such rights in other UN fora. More than 60 member States have acknowledged sexual orientation as a prohibited ground of discrimination under the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111); and the ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Standards and Recommendations has welcomed this development.

While there is undoubtedly progress on LGBT rights, both in the workplace and beyond, LGBT workers still suffer discrimination and harassment.

Moreover, from 2011 to 2012, there was a slight increase – from 76 to 78 – in the number of countries with legislation criminalizing people on the basis of their sexual orientation. On the positive side, in the same period, several countries adopted legislation to prevent such discrimination in the workplace.

The ILO’s social justice mandate means promoting employment in conditions of freedom, equity, human security and dignity for all: we bring this agenda founded respect for rights, acceptance of diversity and tolerance to the realization of decent work for LGBT women and men.