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History of Sexual Orientation policy

Consultation on the Sexual Orientation Policy

In 2005 the University Equality and Diversity Committee established a Sexual Orientation Working Group to develop a Sexual Orientation Policy and Action Plan. The group was Chaired by Pro-Vice Chancellor Terry Rees, and included representatives from academic and support staff roles, Trades Unions, Human Resources, the Student Union, the University Counselling Service, Student Advice Centre, Student Experience Unit, and Residences. The group was regularly advised by Dr Alison Parken, Director of Stonewall Cymru. The policy was available for consultation and comments were received by 8 November 2006.

Why has the University developed a Sexual Orientation Policy?

The University Equality and Diversity Policy already expressed the University’s commitment to promote equality and diversity in all of its practices and activities and referred specifically to sexual orientation. This overarching policy was approved by Council in 2004, and set out the Committees intention to developing supporting action plans on gender, race, disability, religion and/or belief, sexual orientation, age and dignity at work and study. A race equality action plan was already in use. In 2005-06, a Dignity at Work and Study policy and action plan was developed, followed by the Disability Scheme and Action plan.

In 2003, Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations were implemented. These regulations prohibit discrimination against any person on grounds of their sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation (whether bisexual, gay, heterosexual or lesbian), or the sexual orientation of another person (e.g. because you socialise with gay people).

In 1999, the Sex Discrimination Act was amended to protect transgender people from discrimination and harassment on grounds of their gender. The Gender Recognition Act in 2004 extended these protections. Although it is recognised that transgender identity is not a sexual orientation, the Sexual Orientation Working Group included transgender identity within this policy, because of the links between homophobic and transphobic discrimination and harassment.

Development of the Policy

The development of the policy drew on guidance and evidence from Stonewall and the Equality Challenge Unit for Higher Education which indicates that:

• Few staff, particularly those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, will want to work for an organisation where they perceive that will may be subjected to bullying and harassment on grounds of their sexual orientation.
• Potential staff and students can be deterred from applying to join organisations where they think that they will not ‘fit in’, for example if they feel that their personal life will be incompatible and not accepted by their colleagues or peers.
• Sexuality is, for many, a private matter and something that is not considered relevant to disclose to colleagues or employers. However, in many work and study environments there is a strong underlying assumption that most people are heterosexual and this can trigger stereotypical ideas about the nature of sexuality.
• Staff should have the choice to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of recrimination or discrimination. If staff or students feel that they have to be secretive about their sexuality, because of fear or discomfort about how others will react, it is likely to affect their work
• Lesbian, gay and bisexual young people are subject to very high rates of bullying at School, which may affect their participation in higher education. It is good practice to provide additional, tailored support to recognise these experiences, to ensure and provide reassurance that the University is free of homophobic bullying.