Supporting LGBT+ members in police and justice

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2019 Police & Justice Service Group Conference
7 June 2019

Conference notes that despite the government telling us that ‘austerity is over’ cuts to our public services continue, with lack of funding to police and justice services causing mass job losses, department closures, and outsourcing. Whilst UNISON leads the way in the fight to save jobs there are times when jobs cannot be saved, such as the Norfolk constabulary decision last year to axe its entire Police Community Support Officer (PCSO) workforce. The prospect of looking for a new job can be daunting for anyone, but for some members, there are additional barriers. For our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT+) members, working in their current police and justice role can feel like a relatively safe environment due to managers and colleagues having more diversity awareness and training than in some other areas of employment. There can be additional anxiety about having to find work with an unknown employer. Being open about being LGBT+ on an application form can feel like a barrier to being offered a job interview, and once in the work place the decision to be open about one’s sexuality, or gender identity/gender history can cause huge anxiety.

Mental health problems, including anxiety and depression, are more prevalent in the LGBT community. Trans workers face particularly high levels of workplace discrimination and harassment. A national government LGBT+ survey updated in February 2019 states that 51% of trans people have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination. Even more shocking is that 1 in 8 trans employees have been physically attacked at work by a colleague or customer in the last year.

In a Stonewall survey, 19% of those questioned stated they had not been open about their sexuality or gender in their work place. This is not surprising when 23% of those who are out reported negative reactions including inappropriate comments, insults, harassment, and being outed to other colleagues without their permission.

Conference notes that LGBT+ members may need additional support at the time they are facing being made redundant, or lose their employment. Facing job loss can be a traumatic experience, and knowing that the union can support members through this can soften the blow. As well as challenging redundancies, UNISON police and justice branches may be able to offer support and advice in looking for jobs, applying for them and preparing for interviews. A small piece of work could make all the difference to our members in the Police and Justice service group.

Conference calls on the Police and Justice Service Group Executive, working with the National LGBT Committee, to consider and investigate how branches and/or UNISON activist education could assist with this.