Legally, New Zealand is perhaps one of the more progressive countries when it comes to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) rights even though we have further to go on the last two.
However, the latest Westpac’s Rainbow Acceptance Monitor provides us with clear evidence of the gap between rights on paper and rights in reality for many.
The nationwide survey shows nearly one in three members of the Rainbow community have been made to feel uncomfortable at work; three times as much as those from the non-Rainbow community. And despite our anti-discrimination laws, 27 percent have experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
These figures probably seem shocking to New Zealanders not affected. Part of our national identity has been as a very progressive and accepting country. After all, it was less than two years ago that we overwhelmingly supported and passed marriage equality. In practice, perhaps a very telling statistic is the fact that only 54 percent of those surveyed accepted the Rainbow community.
This report shows we have a lot of work to do. We cannot rest on the fact that our laws are progressive; there is still a lot of work to be done to make New Zealand a more progressive place. Our attitudes and social interactions need to be more open and accepting. All members of our community need to feel accepted everywhere.
If you’re experiencing a problem you can join Out@Work; a union network who provide support, advocacy and workplace training.
If you’re an employer who wants to ensure your workplace is safe and inclusive you could accredit you organisation with Rainbow Tick.
The Green Party is committed to equality in policy and practice. Kevin Hague and I have worked over the last few years to increase awareness of these issues at a national level.
In the review of New Zealand’s human rights last year LGBTI communities in NZ noted LGBTI
“communities, workers face unique and difficult challenges in the workplace and dismissals or resignations because of sexual orientation or gender identity occur far too frequently. Four out of five submissions to the Transgender Inquiry described experiences of discrimination. Employment discrimination was a common experience for trans people, with access to employment and job retention being key issues. Changes in employment law in 2010 removed procedures enabling workers to take a personal grievance case in the first 90 days of employment in the event of unjustified dismissal. These personal grievance procedures are an important human rights protection when commencing a job. Provisions to ensure fair treatment and fair process are the basic protections and even more necessary when starting a new job. By removing the right to access personal grievance procedures, this employment law change has removed the right of workers to easily seek redress. Workers will frequently choose to leave their employment rather than take a case of discrimination because of the requirement to go public about their sexual orientation or gender identity. Though discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is unlawful under the Human Rights Act (HRA), and under section 105 of the Employment Relations Act 2000, this does not alter the fact that it occurs.”
They recommended “the New Zealand Government be directed to: repeal amendments to the Employment Relations Act in 2010 which removed the right to personal grievance procedures within the first 90 days of employment and amend the Human Rights Act 1993 to state explicitly that gender identity is a prohibited ground of discrimination.”
We support both of these recommendations and will be continuing our work for inclusive workplaces and for the realisation of all our rights in practice.