There are several different ways that discrimination can happen:
It is important to remember that less favourable treatment does not have to be intentional to be discrimination - "unconscious bias" is a real issue in sexual orientation cases.
It is also possible to discriminate against an employee because they associate with someone of a particular sexual orientation or because of erroneous assumptions about their own sexual orientation.
The law prohibits discrimination against all types of sexual orientation - gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and heterosexuals. All job applicants, employees and workers are protected from discrimination. Protection will also extend to self-employed contractors who provide their work on a personal basis.
Some religious groups have negative views about homosexuality and this can create difficult issues for employers to manage. After all, both sexual orientation and religious belief are protected under the Equality Act. Every case will need to be looked at carefully, but there is no special protection for those with religious beliefs to express inappropriate views about homosexuality in the workplace.
But be careful to investigate allegations carefully - in a recent case, a nursery worker who was an evangelical Christian expressed negative views about homosexuality to her fellow nursery worker who was a lesbian. The dismissal of the Christian employee was unfair and discriminatory - whilst the nursery was entitled to take disciplinary action (and potentially dismiss) it had jumped to conclusions without proper investigation.
This article first appeared in Nursery World.