December 16, 2014

Should you come out in the workplace and would your employer care?

According to a report by Nick Drydakis published by IZA World of Labor tomorrow, half of gay and lesbian employees do not reveal their sexual orientation in the workplace for fear of discrimination and harassment.

The report goes on to say that while out gay and lesbian employees are happier or more satisfied in their jobs they are less likely to be promoted than their heterosexual counterparts.  The findings indicate that gay men often gravitate to more female dominated professions while lesbians frequently thrive in male-dominated work places. In either scenario, out gay and lesbian employees are more likely to be bullied than their heterosexual colleagues.

  • In the UK gay men earn 5% less than heterosexual men with the same skillset
  • In the UK lesbians earn 8% more than heterosexual women with the same skillset
  • Fewer than 20% of countries have adopted sexual orientation anti-discrimination laws in employment

Workplace harassment can have serious mental health consequences for the individuals who are bullied or harassed and detrimental effects on the firm’s smooth operation.  Gay and lesbian employees who can be open about their sexual orientation in a safe and diverse workplace are more productive, creative, and loyal because they feel more comfortable and safe.

The report suggests that government intervention to introduce employment policies that are clear and that apply uniformly to all employees, regardless of sexual orientation, would reduce workplace dissatisfaction and boost job satisfaction.  Prejudice, stigma and discrimination are minimized in workplaces that have written equality policies and gay and lesbian unions.

These findings imply that legislative protection constitutes only a small step toward improving the employment circumstances and general well-being of people who are gay or lesbian and highlights the need for other policy intervention.

Sexual Orientation and Labor Market Outcomes by Nick Drydakis is published by IZA World of Labor

16th December 2014.

"Anti-discrimination legislation, improving labor outcomes for sexual-orientation minorities will require policy actions, including formal equality of treatment in employment policies, anti-discrimination and anti-bullying campaigns, affirmative action and governments have to publish annual data on progress toward equality objectives. Employers, human resources and trade unions should evaluate recruitment and promotion policies to ensure equality of opportunity and should address incidents of harassment. An accepting and diverse workplace culture enhances job satisfaction for LGBT employees, which in turn affects their productivity and commitment to their work".

Nick Drydakis (1980) is Senior Lecturer in Economics at Lord Ashcroft International Business School - Anglia Ruskin University - ARU (United Kingdom).  In 2008 he completed his Ph.D. in Labour Economics at the University of Crete.  He joined IZA as a Research Fellow in May 2011. 

Notes for Editors

  • IZA World of Labor ( is a global, online resource that provides policy makers, academics, journalists, social policy commentators and researchers, with clear, concise and up-to-date evidence-based knowledge on labour economics issues worldwide. 
  • The site will publish up to 150 articles in its first year, rising to a total of 500 by the end of 2016. It offers relevant and succinct information on topics including diversity, migration, minimum wage, youth unemployment, employment protection, development, education, gender balance, labour mobility and flexibility among others.
  • Established in 1998, the Institute for the Study of Labor ( is an independent economic research institute focused on the analysis of global labour markets. Based in Bonn, it operates an international network of about 1,300 economists and researchers spanning more than 45 countries.