Workplace laws need to cover gays

PUBLISHED : Monday, 21 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 21 May, 2012, 12:00am


Hong Kong is often hailed as a city of tolerance and diversity. But the reputation is quickly put to the test in the context of discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Despite growing awareness, it remains a sensitive issue that few discuss openly in society. Public prejudice and the lack of legislative protection still make lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people the vulnerable minority in society.

According to Community Business, a group promoting corporate social responsibility, 68 per cent of the respondents said they were willing to work with LGBT colleagues. Those who believe they should not be denied promotion or excluded from social events reached 80 per cent. However, the relatively high level of acceptance sits oddly with the findings in another survey on LGBT employees. Seven in 10 said they lied about their personal life. An overwhelming 85 per cent said a non-inclusive workplace had a negative impact on them. While efforts to promote equal opportunities regardless of age, sex, race, religion and sexual orientation have come a long way over the past decade, LGBT people may not feel comfortable to come out as long as their sexual preference is still deemed unacceptable to conservative minds. As the study shows, 27 per cent of the respondents said gays and lesbians should keep their sexual orientation to themselves.

It is encouraging to see a cultural shift is being advocated in the workplace. The LGBT community is increasingly seen as a source of talent rather than an underprivileged class that needs special care and protection. The Community Business group rightly points out that maintaining an inclusive working environment is crucial to enhancing competitiveness. The need for legislation was last rejected by the government in 2006, even though its survey showed more people endorsed such a law compared with a decade ago. It is time for the government to review the situation and make Hong Kong a truly tolerant and diversified city.