Advice to EIS Members as Employees

Created on: 31 Jul 2023 | Last modified: 09 Nov 2023

LGBT members have the same right to share information about their private lives or to decide not to as all other colleagues.

It is up to each individual to decide the extent to which they wishto be ‘out’ at work to colleagues, management, pupils/students and parents. Unfortunately, discrimination does happen in workplaces. 1 in 5 incidences of bullying and harassment are reported by LGBT people to have occurred in the workplace, with 1 in 4 cases, managers being the perpetrators. In a school, college or university setting, it can be at the hands of pupils or students and parents.

In all cases, it can lead to isolation, harassment or violence. It is the responsibility of all EIS members - both teachers/lecturers and management to challenge such behaviour whether it was intended to cause hurt or was wrongly judged to be humour. 

If you believe you have been discriminated against on the grounds of sexual orientation, either actual or perceived, or on the grounds of gender identity contact your EIS Branch Representative in the first instance or your EIS Local Association Secretary.

If you do decide to pursue a case, you must follow the appropriate protocols about which you will be advised. As in all areas of discrimination the pursuit of cases may be complex and require professional advice.

Advice to EIS Representatives

The EIS believes discrimination and harassment of a person on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity is unacceptable and constitutes professional misconduct. Any LGBT member who experiences harassment or discrimination has the right to contact her/his EIS Representative or her/his Local Association/Branch Secretary for advice. All enquiries must be treated confidentially, the Rep or LA/Branch Secretary bearing in mind the need for sensitivity in relation to the extent to which the individual seeking support is ‘out’ at work. If assistance is required, advise the member that you need to seek additional advice in the first instance from the Local Association Secretary or Area Officer for members in FE/HE.

Equality policies must exist in all educational establishments. They are required to cover all aspects of working life and education, and must be accompanied by procedures which assist in ensuring fair appointments and promotions as well as dealing with complaints. Reps/Branch Secretaries should have access to such policies, as should all members of staff. A collegiate approach would involve both management and teacher trade union representatives in policy design/updating. EIS Reps/Branch Secretaries are advised to seek such an approach.

Advice to Head Teacher Members

Head Teacher or other EIS members with responsibility for management and personnel matters such as discipline and grievance procedures must ensure that equality policies reflect best practice and current legislation. They must include reference to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Establishing an ethos in which people can openly discuss problems or potential areas of conflict is conducive to good employee relationships.

Unfortunately, there may be occasions when formal procedures will be used. It is essential that such procedures are followed fairly and competently.

Advice to EIS Members in Supporting Pupils and Students

Anti-LGBT Discrimination in Educational Establishments

Education for equality prepares young people to live in a society which includes LGBT people. The EIS recognises that it is essential to address issues of gender identity, sexuality and sexual orientation positively and sensitively. Teachers and lecturers must be supported in providing safe, secure learning environments. Each educational establishment should understand and accept its obligation to prevent anti-LGBT discrimination and to provide a curriculum and ethos which will prepare children and young people for the diverse society in which they live. All teachers, whatever the educational setting, denominational or non-denominational, and lecturers, have a responsibility to deliver the curriculum as operated within their establishments. Teachers and lecturers, schools and colleges, external agencies and parents should work co-operatively to ensure accurate information is given to young people about sexuality, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Many young people go through puberty and adolescence with few problems; for others it is a time of uncertainty and anxiety. Teachers should be able to support young people through difficult periods in their lives. It is important that there is a framework of support for professionals to do this. There are national and local guidelines and other national documents which contain advice and support material.

Children and young people acquire knowledge about LGBT people from a variety of sources, with varying quality of information. It is far better they learn accurate information in the classroom than inaccurate information in the playground or from the media. Often young people have a sense of fairness that is underestimated and which can lead to valuable discussion about how people treat each other. Pupils and students can discuss complex questions such as prejudice, discrimination, racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia. Attitudes about LGBT people say a great deal about attitudes towards men and women and the various stereotypical gender roles. This may form part of personal and social development programmes but can also be addressed in other areas of the curriculum. It always must be addressed in a non-discriminatory way.

Teachers and lecturers should challenge all forms of homophobic/ transphobic discrimination, including that which is unintentional, for example the use of the word ‘gay’ as a derogatory term to describe something which the user dislikes or is opposed to.

A workplace where staff members themselves are included and valued is in a strong position to promote equality of opportunity by providing role models for children, young adults and adult learners. The presence of LGBT role models is of positive value.

Homophobic and Transphobic Bullying

It is the responsibility of all involved in education to ensure that all learners are provided with a safe and secure environment. However, the school experience of many LGBT people can be particularly unhappy and stressful. Surveys conducted by Stonewall and LGBT Youth Scotland consistently find that young people who identify themselves as LGBT face homophobic and transphobic bullying. Homophobic
bullying is also experienced by many young people, including primary-aged children, as a form of general abuse. This is unacceptable. It can lead to truancy, low selfesteem, serious mental health issues, self-harm. Worse still, suicide is a serious issue for LGBT youth. It is the responsibility of the school to protect young people’s health and well-being and safeguard them from the impact of homophobic and
transphobic bullying.

Within the FE setting, often students who are homosexual or transgender attend as an alternative to the school setting because within that, they suffered homophobic or transphobic bullying. A degree of sensitivity is necessary in these circumstances to ensure that LGBT students such as these are able to reach their full learning potential second time around.

Homophobic and transphobic bullying should be included in bullying and harassment policies within all educational establishments within all sectors. It is important that these forms of bullying are dealt with as seriously as other forms of bullying and verbal abuse.

Dealing with Homophobia and Homophobic Bullying in Scottish Schools – Teachers’ Toolkit

This is an extensive and effective resource for teachers to use to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying. It is available on the Education Scotland website to download. Its aim is to provide confidence and skills for teachers and school staff to recognise, prevent and deal with homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools. It has been developed by LGBT Youth Scotland, the national youth organisation for LGBT young people, in partnership with Education Scotland and funded by the Scottish Government.

The strength of this resource is that it is based on research with teachers, education authority staff and young people.

Contained within this toolkit are materials designed to build confidence in the following areas:

  • challenging homophobia and homophobic bullying
  • supporting LGBT young people in school
  • including homophobia and homophobic bullying in the school’s policy
  • including LGBT issues and anti-homophobia work in the curriculum through
  • lesson plans that support Curriculum for Excellence experiences and outcomes and development of the four capacities (successful learners, confident
    individuals, responsible citizens, effective contributors).

Advice to EIS Members

Where a pupil/student seeks advice on sexuality or gender identity, the role of the teacher/lecturer must be confined to educational/pastoral responsibilities. This applies to all pupils/students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

It is important to distinguish between advice to individuals and teaching in class. Providing general and factual information about sexuality and gender identity is an important part of a school’s sex education programme but is quite different from giving advice on an individual basis. In colleges, lecturers also have a pastoral role, and may deal with learners who are struggling with their sexuality and/or gender identity. The same sensitivity and confidentiality should be applied in dealing with learners in a post-16 context.

If in any doubt, seek advice or assistance. Local authorities have policies and guidance to schools on legal issues such as children’s rights, care and welfare which you are required to follow.

Before teachers/lecturers offer advice to young people on sexuality or gender identity, training must be provided.

Thereafter, in offering advice to young people:

  • ensure your advice is appropriate; some advice should be given by health professionals or other appropriate personnel
  • seek advice about recommended external agencies
  • use the appropriate school support system to assist
  • ensure all advice is sensitively handled and confidentiality maintained where appropriate.

It is important that teachers and lecturers are aware of their responsibilities under legislation and of their employer’s policies, advice and codes of conduct. They
should also be aware of their duties under the GTCS standards. If you require further assistance please contact your EIS Local Association/ Branch Secretary in the first instance.


Staff development on equality issues including anti-homophobia and antitransphobia should be recognised as essential and not peripheral to training needs and should be part of an on-going CPD programme. Any focus by members on equality or specifically LGBT issues may be included in the Professional Update process since the GTCS Standards directly address the themes of equality and social justice, in addition to the wellbeing of learners.