16 July 2014
Responding to reports in The Guardian of a homophobic incident at HM Passport Office.
On the 13 July 2014 The Guardian reported an incident of homophobia occurring at Her Majesty’s Passport Office (HMPO). A man in a same-sex relationship was reportedly asked a series of inappropriate questions about the couple’s children, the terms of adoption and the biological mother by an HMPO official during a passport application.
HMPO responded to the incident saying “People applying for their first British passport are required to attend an interview designed to detect and deter those trying to obtain passports fraudulently. A person will be asked to confirm facts about themselves that someone trying to steal their identity may not know. Intrusive questions about someone’s sexuality as part of an interview would be inappropriate and is not a reflection of our policy. HM Passport Office expects the highest standards of professionalism and integrity from our staff and takes allegations of misconduct extremely seriously.”
HMPO is an executive agency of the Home Office. Spectrum, the LGBT network for the Home Office, is engaged in this issue, stating “The member of staff involved has been suspended and a formal investigation into the matter is currently being undertaken. Spectrum are being consulted as part of the investigation. Her Majesty’s Passport Office already work very closely with Spectrum to provide LGBT awareness training to their staff and as part of the investigation we are considering how this can be developed further.”
While CSRA exists to support and enable LGB* people who are civil servants, we more widely aim to promote a diverse and inclusive approach across the Civil Service in general. CSRA works closely with departmental LGB* networks and senior management to ensure that the Civil Service is an employer that values diversity.
The Chair of CSRA, Ollie Entwistle, said “Whilst I cannot comment on the specifics of the case due to the ongoing investigation, it is sad that alleged incidents like this can still happen in the Civil Service. The fact that it does happen underlines the importance of the Civil Service not becoming complacent when it comes to diversity. Awareness training is still important, as is ensuring that every Department has, and enforces, a zero tolerance approach to homophobia in the workplace.”
Despite this case, we would like to reassure our members that, on the whole, the Civil Service is an LGB* friendly place to work. Our 2010 report with Yougov “Career Development for LGB&T civil servants”, found that 79% of LGB participants felt that the Civil Service was an LGB friendly place to work. The 2013 Civil Service People Survey also showed that 82% of LGB Civil Servants felt they were treated with respect by their colleagues. While this could be higher, CSRA will continue to press for change in the Civil Service.
If you have encountered discrimination in your department, please contact your manager or a HR or trade union representative. If you don’t feel confident in doing this, you could contact your departmental network (see your departmental intranet for details) or CSRA, confidentially, at firstname.lastname@example.org.