Promising Practice

Discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity at work and diversity policies in enterprises

In March 2018, the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) and the National Anti-Discrimination Office (UNAR) signed an agreement to carry out comprehensive research project looking into discrimination against LGBT people as well as entrepreneurial diversity management policies in the area of employment. The project will strongly involve various LGBT stakeholders in the research design and planned respondent outreach activities and applies a multi-perspective and intersectional approach.
Institutional and structural guidelines
Foster inter-institutional cooperation
Operational guidelines
Ensure comprehensiveness
Enhance validity and reliability
Ensure representativeness
Gender identity or expression
Sexual orientation
Includes multiple / intersectional discrimination


In this page:

Why was the practice needed?

The research project on ‘Discrimination at work against LGBT+ people, and diversity policies in enterprises’ addresses the need to fill data gaps on the situation of LGBT people in the area of employment. The research project is based on the agreement between the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) and the Italian Equality Body, the National Anti-Discrimination Office (UNAR), signed in March 2018.

Past collaborations between these institutions include a survey on discrimination on grounds of gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity, in addition to a report on data sources regarding Roma, Sinti and Caminanti communities.

The main objective of the practice is to generate comprehensive data on discrimination and exclusion on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity, including intersectional aspects, in the area of employment. This is to be achieved by applying a mixed approach and by strongly involving stakeholders relevant to the target community throughout the research.

How was it implemented?

ISTAT will conduct a set of surveys to collect data on the situation of LGBT people in the labour market and discrimination on grounds of the sexual orientation and gender identity from multiple perspectives. This includes LGBT individuals, employers and stakeholders, such as social partners, employment organisations, discrimination observatories and LGBT organisations.

The project is divided into two modules. Module A concerns data collection activities from LGBT+ people. Module B involves data collection activities from companies (employers) and the main national stakeholders (e.g. trade unions, employment category associations, and LGBT associations).

Module A

Direct data collection from LGBT+ individuals on employment discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity will mainly take place through an online questionnaire on a dedicated web page. Preliminary questions will identify the population of interest through self-identification.

The survey will include questions on experiences of discrimination in the area of employment; the perception of the prevalence of employment discrimination; coming out or not in the workplace and in social life; multiple discrimination and in multiple spheres of social life; the perception of the diffusion of homophobia and transphobia in the workplace; and the respondents’ knowledge of rights/instruments/measures and supporting actors to assert their rights in case they have been discriminated against.

Researchers will reach out to LGBT+ people through multiple channels:

  • people in civil unions appearing in municipal registry lists. For this segment of the population, non-responses to Computer Assisted Web Interviewing (CAWI) will be overcome by sending a hard-copy version of the questionnaire by post;
  • LGBT+ people registered with LGBT associations and enlarging the sample to cover non-registered members by way of snowball methods (e.g. respondent driven sampling);
  • trans*/transgender users of services dedicated to them. The early stages of this part of the research include mapping LGBT and Transgender services in Italy (e.g. assistance services, transition, and legal advice and other advice services) through desk research and consultation with LGBT organisations. A small number of service providers (which are mostly LGBT organisations) will be involved in the implementation of a survey on transgender people, both in the design of the questionnaire and in its distribution. In this case as well, the questionnaire will be filled out online; researchers are currently evaluating the possibility of distributing hard copy versions. Researchers will interview these service providers to gather information on the service itself and its users beforehand.

The collaboration of LGBT associations and service providers will be very important.

LGBT organisations participate in different phases of the project, including background and preliminary research, co-design and testing of the questionnaires, data collection and the recruitment of LGBT respondents. The involvement of LGBT associations will be channelled through the ‘Permanent Consultation Table for the promotion of the rights and protection of LGBT people’ and/or a project working group comprising of LGBT organisations and experts in the field. This aspect of the governance of the research project is still subject to evaluation.

LGBT organisation participation is of crucial importance to enhance the validity and reliability of the data gathered. Their participation enables a careful design of the research and questionnaires, including self-identification questions. In addition, LGBT organisations will act as multipliers, increasing the number of survey respondents.

Furthermore, consultations with transgender organisations will serve to define survey variables that can accurately capture the individual components of the acronym ‘LGBT’, in particular the transgender experience. It will also shed light on discrimination arising from the intersection of gender identity and sexual orientation.

LGBT organisations represented in the Permanent Consultation Table and/or the Working Group will also contribute to closing data gaps with respect to specific sub-groups within the LGBT community.

The LGBT organisations are expected to contribute to reaching out to potential focus group participants.

Module B

The second module concerns data collection from companies and national stakeholders.

  • With respect to companies, researchers will send out a short online questionnaire about the management of LGBT diversity into an existing ISTAT survey on companies. The ad hoc module will include questions on existence, dissemination and typology of diversity strategies and practices for LGBT people in companies.
  • The point of view of stakeholders will be captured through semi-structured interviews, with a view to identify:
    • available data and data sources on the position of LGBT people in the labour market and workplace discrimination;
    • existing data gaps on specific areas and themes, and the role that official statistics can play in addressing them;
    • LGBT diversity management and anti-discrimination policies adopted by employers;
    • an in-depth analysis of the main national institutions on anti-discrimination (UNAR, the Observatory for Security against Acts of Discrimination (OSCAD), and Rete Lenford) focusing on key definitions in the survey and methodological data collection considerations.


  • The mapping of LGBT and transgender services through desk research and the identification of stakeholders to be interviewed.
  • The results of the survey are expected in 2020. They will enable data users to monitor the prevalence of discrimination in the area of employment on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. They will also help identify the mechanisms of employment discrimination and map diversity policies for LGBT inclusion in companies.
  • The individual survey will offer information about the main socio-demographic characteristics and family/relational status of a specific segment of the LGBT population, i.e. couples in civil unions. The collected data will shed light on discrimination and exclusion based on the characteristics of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and class, using occupation and socio-economic status as the main proxies.
  • ISTAT will publish a report analysing the results and presenting the main data from the two modules of the project.

Key success factors

  • The involvement of LGBT organisations throughout the design and the implementation of the research project and consultations with other relevant stakeholders in the area of employment.
  • The project benefitted from the cooperation between the National Statistical Institution and the Equality Body.
  • The availability of EU funding for the research was another enabling factor.

Technical information

  • Data sources covered: Household or individual surveys; Victimisation surveys; Qualitative research..
  • Areas of life covered: Employment; Education; Others: Family/relational status.
  • Target audience: Ombud for Equal Treatment; Austrian Parliament
  • Duration: March 2018 - March 2020
  • Geographical scope: National
  • Leading institution: The Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) and the National Anti-Discrimination Office (UNAR)
  • Other organisations involved/consulted: Various trade unions (CGIL, CISL, UIL), employers’ associations (Confindustria, Confcommercio), employment agencies, public bodies such as Consigliera Nazionale di Parità and LGBT organisations such as Identity Trans Movement - M.I.T. and Parks
  • Financial & human resources: Budget: €300,000; Source of the budget: European Social Fund; Staff: 4 Full Time Equivalent (FTE)


Italian national statistical office (ISTAT) / Istituto Nazionale di Statistica
Email: lgbt-project (at) istat (dot) it

Eugenia De Rosa, Valeria de Martino
Email: eugenia.derosa (at) istat (dot) it; valedema (at) istat (dot) it

Italian Office against Racial Discrimination (UNAR) / Ufficio Nazionale Antidiscriminazioni Razziali

Email: unar (at) unar (dot) it