More than 94 percent of Fortune 500 companies voluntarily protect gay and lesbian employees and job applicants from discrimination, a US equality report found this week.

But Virgin Media from Richard Branson’s empire was among the few companies singled out by Equality Forum, a GLBT civil rights organisation, for not including sexual orientation in their employment non-discrimination policies.

The Fortune 500 have overwhelmingly decided that including sexual orientation is in the best corporate interest and helps communicate corporate values to the estimated $660 billion annual domestic GLBT consumer market, Equality Forum executive director Malcolm Lazin said.

Five years ago, just 64 percent had GLBT anti-discrimination policies. The majority of non-compliant companies in the 2008 Fortune 500 were in manufacturing, mining and oil.

The Australian GLBT Health Alliance and the Diversity Council of Australia are also developing an index of companies based on their GLBT-friendly policies.

Australia, like the US, does not have federal employment protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation, but does based on sex, race or disability. State anti-discrimination laws are inconsistent and most contain religious exemptions.

While in opposition last year the Australian Labor Party made federal GLBT anti-discrimination part of its national policy, but declined to commit to reforms in its first term in government.

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