Not a single gay or lesbian civil servant who was treated unfairly at work because of their sexual orientation sought assistance from the Equality Authority or a solicitor, according to a new survey. Most went to family or friends.

The first survey of its kind, organised by the Public Service Executive Union, found that 42% of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender employees suffered discrimination at work; 32% said they had been verbally abused.

Over one-third of those who responded to the survey said they were 'out' to at least one person while only 14% said they had come out to all their work colleagues. The majority (60%) had not told their line manager of their sexual orientation. Of those who responded, 65% were gay, 19% were lesbian and 16% were bisexual. Nobody said they were transgender.

"The response to the survey is small – 165 out of a potential total of over 10,000 PSEU members – but in a way it reflects the reluctance of gays and lesbians to declare their sexual orientation openly. But surveys like this should help," said PSEU assistant secretary general Billy Hannigan, who organised the survey along with the union's president, Fiona Lee.

Among the 'negative experiences' encountered by LGBTs, the single biggest complaint is that they have to contribute to the spouses and children's pension fund even though they can't marry. Another complaint centred on the fact that, at present, cohabiting partners of same-sex couples do not receive a public service pension.

The Department of Finance has agreed a new scheme giving pension rights to cohabiting public servants, including gay couples. But it is awaiting enactment of the civil partnership bill, which is likely to be passed before Easter.