The legal protection of transgender individuals starts with the Equality Act 2010. Within this act, gender reassignment is recognised as a protected characteristic. This is reaffirmed in the Statutory Code of Conduct of the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
This, therefore, means that an employee is protected if they plan to, are experiencing, or have undergone a process or part of one to reassign their gender by modifying physiological or other attributes of gender. Due to the ambiguity surrounding this, for clarification, making the decision to live as a different gender to that which was assigned to them at birth, regardless of hormonal treatment or surgery, safeguards them under this legislation. Therefore, discriminating against an employee on the basis of their transgender status is unlawful.
This provision applies to both prospective, potential, and existing employees.
According to a new survey of over 400 trans employees:
- 65% of trans employees have had to conceal their trans status identity at work.
- In the last five years, one-third of trans employees have faced workplace discrimination.
- 56% of trans employees believe it is more difficult for them to find work because of their gender identity.
- Only 33% of trans workers say their employers have anti-trans discrimination policies in place
- 54% say there is no training for employees on how to support trans employees at work.
This data displays that regardless of the legislation, the workplace is still commonly seen as not safe or inclusive for these individuals.
Employers must foster an inclusive environment that welcomes, embraces and supports all employees, irrespective of their gender identity or other protected characteristics.
Here are two keyways an employer can encourage transgender people’s inclusion and equality, while cultivating a welcoming and discrimination-free culture.
Training and Communication
Staff training is essential, with priority for line managers and those employees involved in recruitment. Members of staff involved in recruitment need to be trained and empowered so that they have the skills and knowledge to respond to and reassure transgender applicants.
Line managers can benefit from training to be better prepared to deal with any issues that may arise such as a request for practical adjustments or how to respectfully address trans employees.
Appropriate training can enable a workplace to become more trans-inclusive and enhance the experience for transgender employees throughout their employment lifecycle.
Communication is crucial when dealing with such a sensitive issue, as is raising general awareness. Transgender workers ought to be given the opportunity to have open and honest conversations with their managers. Being a vocal supporter of the LGBTQIA community such as on social media, shouldn’t be considered to be a performance. If your support is not accompanied by observable intervention, employees are unlikely to perceive this as true advocacy.
Developing a separate, trans-inclusive policy will serve to evidence a positive attitude within a company, and guide employees on acceptable behaviours and conduct. The first stage is to determine whether the existing policies satisfy these requirements or whether changes are required. Here are some elements that can be added into the police:
- Dress Code – Implementing a gender-neutral dress code.
- Pronouns – Gender-inclusive contracts, policies and other employment and business documents should use gender-neutral language. Make sure the correct pronouns are used for trans employees, and that gender-neutral choices are included in all paperwork, operating systems and procedures used by the business.
- Signposting – Signposting to external and internal support services and communities for LGBTQIA.
- Toilet Access – Introducing gender-neutral toilets or permitting trans workers to use the toilet of the gender with which they identify. It is recommended that at least one toilet and changing facility be marked as gender-neutral.
The number of transgender people is increasing in the UK and therefore, within the workplace. It’s important that employers are showing compassion, understanding and respect to their trans employees.
It is one thing for employers to be aware of their obligations regarding accommodating transgender employees and another to actually ensure they adhere to these obligations.
Without the right policies or cultures for trans people, there will be a negative impact on their emotional well-being, job satisfaction and work quality.
You must be able to support your trans employees in order to create a positive business culture as well as broader diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.