HR · 2 July 2018

Preparing your workplace for a transgender employee

A third of employers would be less likely to hire a transgender person

As new research finds that just 12% of UK employers have a zero-tolerance policy on transphobic bullying and harassment in the workplace, it is clear there is still prejudice towards transgender workers in professional environments.

The report, published by Crossland Employment Solicitors, found a significant lack of trans-inclusive workplace policies among UK employers across all sectors, particularly in the tech industry. Some 88% of all employers and 93% in the tech sector admitted to not having any policies specific for transgender workers.

Overall, an overwhelming 88% of employers disagreed that public and working spaces should have unisex lavatories to accommodate transgender people.

Most worryingly, a third of employers admitted that they were less likely to hire a transgender person.

Whilst employers recognise that they have a legal duty to eliminate any discrimination in the workplace, many remain worried about how to ensure a transgender employee has a positive experience of joining their workforce.

Ahead of London Pride week, Lisa Gillespie, HR services director at Moorepay, gives employers advice on what they should be doing to prepare their workplaces for transgender employees.

Awareness

Most employers already know that discrimination on the grounds of race, sex or disability is unlawful, but are they aware that treating a transgender person differently also constitutes discrimination? Unless a genuine occupational requirement exists, a worker’s gender status should be irrelevant to their job.

It goes without saying that to draw attention to the person’s status – regardless of intention behind it – constitutes to treating them differently.

Many employers are also unaware that they could already be employing individuals of undisclosed transgender. To be sure employees are integrated, equality and diversity policies and training must be implemented into an organisation’s culture.

Understanding the employee

The situation may be different if you have an employee who is transitioning as they will have to “live” as their chosen sex for between one or two years prior to having any surgery. This means that the person will come to work as their chosen gender. In most cases this is when employer support is key but it must be appropriate and led by the individual’s needs.

If an employee tells you they are undergoing gender-reassignment you should discuss how they want your support during it, for example:

  • Their preference for how they will be addressed – he or she for example and whether they are going to use a different name
  • Arrangements for toilet facilities. Bear in mind that for decades disabled toilets have tended to be unisex and that many hospitality outlets now have gender-neutral arrangements, as recommended by the charity Stonewall. You must not suggest using diabled toilets but if you do not have gender-neutral facilities you should establish the individual’s preference. All employers should try to become gender-neutral for workers and visitors.
  • It is up to the individual to tell you if they have concerns about how others will react but if they do not mention this simply let the person know you will provide any support they need.

We live in a diverse world and most employees will carry on without any reaction or change in their behaviour towards the individual. Undeniably there is a risk that employees may not behave in an acceptable way or act in a manner designed to make the individual and others uncomfortable.

Regardless of whether it is raised formally or not, if you are aware, you must act. Failing to do so can cause employers to be found vicariously liable for the actions of their employees.

If in doubt, always seek professional advice.

Ahead of London Pride 2018, Business Advice is publishing a series of articles celebrating the role of the LGBT+ community in UK workplaces and informing employers of best practice for inclusion.

Workplace transphobia: 1 in 3 employers won’t hire a transgender candidate

Do we still need a “business case” to promote LGBT+ inclusion in our workforces?

Pride 2018: Are these big brands LGBT+ allies or opportunists?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Carly Hacon is a reporter for Business Advice. She has a BA in journalism from Kingston University, and has previously worked as a features editor for a local newspaper.

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