Society has seen a shift whereby it has become more acceptable for people to live as their authentic selves. There are approximately 200,000-500,000 trans people in the UK today. As an employer, if you happen to have a transgender employee, chances are you’ll find it difficult to understand what they are experiencing.
That’s why it’s absolutely crucial is to approach the issues with compassion and an open mind. Furthermore, you have a legal as well as moral obligation to do so. The Equality Act 2010 makes it unlawful to discriminate against or treat someone unfairly because of gender reassignment.
Adaptions at work for trans-employees must be put in place to ensure that your office is a functional, productive and equal place. For example, having gender-neutral toilets or allowing employees to use whichever bathroom that feels most natural to them is a simple yet effective method of creating a comfortable work environment.
Removing a gender definitive dress code will also allow for employees to more comfortably identify themselves as they wish.
Do not make their transition a spectacle
It is important to refer to your employees in the gender pronouns they wish to attach themselves too. This unsurprisingly is not a difficult task, the simple conversion from he to her or even they could be the difference between a trans-employee being happy and comfortable in your office, to leaving the business altogether.
Consult with them and talk things through
Refrain from the temptation to make an announcement at the next team meeting regarding an employee’s gender reassignment. It is important to be aware of “outing” someone and this can be classified as discrimination in a court of law.
You should only refer to a person as transgender if you have the permission to do so by them. Always consult the person first and ensure you have absolute clarity on how they want to announce their transition to the workforce.
Whether this takes place via a private meeting or a telephone call is up to you – just ensure lines of communication are open between yourself and the person, and that their rights are adhered to.
Get the correct policies in place
Almost a third of non-binary people and one in five trans-people don’t feel able to wear work attire representing their gender expression.
Create a dress code that does not restrict employees in this way. Remember what employees wear and how they choose to dress shouldn’t really affect their productivity.
Fewer than half of LGBT staff agree that there are equalities policies in place to protect trans-people at work.
Watch out for in-house bullying
Transgender harassment in the workplace is often a common concern for employers looking to lead a truly inclusive workforce.
More than a third of LGBT staff have hidden or disguised that they are LGBT at work in the last year because they were afraid of discrimination. Many LGBT staff experience derogatory remarks from colleagues and customers and are actively excluded by their peers. Some are even denied a job or promotion because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
All my work colleagues got notified about my transition on Facebook, so I accidentally came out to everybody at work. When I came into the office the next day, everyone was talking about it. My director took me to one side and asked how I wanted to proceed – he let me take the lead on it. He asked me to write an email addressing my transition, things like my new name and pronouns. By the end of the day, our IT people had updated my name and email address on our systems and colleagues were supportive.” – Mikaela’
While it can feel like you are making productive changes in the workplace, it is crucial to be aware that many people still hold prejudice towards things they don’t understand. As an employer, you have a responsibility to mould a work environment where everyone feels welcome.
Trans-employees are often made to feel guilty or even narcissistic due to their choice to change their identity – holding a fear that they will disrupt the smooth runnings of the office. However, the fundamental right for people to express themselves freely should overrule any mild discomfort any external parties experience.
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