Is your business trans-friendly? Many business owners wouldn’t actually be able to answer that question with certainty, and although many of them would undoubtedly be supportive of a transitioning employee, they haven’t considered what transgender issues actually are, and how to make their business trans-friendly.
Often employers only take action when someone actually approaches them to say they are transitioning. Whilst responding to that with a programme of actions and support is obviously a good thing, wouldn’t it be better if you had considered transgender issues earlier on, and taken steps to create a workplace which is trans-friendly?
Here are some of the key issues transgender people face in the workplace. Being aware of these will help you address them, and make sure your business is trans-friendly.
One of the key issues faced by transgender employees is ignorance in the workplace. Many of your staff will have very little knowledge of what being transgender involves, of what terminology is and isn’t acceptable to use, what is involved in transition, how they should support transitioning colleagues. Many of the problems transgender employees face could be addressed or prevented with some education/training for employees on the various transgender issues and on creating and ‘living’ an inclusive workplace.
Bullying and harassment
Many transgender people suffer bullying and harassment in the workplace. Whilst it is obviously your responsibility to prevent bullying and harassment of anyone, consideration should be given to specifically vulnerable employees, and this includes transgender staff. Having a bullying and harassment/dignity at work policy is good, but consider ensuring it specifically states what kind of behaviour could be considered harassment of a transgender employee, or consider a separate policy to make this clear.
If there is any bullying and harassment, make sure you address it promptly and effectively, and take steps to avoid a recurrence. If the employee feels vulnerable to bullying because of the specific role they are in, for example if they work with the general public, redeployment might be something you need to consider.
Practicalities in the workplace
Common practical issues faced by transgender employees include access to toilet and changing facilities, dress code or uniform difficulties, when to inform people about a transition and what to tell them. There are also concerns around things like name changes and changes in which pronoun to use.
When it comes to the practical issues, the best thing you can do as an employer is take the lead of the employee who is transitioning in terms of how they want to handle it. Consider also seeking external advice, perhaps from an organisation working in support of transgender issues.
Employees are specifically protected under the Equality Act 2010 from less favourable treatment on the basis that they are planning to transition, are transitioning or have transitioned gender. Discrimination frequently arises from ignorance not malice, however obviously this doesn’t make it any more acceptable.
The best thing you can do to protect your business against a discrimination claim on the basis of gender reassignment is to educate yourself, your managers and your workforce on the issue. Take advice on the legal rights of those going through transition to ensure you meet your obligations, and ensure managers and employees alike have all the information and knowledge they need about what behaviour/terminology/actions are and are not acceptable.
Policies and procedures
Another issue transgender employees frequently encounter is that the employment framework at their workplace has not been developed with transgender employees in mind. Written policies and procedures, or general operating processes and ways of working, language used in documentation and support available are all frequently not trans-friendly.
A review of your employment documentation with transgender issues specifically in mind might go a long way towards making your business trans-friendly.
If you want some support making your business trans-friendly, do get in touch.