How to become more inclusive to transgender employees

Beverley Sunderland is the Managing Director at Crossland Employment Solicitors.

In this feature, Beverley Sunderland, MD at Crossland Employment Solicitors, offers some straightforward advice to help employers become more inclusive of transgender employees.

Our recent research of 1,000 businesses across a range of sectors revealed not only a worrying lack of understanding of the law in relation to transgender workers but also the fact that many workplaces are not prepared, in terms of their policies and support systems, to welcome those workers who are transgender.

Given the skills shortage and the fact that millennials simply will not work for an employer which is not inclusive, then successful businesses need to start taking a long hard look at whether they are not only fit for purpose in terms of existing transgender workers, but actively encouraging transgender workers to come and work for them and bring their skills.

Stonewall’s research suggests that nearly half of transgender employees hide their gender identity in the workplace which, when coupled with the fact that our research showed at 74% of those questioned had never knowingly worked with a transgender person, indicates the size of the problem.

It is easy to understand why transgender employees may not want to be honest about their gender identity in the workplace given the disturbing findings of fact in the de Souza E Souza v Primark Stores tribunal case where the Claimant was ‘outed’ by a colleague who insisted on calling her ‘Alexander’ rather than ‘Alexandra’, publicly discussed how deep her voice was and sprayed perfume near her suggesting there was a smell of ‘men’s urine’. When the electrician needed to get into the ladies’ toilets he was advised that it was all clear as there were no ladies in there, despite the Claimant being in the toilets.

See also: Gender identity and the Equality Act with Beverley Sunderland

Clear policies on transgender employees

So, what can businesses do to try and make themselves more attractive to the talent pool of transgender employees? The starting point is having a policy which covers those who have recently transitioned and those who are contemplating changing their gender identity.

The policy should make it absolutely clear that there will be zero tolerance if any employee is found to have bullied or harassed a worker on grounds of their gender identity or the perception that they are undergoing a process – and this should be enforced without exception, no matter how senior the perpetrator.

Support systems

The policy should also cover those who are transitioning at work and put in place an official support system. This does not have to be anything complex or expensive but simply needs to give a worker a point of contact, a friendly face and an understanding ear, who they can talk to about the specific issues they are facing.

Educate

A lot of this is an education process because there is much misunderstanding – for instance, employers and employees believing that only those going through surgery are protected by the law. This is not the case. The law protects those who ‘are undergoing or have undergone a process or part of a process for the purpose of reassigning sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex’. Surgery is simply part of the journey and often one of the later steps. However, in our research, only 9% said that those who had not had the surgery should be protected, so education is key throughout a business.

One change that could also be considered is to introduce gender neutral toilets, although our research showed that 88% of those surveyed disagreed with the idea and so this may, initially, be an uphill battle for many employers.

There is no doubt that diverse and inclusive workplaces are the future for every business and those businesses that embrace transgender workers as part of their diversity will see greater success, happier staff and will become an employer of choice.

See also: Transphobia rife among UK employers