Employers must accommodate transsexuals

Employers have been warned they must act sensitively and appropriately to transsexual or transgender employees, after a senior police manager informed staff that he would be returning to work as a woman.

Former superintendent Duncan Poulton is set to undergo sex-change surgery before returning to his current role as a civilian IT manager, and while the Greater Manchester Police force has been praised for its handling of the situation, it serves as a potent legal reminder to employers.

The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 protect employees from harassment or discrimination, providing transsexuals with a range of workplace rights.

David Gibson, a solicitor at law firm Dickinson Dees, said it was crucial that employers facilitate the individual’s return to work sensitively, while ensuring that other staff are aware of the seriousness of discrimination and harassment.

Many employers are probably unaware of their responsibilities, but Ben Willmott, employment relations adviser at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, warned that HR must handle the issue carefully.

“Initially, employers need to discuss how each case should be dealt with in consultation with the individual concerned,”
he said.

“There are many practical arrangements that need to be made, including changes to employment records and a review of equal opportunities policies to reflect the situation.”

He also advised companies to arrange training for colleagues on how they should deal with staff returning from gender reassignment procedures.

Government figures show there are around 5,000 post-operative transsexuals in the UK, although other sources suggest there are more than 35,000 people who are, or will be, transsexual.


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