Non-binary and transgender employees often experience a range of problems in the workplace, including difficulty in gaining and retaining employment, discrimination and harassment, a lack of awareness about gender identity, prejudice and an absence of effective confidentiality procedures. What steps can HR take to ensure that they feel supported at work and are able to be themselves?
Further transgender equality resources
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1. Use the correct terminology around gender identity
The correct use of terminology is essential to communicate respect and to create a space for dialogue for non-binary and transgender experiences.
Employers should adopt gender-neutral language, where possible.
Where transgender employees express a preference regarding terminology, the employer should respect their wishes.
2. Take steps to create an inclusive workplace
Employers should take proactive action to encourage inclusivity rather than waiting for an issue to arise.
An inclusive workplace is one where all employees are recognised, valued and supported, regardless of their gender identity, and where barriers that prevent people from feeling respected and being treated fairly are removed.
Board members and senior managers who show visible commitment to creating an inclusive workplace for all employees, regardless of their gender identity, help demonstrate that equal treatment and fairness are core business values.
In addition, employers should:
- regularly review policies and procedures to ensure that they are bias free and do not disadvantage individuals because of their gender identity by making cisnormative assumptions or using outdated language;
- provide guidance for managers and employees to support employees who are transitioning;
- include gender identity in equality and inclusion-awareness training to enable employees to support non-binary and transgender colleagues; and
- establish procedures on handling confidential information and train employees who are likely to receive such information on these procedures.
- Supporting non-binary and transgender employees: more on guidance
- Supporting non-binary and transgender employees: more on inclusive policies
3. Provide support to a transitioning employee
“The fear or experience of transphobic bullying and harassment is one of the most significant barriers to achieving transgender equality in the workplace” – Shelagh Prosser, author of guidance on supporting non-binary and transgender employees
The employer should ensure that it is the individual who is transitioning who leads the process – the employer should not take any action without the employee’s consent.
It can agree a confidential plan of action with the employee and hold regular review meetings to help both parties manage expectations and anticipate issues and address them as they arise.
Use the name and pronouns that the employee who is transitioning has asked to be used and take all necessary steps to ensure that someone’s change of name is respected, including by making appropriate changes to the employee’s personnel records.
There should be a discussion with an employee who is transitioning who will be told, when this will happen and in what way. Equally, if an employee is not ready to tell anyone at the early stages, the employer should respect that decision.
Absence management policies and procedures should set out how absences for gender reassignment will be handled and time off for gender reassignment treatment should be treated separately from sickness absence to ensure that time off for this purpose does not get included in absent management “triggers”.
The employer should make a clear statement that bullying and harassment of employees because of their gender identity will not be tolerated and adopt a robust procedure to deal with complaints of bullying or harassment.
- Supporting non-binary and transgender employees: more on informing colleagues
- Supporting non-binary and transgender employees: more on bullying and harassment
4. Implement inclusive recruitment practices
Employers should ensure that their website and recruitment packs demonstrate that they are an inclusive employer and welcome applications from a diverse range of candidates, regardless of gender identity.
Job advertisements should clarify that opportunities are open to all suitably qualified applicants. If this statement makes explicit reference to not discriminating on particular grounds, these should include gender reassignment.
Questions on sex, gender, and/or previous names in application forms and CVs should be removed, unless such questions can be objectively justified.
It is important to train all hiring managers involved in interviewing candidates on appropriate interviewing conduct and fair selection.
Ensuring that a criminal records check does not deter transgender applicants
“The Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) offers a confidential checking process, which is available for all levels of DBS check. This gives someone who has transitioned the choice as to whether their previous gender identity should be disclosed on their certificate. If applicants decide that they do not wish their previous identity to be disclosed, they should contact the DBS sensitive applications team, which will advise them on what to do. This process does not compromise the robustness of the DBS process.”