Trans-forming the workplace
As you may already know, I am passionate about creating workplaces where all people can thrive. That opportunity is created by great leadership. Here I ask you to consider what you understand by gender equality. It has become more than just a question of equal pay and opportunities. We are becoming increasingly aware of gender identity, which is not as simple as male or female.
Yesterday I worked with a client who was incredibly anxious about disclosing that he is transgender, born into a man’s body but identifying more with being female. He texted me afterwards to thank me and comment that:
It’s been bubbling in the background for more than 20 years… a feeling that has been semi-destructive. There has been nothing more difficult than embracing being trans.
How aware are you about which gender your colleagues identify with? We may think it’s obvious but my client has been great at masking his identity and to this date, only 3 people know – none of them from work.
Transgender describes people who have a gender identity or gender expression that differs from their sex assigned at birth. Acas head of equality, Julie Dennis, said: “Trans people are better supported in UK workplaces now compared to 20 years ago but we still have a long way to go to create a positive environment for those who identify as the ‘T’ in LGBT.” Despite the UK providing one of the highest degrees of liberty in the world for its LGBT communities (ILGA-Europe),
- More than a third of LGBT staff (35 per cent) have hidden that they are LGBT at work for fear of discrimination.
- Almost one in five LGBT staff (18 per cent) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because they’re LGBT.
- One in eight trans people (12 per cent) have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the last year because of being trans.
Issues faced by trans employees at work include a lack of understanding, prejudice, confidentiality issues and access to facilities and dress codes but to name a few. Acas and Stonewall make numerous suggestions and have great resources to manage gender identity issues and support diversity in the workplace.
Like any good inclusive practice, to support an employee with specific needs, it’s crucial to agree on an individual and flexible plan with them. This should include who is told and under what circumstances, when and how records will be updated and changes to working arrangements. Recommendations for best practice from Acas included:
- Do not disclose an employee’s gender identity without their consent apart from in exception set out in law.
- Ensure there are clear protocols for data management to avoid any non-consensual disclosure.
- Provide managers with good quality diversity and inclusion training.
- All trans employees should be treated fairly irrespective of whether their gender identity is protected by the Equality Act 2010.
- Employers should consider how to raise awareness of trans issues and encourage the use of LGBT champions.
Workplace openness and discussions are essential to answer the questions that some employees may have about gender diversity and what they can do to be more inclusive. It’s about creating a culture where everyone feels safe to share issues as well as any possible solutions.
How does your workplace support inclusion for trans employees? Do you have a policy that is reflected in practice? A failure to protect such employees from bullying and harassment in the workplace may lead to constructive unfair dismissal claims. But importantly, it’s about your company doing the right thing to create a team environment that is safe, where each employee has their physical and emotional needs met to create a culture of inclusivity. When you establish an atmosphere where employees of all genders are comfortable and able to thrive, you also maintain a competitive edge.
I urge you not to dismiss this article as possibly irrelevant to your organisation. Do you really know? How do you know? Unless you get the culture right, you can’t expect employees to trust you enough to be open. Get people right, get business right.
My client has recently changed job and now works as part of the University of Oxford where already he has noticed posters for LGBT events. His excitement was tangible yesterday as he moves closer towards being able to express himself as he chooses. I’m excited to be part of his journey!
For more information, go to Acas.org.uk; stonewall.org.uk; Human Rights Campaign (HRC) or get in touch with me.