In recognition of International Transgender Day of Visibility – March 31st – the MAD-HR team have been reflecting on some of the key points employers need to know in regards to gender identity, discrimination, and a genuine culture of compassionate fairness.

Across the worlds of business, education, faith groups and the military, issues pertaining to gender identity and scope for discrimination, are now seeing far greater awareness.

In the eyes of the law, all employers have obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

This lists both sexual orientation and gender reassignment as ‘protected characteristics’.

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This, in the simplest of terms, means it would be illegal to discriminate or disadvantage an applicant or employee on the grounds of either their sexual orientation, or because they are ‘trans’.

There is of course, so much more at stake than a mere legal obligation. Indeed, every employer should, as a matter of course, feel a duty of care to all persons applying for, or working within their company.

They might also consider the overwhelming reputational impact – internally and externally – of choosing to flout, compromise or blatantly ignore issues regarding gender identity.

Sadly, the picture isn’t a particularly rosy one UK-wide when it comes to employer attitudes to gender identity and inclusion.

A study by YouGov released this time last year showed that two-thirds of transgender employees felt it necessary to hide their trans status at work, and at least a third had experienced discrimination in the workplace.

Equally telling is a CIPD report, which points to 55% of trans workers having experienced workplace conflict, and one in five saying they felt psychologically unsafe at work.

When it comes to the letter of the law, there is no absolute obligation for an HR professional or in-house team to have created a written inclusion and diversity policy for a business, however, we at MAD-HR would very much suggest that this is a priority step.

This not only sets a statement of intent from the perspective of your wider company, but it also acts as a prompt to also staff, as to what is and is not tolerated.

So what else might you need to consider?

  • Review your recruitment and selection processes, being careful to consider wording of any advertisements, recruitment material and onboarding matters. It is to your benefit to seek to attract candidates from a diverse array of backgrounds, and it is vital to ensure that all those participating in selection processes have a thorough understanding of matters of equality and discrimination.
  • Set the culture. This sounds obvious and perhaps ‘broad brush’, however there are measures you can put in place company wide in an effort to ensure that your entire company (bottom up and top down) is acting responsibly and appropriately at all times. Think about having a person responsible for matters of inclusivity, and perhaps a representative of the LGBTQ+ community, to contribute in appropriate areas of decision making and discussion. Explore what publications are used across the company and what language is within those. Question what you do as ‘culture’ which may inadvertently discriminate.
  • Assess all your policies and procedures to ensure that these fairly take into account issues of diversity and gender identity as well as gender neutral terms.
  • Have a clear reporting process in place for when someone feels bullied or mistreated, or recognises actions or dialogue which appear to be discriminatory. Know your sequence of response in the case of someone being dissatisfied, and be sure that you are able to act swiftly and appropriately.
  • Deliver training and educational activity to encourage all staff – including managers – to learn and understand issues pertaining to gender identity. Consider seeking inputs from external charities or organisations who may be able to deliver fresh perspectives and resource.
  • Consistently communicate updates around policies and encourage feedback.
  • Use additional guidance to help you formulate specific frameworks for managing where an employee is transitioning during their period of employment.
  • Allow first-person lived experience to be shared with you, and act upon what you hear. It’s the best source of information you’ll get.

If you need help developing appropriate policies and guidelines or would like help in identifying training contributors from diversity charities or other organisations, please feel free to contact the MAD-HR team.

Do regularly use our resources and updates as a way of staying up to date on changes in respect of the Equality Act, and to hear about recent cases in law.