Last updated: 16th July 2022 at 18:39pm

Over recent years we have seen the need for a better understanding of trans employees within the workplace. There is often a lack of understanding and knowledge on how to support people who are experiencing this type of change.

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What is the correct terminology to use?

It is extremely important as an organisation that you remain compliant with employment law and use the correct terminology. It is easy to use terms which are out of date or offensive.

Here is some terminology you might find useful to know and understand:

  • Trans or Transgender – this is when someone doesn’t identify with the sex they were assigned at birth
  • Non–binary – someone doesn’t identify as either sex
  • Cisgender or Cis – when your identity matches the sex you were assigned at birth
  • LGBTQ+ – lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer plus non-straight gender identity
  • LGBTQIA – as above however I is intersex and A is A-sexual

Terms which are now considered outdated or offensive consist of:

  • Transexual
  • Transvestite
  • Crossdresser
  • Transgendered
  • Sex change surgery
  • Pre or post-operative
  • Identifies as male/female

One suggestion is to ask an individual within your workplace to understand s how they would like to be referred to.  This ensures that  you do not cause any offence and can offer guidance to your team on the correct pronouns to use (he / she / they etc)..

What does the law say?

Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. The act states that:

“A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex”

It is important to note that someone doesn’t actually have to be going through a medical treatment to be protected, just to have proposed to undergo gender reassignment.

As an employer, you must not directly or indirectly discriminate, harass or victimise an employee or job applicant due to gender reassignment. If you do not allow people to take time off to have counselling or medical appointments that could also be deemed as discrimination. One other thing to be mindful of is that if you have absence triggers, you may end up treating someone less favourably for absences relating to gender reassignment, so you may want to discount any hospital appointments from that process.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows a trans person (over the age of 18) to apply for legal recognition of their acquired gender once they have lived in their acquired life for two years and intend to continue for the rest of their life. On their passport though, it will still identify them as the gender they were born as.

Under the UK GDPR and Data Protection Act 2018 gender identity and reassignment will be a special category data and it is a criminal offence for someone in an official capacity, ie HR, who has acquired this information to disclose it to anyone else. There is no obligation for someone to tell you about their gender change.

Best practice approach

Establishing clear policies within your workplace and ensuring organisations take a zero-tolerance approach to transphobia is crucial. A total jobs poll found that more than half (54%) of trans employees surveyed, said their employer did not support their trans workforce through training, and only a third (36%) said their employer had dedicated anti-trans discrimination policies.

A lot of organisations are now carrying out valuable training for Equality, Diversion and Inclusion which helps keep workforces knowledgeable and it is important for retaining a diverse workforce. However, many organisations do not promote the great things they are doing externally, which is a missed opportunity to positively contribute to attracting a more diverse workforce. One thing organisations can do is use gender-neutral language on application forms, adverts, job descriptions.

Updating your handbook and policies to reflect neutral terms and even creating a Transgender policy can help provide a more inclusive working environment. It demonstrates a commitment from the organisation and its senior leaders to supporting transgender colleagues and shows they promote equal treatment and equality as core business values.

It is important to create a working environment where everyone can feel safe to be themselves, whomever that may be, allowing everyone to focus their efforts on delivering the organisation’s goals.

Practical steps to consider

There are some practical steps that you will also need to consider within the workplace. You may want to look at, where possible, offering gender-neutral facilities, whilst maintaining single-sex facilities for those who maybe uncomfortable using gender-neutral ones. It is important to remain as inclusive as possible. The ACAS guidance states that people should not be instructed to use a particular toilet.

Try to be pro-active and introduce training for staff to raise awareness of trans and non-binary experiences and to ensure you offer training for managers so they know how to respond appropriately and support any of their teams who might be seeking to transition.

You can look at the language you use within the workplace and try to encourage and promote the use of gender-neutral and inclusive language and degenderize the company dress code.

The more open as an organisation you can be, the more likely people are going to feel comfortable talking to you about it. Sadly, currently, very few people feel comfortable discussing this with their employer, so why not consider leading from the front?

If you need any help or advice or think your organisation would benefit with some Equality, Diversity and Inclusion training please feel free to contact a member of the MAD-HR Team