The importance of a trans-inclusive workplace

Written by
John Salt

09 Aug 2016

09 Aug 2016 • by John Salt

Our 2016 trans employee survey found that 55% of trans employees felt their employer did not promote equality for trans people with 50% of trans employees surveyed also feeling that company policy demonstrated a tolerance of discrimination. 

Among the many challenges that face trans people, the workplace can still be a very daunting prospect. Be it for someone who is transitioning while remaining in their current job or for someone applying for a new job; the fear of discrimination or bullying in the workplace is very real for trans people. 

Focusing on supportive and inclusive policies is the key to avoiding the discrimination of trans people in the workplace starting with the HR policies and making sure that this is practiced not only by managers but by all employees. 

Everybody has the right to feel comfortable and safe in their place of employment and trans people no exception.

An employee has just informed me they are transitioning, what now?

Firstly, an understanding of trans people is needed, a transgender person isn't someone who wishes to switch genders, they are a person who feels that they were born in the wrong body, This is a difficult and very challenging time for anybody who feels this way to take the plunge and make the transition. 

This is a huge change for someone to go through, it’s not only the clothes and name change but there is often surgery and hormones that go along with the full trans process which means that your employee will need to attend hospital appointments and may need time off to attend. There will also be social challenges, coupled with the fear of rejection by colleagues.

Being able to offer support to your employee in an empathetic and sincere manner will ultimately lead to your employee feeling happier and more confident at work. 

“After an initial email 'coming out' post-interview, both HR and line management were very careful to ensure everything was handled in a sensitive yet thorough manner. They facilitated an initial meeting to ensure we could discuss what would be best for me, and what specific support/guidance/reasonable adjustments I required - not just to complete the social and medical aspects of my transition, but also to handle practicalities such as coming out to colleagues, service users, which toilets to use etc. They later made all toilets gender neutral.” - Anon

Coming out to colleagues can often be a difficult part of transitioning once your employee has made their decision so it’s important that colleagues and managers support the employee if a complaint of discrimination is made. To many people transgender status is a ‘grey area’, however, the law is very clear, this is discrimination.

Recruiting a trans employee

“I was turned down for a job as the employer was worried about what customers might think.”

Ensuring that your recruitment process matches your inclusive policy is another very important issue. While our survey shows that 71% of trans people reported no discrimination when applying for roles, that leaves 29% of people who have suffered discrimination during an interview. 

A trans employee has the same rights as anybody else and should be assessed on their ability to perform their job. 

Some 38% of trans people surveyed had at some stage experienced discrimination from a colleague in the workplace our survey showed further 25% received similar treatment from managers. The survey also shows an additional 36% of people who have left a job because the workplace was unwelcoming. 

“Being asked personal and offensive questions like, but what's your actual name though? so have you had the 'snip' yet? hold on. If your girlfriend is Trans too aren't you both just gay men? so which toilets do you use? so do you fancy any of the guys at work?...but you're gay right? really? you can't think you're a woman, you're a you're a man!”

We also found that half of the people we surveyed felt the need to hide their status from their employer or work colleagues for fear of discrimination although our survey showed that only 10% of trans employees had received a negative reaction after disclosing their trans status. 

The survey highlighted the main reasons for trans people not disclosing at work were a lack of support, fear of discrimination, lack of awareness in the workplace and the fear of rejection. 

Stonewall offer a wealth of information about how to make sure that your policies are trans inclusive which can be found here. Additional information can also be found at GIRES which provides information on supporting black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) trans people and the specific issues that they face. 

Our results show that the best ways to dampen the fears of the transgender employee are simple, inclusion, support, understanding and education.