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How to support transgender people in the workplace

Understanding people giving support to depressed crying african woman at group psychological treatment, free space
Understanding people giving support to depressed crying african woman at group psychological treatment, free space

It is not an easy time to be trans in the workplace. Earlier this year, research by Totaljobs found that 43% of trans employees have quit a job because their work environment was unwelcoming.

Of the 400 people surveyed, nearly two thirds (65%) said they’ve had to hide their trans status at work. Common forms of bullying or insults include 'deadnaming' - where someone is deliberately called by a former name - or colleagues purposefully using the wrong pronouns.

Some employers are making a conscious effort to better support their workers, however. Recently, commercial motor insurance provider Zego announced it had introduced a workplace policy to protect trans and non-binary staff from discrimination and mistreatment.

The policy includes a commitment to providing unisex facilities, the freedom to express oneself through no dress code, plus, unlimited therapy sessions for a minimum of six months, and paid leave to support any member of staff pursuing medical transition. The company will also allow employees to form their own personalised transition plan too.

“This policy enshrines our inclusive beliefs and commitment to the trans and non-binary community and is an important milestone in the company’s history,” says Kingsley Macy, chief people officer at Zego.

“We are very pleased to be one of the few companies to offer such a policy and we will be working very closely with our employees behind the scenes to ensure that they are all fully up to speed on the policy,” adds Macy.

“Diversity and inclusion have been essential ingredients in Zego’s story and our success to date which has helped us to approach age-old problems in new ways. I hope this encourages other companies to follow suit.”

In recent years, an increasing number of prominent companies are offering specific support and benefits to transgender and non-binary employees. Back in 2011, Coca Cola began to offer transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage. Facebook, Netflix and Tesla are among the latest to offer specific benefits, such as covering the cost of treatments related to gender transitioning or sex reassignment, including hormone therapy.

Other UK firms have taken steps to make their workplaces more inclusive too. The law firm Pinsent Masons has rolled out training for HR and front of house staff and introduced an option for employees and clients to use the gender-neutral Mx title.

However, not all companies offer their transgender and non-binary employees support and protection against discrimination. So what legal rights do people have in the workplace?

Transgender people are currently protected by two key pieces of legislation – The Equality Act 2010 (EA) and the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (GRA).

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“The EA prohibits discrimination in employment on the grounds of gender reassignment, i.e., for those proposing to undergo, undergoing or who have under a process to reassign their sex,” says Anita Vadgama, legal director at Didlaw.

“This therefore does not mean that a person has had to have medical intervention to be protected. The EA gives transgender people protection from direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.”

The GRA allows people to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) to legally change their gender, once they have acquired gender for two consecutive years and intend to continue living as their acquired gender for the rest of their lives.

“The types of unlawful discrimination that they would be protected from include direct - unreasonably demanding someone not to be transgender, as well as indirect – where transgender people are principally disadvantaged by a provision or some criteria which applies to everyone:

Other types of discrimination people are protected against include:

  • By perception – where you think someone is transgender, and you single out against them because of it, but they are not transgender.

  • By association – if you single out a person because of someone they mix with, or who has an association with, transgender people.

  • Harassment – where you act in a way that violates the dignity of another person or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for that person because they are transgender.

  • Victimisation – it is unlawful to discriminate against a transgender person because they have used the provisions of the legislation or have helped someone else to do so.

If you believe you are being discriminated against because of your gender identity, there are several steps you can take. Make sure you write down what happened and when, so you have a record of the incidents.

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“If a person feels that they are being discriminated against in the workplace, then they should try and raise a complaint - whether formal or informal - under the company’s grievance and/or bullying and harassment procedures,” Vadgama says. “If that does not resolve the issues, then the person can bring a claim in the Employment Tribunal within three months of the act of discrimination, harassment or victimisation.”

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