Transgender employees – the latest hot topic in employment you should be prepared for
More people are making the decision to transition from one gender to another and making their decision public knowledge. As employers, you need to be fully prepared on how to handle such situations in the workplace.
Earlier this year, Primark lost a constructive dismissal case, where one of their retail assistants was harassed for being transgender. The employee was awarded compensation of more than £47,000 as a result of the store failing to deal with the matter appropriately.
Ensure your bullying/harassment and grievance policies are up to date. Perhaps introduce some form of policy on gender transitioning to act as a guide for all employees and managers on how to handle this situation. All of the above will help communicate to transgender employees what their rights are, how issues will be dealt with and that you take this subject seriously.
In recent months, we have helped a couple of our clients who were concerned about how to support their transgender employees. For one client, we helped to draft a transgender transition policy and procedure which they will be communicating and implementing soon. For another, we advised on what support they should be giving to an employee who is part way through their transition and is facing some ongoing personal issues.
Things to consider
Some of the more common issues companies seem to be facing are the changing of a person’s forename and the use of toilets.
A person changing their name with the Inland Revenue is a relatively easy process. There is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to make the process just as simple for your employee.
The toilet issue can be approached with common sense, depending on the situation. Don’t ask the employee to use the disabled toilet, unless they have requested a gender-neutral facility. This course of action is likely to lead to some form of legal action.
It’s important that the timeline of communication is driven by the employee who is transitioning. By working together, it’s likely to mean that announcements to colleagues and clients will be handled more smoothly.
Lead by example
Ensure you lead by example, by not discriminating against anyone who may be transgender. This includes during your recruitment process.
Provide a forum for people to be able to discuss any issues they may be facing. Do you have an employee assistance programme? If so, its 24/7 helpline will be able to offer additional external support if needed.
On a final note, make it very clear to all employees, managers and directors that you have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to dealing with anyone who acts or behaves in a discriminatory way. This would reflect badly on your company and its reputation and may also be dealt with as a criminal offence.