Transgender Day of Remembrance acts as a stark reminder of just some of the prejudice that transgender individuals face on a daily basis, and the same can be applied to other members of the LGBTQ+ community. According to LGBTQ+ charities more than 40% of lesbian, gay and bisexual people and almost 90% of transgender people have experienced discrimination, harassment, or mistreatment in employment.
Employers therefore have a part to play in battling this prejudice both in the workplace and in the wider society. There are some straightforward steps that employers can take to promote diversity in the workplace.
Boost understanding of transgender issues
Providing training for staff within the business to increase awareness of transgender issues will create an open workplace where staff will feel safe and encouraged to share problems they are facing. And it’s not just about reaching out to transgender members of staff. Engaging with staff who do not identify as transgender, including other members of the LGBTQ+ community and others is equally as important.
Whilst engagement applies across the workforce, particular attention should be paid to educating senior members of the workforce including directors, managers, and supervisors. It is often the case that more junior members of staff take their lead from senior colleagues. By making senior staff aware of potential transgender and/or LGBTQ+ issues and teaching them how to respond appropriately, this will signal to the wider workforce that the employer treats these issues seriously. This will further boost openness in the workforce whilst at the same time reduce the risk of discriminatory behaviour arising.
Take transgender discrimination seriously
Ensuring that you have a clear and visible statement on non-discrimination is a good starting point. However, it is important that employers go beyond that and ensure that staff understand what this actually means and how it works in practice.
All staff should be encouraged to challenge negative comments and jokes about LGBTQ+ people and issues. They should also be aware of how to report incidents of homophobic or transphobic abuse whether they are the victim or just otherwise have knowledge of it.
Think about how your policies and benefits packages apply to LGBTQ+ individuals
Reviewing your internal policies to ensure they are inclusive can assist in boosting a trans and LGBTQ+ friendly workplace. For example, certain policies can (and should) use gender neutral language, whilst others should be adapted to ensure they take into account LGBTQ+ members of staff. For example, compassionate leave policies should refer to partners and spouses, rather than husband and wife.
Think about practical steps you can take to make your workplace more LGBTQ+ friendly
There are some simple wins here which might include:
- Supporting Pride month or recognising international days (such as the international day of transgender remembrance) demonstrates that you are supportive of trans and LGBTQ+ members of your workforce;
- Listing pronouns alongside email signatures or on professional social media profiles encourages individuals not to make presumptions about gender;
- Establishing LGBTQ+ work committees to review internal policies and/or compliance with these policies allows employers to listen to what LGBTQ+ staff have to say and adapt accordingly.
Employers should also look at bigger, but often equally as important changes. For example, providing gender neutral uniforms where possible and making gender neutral toilet facilities available where they are reasonably able to do so.
Support transgender, non-binary and gender fluid employees
As can be seen in the figures at the start of this article, transgender employees are often most at risk of discriminatory treatment.
Some employers have separate transgender policies or statements which set out exactly how transgender issues should be dealt with and whilst this is not required, it is often useful. Transgender policies may cover areas such as gender pronouns; allowing time off during transition (ASOS have, for instance, recently announced that they provide transitioning employees with additional paid leave whilst they were transitioning); how to educate other members of staff on transgender matters and/or extending compassionate leave to allow staff to support a transitioning individual.
Otherwise, employers should ensure they have taken account of transgender employees in any internal policies they have.
Confidentiality and data protection
Employers should not share somebody’s sexual orientation or gender identity unless they either make clear that they consent to this, or they have another lawful reason to do so.
Confidentiality for transgender and LGBTQ+ individuals is sometimes about more than privacy and can be a matter of personal safety so these issues should be taken incredibly seriously.