16 November is International Tolerance Day; a moment to reflect on what employers can do to understand the needs of their trans and non-binary members of staff.
Trans and non-binary issues are one of the fastest-developing areas of law in many places around the world. With more and more countries introducing third legal gender options, and increasing awareness of (and press attention on) trans and non-binary issues, it's critical that employers bear in mind the needs and rights of their trans employees.
We do recognise that the position is not the same for all countries in our global alliance and that the positive steps set out in this article may not currently be consistent with the law and/or current practice in some countries. However, in publishing this article today, we embrace the spirit of celebrating diversity and tolerance on International Tolerance Day.
We use the word ‘trans' in this article to refer to individuals whose gender identity differs from the one they were assigned at birth. Such individuals may choose to undergo social or medical transition (or parts of transition) so that their lived gender matches their internal gender identity. In many countries, trans employees are protected against discrimination. Trans people's gender can be binary (e.g. trans men and trans women) or non-binary.
Non-binary is a term describing gender identities which do not fit exclusively within male or female. Some non-binary individuals identify their gender as purely non-binary; others may have a gender which blends elements of being a woman or man. Some people don't identify with any gender, and others' gender changes over time. As one of the less well-understood communities under the LGBT+ umbrella, non-binary individuals may be particularly vulnerable to discrimination – including from within the LGBT+ community itself. According to studies such as Stonewall's LGBT in Britain Work Report in 2018, over a third of non-binary people in the UK (37%) were not open about their status at work.
There are plenty of positive steps employers can take to make sure their workplaces are inclusive of trans and non-binary employees.
- If your employee records include gender options, simple steps like making provision for diverse gender options – not just ‘male' or ‘female' – are a good start towards creating a more inclusive workplace. Consider your onboarding processes, and your internal systems. Bear in mind that some employees (with documents from countries where legal third gender options exist) may only have a non-binary identity document and in many countries, there is a restriction on recording any information related to certain protected criteria.
- Pronouns: many employers encourage, but don't require, employees to share their pronouns, for example in their email signatures. This helps to normalise the conversation around gender and discourage assumptions about colleagues' identities. It can also help to avoid discomfort for trans employees, as well as making life easier for employees with ‘gender neutral' or less common names.
- Internal policies should be worded considerately. For example, parental policies should bear in mind that employees who take particular kinds of leave may not necessarily identify with a particular gender identity: for example, not all employees who take ‘paternity' leave will be men. Employers should carefully consider how to cover trans employees in relevant policies, specifically including non-binary employees. For example, dignity at work and DEI policies should include examples of transphobic harassment.
- Facilities can be a key point of consideration for trans and non-binary inclusion. If you can, having at least some gender-inclusive toilets (e.g. single occupancy toilets can be designated as gender neutral) will make your facilities accessible to employees of all genders, including non-binary employees.
- Dress codes can be worded neutrally, rather than having separate codes for men and women. This may help avoid a host of issues, including not just the exclusion of non-binary employees but also potential claims of sex discrimination.
- Establishing internal employee networks with trans representation, and consulting with them on your approach to trans and non-binary issues.
- Health Insurance: consider whether medical costs relating to transition are/could be covered by your health insurance offering. This may be particularly relevant in jurisdictions where they would not be covered by the national health service.
- Training for employees – in particular line managers – can help to reduce issues in the workplace for trans and non-binary employees. This might include internal guidelines on how to support trans and non-binary employees. Bear in mind that some line managers may not have previous personal experience of supporting trans and non-binary people, so training may be critical to ensuring a situation is handled well.
- Employers could also make a positive statement by marking days like Non-binary People's Day (14 July) and Trans Day of Visibility (31 March).
While this article focuses on trans and non-binary inclusion in the workplace, the themes can be carried across to other groups of your workforce. For example, when considering your policies, take into account the wider LGBT+ community, your disabled employees, and employees of colour (for example). Making facilities more inclusive has benefits that go beyond trans and non-binary inclusion: privacy, for example.
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The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.