Yesterday I had a discussion with a client in the education sector about the support that is provided in both primary and secondary schools in respect of transgender pupils.
I realised times had certainly changed since I was at school and that led me to consider today’s workplace and the role of HR in supporting transgender people in employment.
The likelihood is that many workplaces will have a trans employee.
The definition of Trans is also very wide.
It includes those who have transitioned through medical interventions but it also includes people who may not identify with a particular gender.
We all recognise ‘trans’ as the T in LGBT which is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
That said, it is probably fair to say that trans individuals are less ‘familiar’ than other LGBT people which can mean some colleagues are less likely to understand them or even feel comfortable around them.
Such feelings can cause tensions and awkwardness in the workplace but this lack of understanding can spread much deeper, often causing barriers to recruitment, promotion and examples of bullying and harassment.
Trans employees can feel vulnerable and many feel the need to hide their identity from colleagues and recruiters for fear of discrimination.
Trans issues are being increasingly talked about in the media but how should we deal with it at work?
It’s about being prepared for the delicate initial discussions and being open and supportive.
Transitioning is a long process and can be plagued with medical procedures, counselling and cosmetic interventions.
Practically you need to consider how time off will be dealt with, for example as sick leave for certain aspects and holiday for others.
Practical considerations such as dress code, toilet use and changing email addresses and documentation also need to be planned thoughtfully.
But most importantly is how and when to communicate with colleagues and clients.
This is an area that must be agreed with the individual to ensure sensitivity.
On the subject of communication, we need to be mindful of workplace talk and that comments or conversations don’t escalate into hostility or harassment.
Essentially it’s about developing understanding and inclusivity.
We all want a culture where everyone is accepted for who they are and prejudices are eliminated.