Recruiting and Retaining Transgender Staff

Author: Daniella Magennis

On 26 November 2015, the Government Equalities Office issued guidance for employers on recruiting and retaining transgender employees. This new advice has been produced in collaboration with the UK’s leading inclusion and diversity experts, Inclusive Employers, who work with employers to achieve an inclusive culture in the workplace. Correspondingly, the recently published guide offers useful practical suggestions and ideas on how employers can implement new strategies in the running of their organisation to afford more consideration to transgender employee needs; thereby creating an ethos that engenders dignity to all workers, allows every member of staff to feel included and complies with the law.

Most employers are well aware of the importance of making staff members feel valued and the ensuing benefits this brings to their organisation. Employers want employees to feel part of an establishment where they can fulfil their potential without fears of exclusion or discrimination. Employers have much to gain from building an inclusive culture within their organisation. Not only does inclusion make for a more pleasant atmosphere at work and happier, more dedicated staff but there are also numerous commercial advantages for an organisation that opens itself up to the far wider pool of talent that becomes accessible once diversity is embraced and differing staff needs are catered to.

With a relatively small proportion of the population being transgender, there is a lack of awareness amongst employers on gender identity issues and often an organisation is ill-equipped to support people whose gender identity does not match the gender they were assigned at birth. The new guidance is designed to educate employers on how to help transgender staff and potential employees feel comfortable, respected and valued in the workplace. Although the advice contained in the government guide is aimed primarily at employers, managers of trans staff and trans employees themselves, the information will be of interest to those at all levels of an organisation who wish to increase their knowledge of issues that impact on trans people and who wish to promote a trans-friendly working environment.

Transitioning is the process that a trans individual may opt for in order to align their life and physical identity with their gender identity. The new guide refers to the common occurrence of trans people resigning from their jobs prior to transitioning for fear of the discrimination that they believe they will face if they continue on in the same workplace. After resigning from their place of work, trans people will often accept a lower paid job when returning to employment. An inclusive work culture would significantly reduce the incidence of this recurring scenario and in turn, employers would be saved from losing valued assets and expertise.

The guidance advises on various considerations in relation to the recruitment and retention of transgender people, including the following:

  • Making appropriate changes to job application forms;
  • Identifying a trans-friendly HR point of contact for trans job applicants and employees;
  • Responding appropriately should transgender related conversations arise at interview or during the recruitment process;
  • Creating a trusting, open relationship between a trans employee, their manager and HR in order to provide adequate support throughout the transitioning process;
  • Practical steps that need to be taken when a staff member transitions;
  • Bullying of transgender staff;
  • Maintaining anonymity by keeping personal employee records (past and present) confidential;
  • Providing references for trans employees; and
  • Retention strategies including clear policy statement regarding the organisation’s inclusive approach, consistent leadership to help everyone respond supportively to transition, equal opportunities when it comes to training and development and identifying trans “champions” on the senior management team to incite a wider awareness of gender identity issues and push for a more trans-inclusive workplace.

The final part of the guidance outlines and explains the legislation that is currently in force to protect transgender people. First discussed is the Equality Act 2010 which affords protection from discrimination to people who are proposing to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning their sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex. A definition of each class of discriminatory treatment caught under the 2010 Act is then given with an example of how that particular type of discrimination may arise and affect a transgender individual in the workplace, allowing employers to easily recognise and relate to the types of circumstances they need to be alert to.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is the second piece of legislation that is explained in the guidance. This Act enables transgender people, over the age of 18, to change their legal gender and entitles them to a new birth certificate. Aside from wanting to offer a pleasant, fulfilling environment to all employees, it is imperative for employers to be familiar with the law surrounding transgender people in the workplace in order to ensure their organisation is legally compliant.

The guidance is supplemented with a full glossary of terms used in relation to transgender people and transgender issues. Getting acquainted with these terms and their meanings and using the extensive list of organisations and websites listed at the end of the guide should prove useful to employers as they begin their research and develop their knowledge on this sensitive topic. The ‘Action Plan Template’ is another very handy addition to the guide. This helpful tool provides an excellent base on which an employer can build a personalised plan for any trans employees who wish to transition.

If you would like guidance on changes you can implement to make your organisation more trans-inclusive, such as updating your ‘Dignity at Work’ policy, or indeed if you have more specific employment queries relating to transgender employees, please contact Nicola O’Dwyer by telephone on 01483 411516 or email: n.o’[email protected]. Alternatively, speak to another member of our Employment team.