Supporting transgender and gender non-conforming workers is an important part of creating an inclusive workplace. However, 2021 statistics have shown that 65% of trans people surveyed hide their gender status or history at work, an increase from 2016 (52%).

We highlight some key things for HR teams to consider in relation to gender identity in the workplace and how to support trans and gender non-conforming workers.

Clear policy statements

You may already have an equality and diversity policy which outlines your commitment to providing equal opportunities for all job applicants and workers, and a zero-tolerance approach to discrimination. However, having a stand-alone policy covering gender identity and transitioning at work can help to reinforce your commitment to inclusivity and provide helpful information for all workers.

A policy on gender identity and transitioning at work can:

  • Be informative in terms of explaining terminology used and the correct use of names and pronouns;
  • Help to promote a culture where workers feel more able to discuss their gender identity at work;
  • Provide details of the specific support available for transgender and gender non-conforming workers, as well as informing workers how you will approach issues such as: time off, dress codes, toilet and changing facilities, employment records and confidentiality; and
  • Set out guidance to workers regarding acceptable actions and behaviours.

Workbox by Brodies has an example gender identity and transitioning at work policy which covers these key issues, amongst others.

Also consider reviewing your other HR policies and documents - such as your dress code policy, application forms, recruitment policy, equality and diversity policy and time off work policy - to ensure gender neutral language is used and that they are inclusive for transgender and gender non-conforming employees.

Effective training

To ensure your policies are implemented successfully, effective communication and training on the issues they cover will be key.

Whilst it's important to recognise that matters relating to gender identity, expression and transition are very personal and individual experiences will differ, effective training for managers and HR on gender diversity will be invaluable to ensure they are properly informed and well equipped to support workers. You could consider inviting a trans organisation to deliver a talk or training session.

It can also be beneficial to run training for all workers to increase awareness of gender diversity and trans issues in the workplace. In fact, 2021 statistics have shown 83% of trans people surveyed said "employee awareness of trans issues" was a key area for employers to improve on to make workplaces are more inclusive.

Signpost support available

Consider what support is in place for workers and ensure that it's well signposted.

Confidential employee assistance/counselling services can be helpful for those who do not wish to talk with their line manager/HR. You should also signpost any LGBTQIA+ networks or groups which your organisation has, or those run externally by others.

Prompt and effective action in response to allegations of harassment or discrimination

Statistics from this year show that 40% of trans people surveyed said that 'one of their biggest workplace concerns is colleagues expressing anti-trans opinions'. Therefore, ensure that you have appropriate procedures in place to allow prompt and effective action in response to allegations of harassment or discrimination by any worker based on gender identity.

It's important to remember that employers may be liable, subject to any 'reasonable steps' defence, for acts of discrimination and harassment by employees against their colleagues in the course of employment.