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Supporting trans employees in the workplace – ACAS Research

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Acas has now published a new research paper which advises employers on how to support trans and intersex employees in the workplace.  The paper covers the legal and policy issues when employing trans and intersex workers as well as provides guidance on what approach employers should take. It considers numerous case studies, explores the barriers and challenges, as well as provides suggestions for organisational change. So how can organisations better support trans employees? The key findings of this research singles out a number of factors that play a crucial role when creating an inclusive and legally compliant workplace.

Knowledge Deficit

Although over the recent years, the increased media focus has helped to bring gender identity issues into the limelight, the ACAS research reveals that many employers still demonstrate little understanding of trans and intersex issues and that the biggest barrier to an inclusive workplace is due to a knowledge deficit among employers. This gap was particularly evident in relation to people who do not identify with binary male or female gender roles, i.e. those who are gender non – conforming, gender non-binary or gender-fluid. The research paper advises that any policies should therefore make specific reference to trans or intersex employees and not treat gender identity as if it is the same as sexual orientation. Informative, good quality training is therefore crucial.

Appropriate policies

Robust, trans – specific policies play an important and crucial role.  The organisation should be inclusive and proactive when developing such policies. Their effectiveness may also be increased if attention is drawn to such policies and the actual implementation is monitored internally. As the organisational culture ordinarily comes from the top, it is also important that senior managers and HR advisers are informed and are on board with inclusive initiatives which provide for a better understanding amongst line managers on how to effectively support trans or intersex employees.  While having clear policies on trans-related issues can act as a guide on appropriate behaviour, it’s important not to underestimate the importance of good line management.  More high-quality diversity training should therefore be provided to HR professionals to improve their understanding of supporting trans employees. It may also be re-enforced by specifically setting out the clear approach of management when dealing with those who act contrary to those policies.

Personal Support

 A lot remains to be done for workplaces to become fully inclusive for trans and intersex employees.  Workplace bullying is common and many trans staff can experience this on a daily basis, either in a direct, indirect or even unintentional way with nonbinary people being particularly vulnerable to negative treatment in the workplace. Transition should therefore be ideally handled with the employee at the centre of the process with specific considerations to flexible working (i.e. in order to undergo treatment) data protection requirements and confidentiality issues such as who, when and how the transition of the employee should be disclosed to. Sensitivity and emotional intelligence are therefore just as important as an up to date legal knowledge and HR training to ensure that the implementation of the policies is effective.

 The Acas research paper on Supporting trans employees in the workplace, which can be found by CLICKING HERE, suggests some ways in which employers can start on doing this more effectively. ACAS guidance on Gender reassignment discrimination – key points for the workplace, which provides good practice advice for employers on how they can address the issues identified in this research can also be found by CLICKING HERE.

For more information on any of the above, or if you need advice on the policies, their implementation and/or training please do not hesitate to contact our Employment Department.

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