The issue of treatment towards transgender employees has long been a controversial one in employment law. Until recently there was no defining notion of how transgender concerns should be handled by employers, but now, as transgender issues are becoming ever more vocal in UK society, government guidance is reflecting this.
Nicky Morgan, the UK Minister for Women and Equalities, has revealed the release of two new legal documents that provide employer guidelines on how transgender employees should be treated. The first document is known as ‘The recruitment and retention of transgender staff’, and the second is named ‘Providing services for transgender customers‘
Working together these two guides are intended to give businesses the information they need to assist with the recruitment and training of transgender employees, as well as provide helpful advice regarding common problems that transgender employees face.
Ms Morgan also spoke of the prejudice individuals experience in UK workplaces: “Many transgender people still face discrimination in the workplace, as well as in their day-to-day lives. The guidance for employers and service providers we are publishing today is an important step towards helping improve knowledge and understanding to ensure all members of our society can live their lives free from discrimination”
Every complicated aspect of gender is explored across the two reports which define gender reassignment as “when a person takes steps to alter the outward expression of their gender so that it is better aligns with sense of who they are”.
Employers are also advised that it will not always be possible to identify an individual’s gender simply by their appearance and voice.
To better understand the content of the new documents, here is a brief overview of each report.
Providing Services For Transgender Customers
The guidelines that comprise the Providing Services For Transgender Customers guide is intended to “set the atmosphere and culture” for transgender employees in the workplace. This cultural assistance is broad and ranges from helping with physical comfort at work to appropriate verbal and written forms of identification for employees.
The guide explains the rationale for such changes: “Our different backgrounds, experience and perspectives mean we think about issues in different ways, see new solutions and opportunities to improve”.
Several renowned UK employers have already expressed support for the new guidelines, including British supermarkets like Sainsburys and Asda as well as international restaurants like MacDonalds. This guide also highlights the problems discrimination against individuals can have for the function of a workforce: “If barriers exist to the recruitment and retention of transgender staff, employers miss out on this potential.”
The report explains that companies which adopt policies supporting transgender lifestyles will be far less likely to receive public complaints and will also make legal action against businesses by transgender people less likely.
Employers are urged to ensure transgender employees are protected from members of the public as well as fellow staff if the job they perform involves customer service. Businesses that find employees experiencing hateful actions by the public have a duty to prevent these actions as much as possible, with legal assistance if necessary.
The Recruitment and Recognition of Transgender Staff
The second report known as “The Recruitment and Recognition of Transgender Staff” is intended to guarantee that transgender employees already in employment receive the best possible assistance with their concerns. Employers are advised to conduct regular checks in order to ensure that their business is meeting the needs of all transgender employees
Interestingly the report does not suggest that changes be made for the convenience of a transgender employee if the individual and/or employer feel the change will have the effect of isolating the employee from their colleagues and potentially hinder how they are perceived at work. The guide urges fair treatment without the introduction of changes that anticipate issues of offence which may harm career opportunities. The guide sums this up by stating that employers should “be mindful of issues that can arise, but don’t expect there to be problems”.