Following on from our previous blog about transgender staff, we now look at how to deal with employees undergoing gender reassignment. Some employers don’t realise that it’s not enough just to cater for one group covered by the acronym LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people). Different groups can have very different needs.
Employers need a diversity policy which is visible to all employees. Reference it in workplace memos or emails so that people remember it’s there. Staff need to know that you take your equality policy seriously. Giving employees a clear contact point in case they have concerns that the policy may be being violated is important. Measures also need to be in place to protect whistle-blowers to show that discrimination and harassment will not be tolerated.
Research shows that transgender people face harassment all the time and it can be very damaging. It’s important to investigate all complaints. If the bullying or harassment stems from ignorance, training could help. However, problems won’t go away by themselves and transgender employees are entitled to their employer’s protection.
How To Deal With Employees Undergoing Gender Reassignment
Making transgender people feel welcome in the workplace isn’t just about avoiding words or comments that might cause distress. Employers can make a proactive effort to be inclusive by:
- Using terms other than “he” or “she” or one that an individual prefers. Ask them how they wish to be addressed.
- Try using none gender language that is neither masculine or feminine such as them, their and they.
- Making sure that data systems don’t make mistakes with pronouns, titles or old names.
- Avoiding unnecessary use of gendered language, like saying “people” instead of men and women.
If an employee plans to have gender reassignment surgery they are going to need time off work. Treating this in the same sensitive way as any other employee needing time off for health-related issues is important. Occasional time off may also be needed for appointments to manage hormone treatment. Transgender people may experience mood swings and intensified emotions during hormone treatment. This is a short-term issue and is unlikely to cause problems in a friendly workplace. It will help to have an understanding employer and workforce.
Transgender people vary as much individually as any other group of people. It is important to check with your transgender employee that they feel confident about raising any problems they may have. And ask if they have suggestions on ways things can be done better. Listen to your employees.
Policies supporting transgender people
Like any other HR policy, regularly reviewing policies relating to transgender employees is good practice. Because properly supporting transgender people in the workplace will help all staff feel more confident about your approach to equality and diversity. Other employees may wish to open up about issues of gender, sexuality, religion or ethnicity that they have not previously felt safe to share. When employees feel more secure about being themselves and not worried about trying to keep secrets, their performance improves and workplace bullying decreases. Everybody in the organisation benefits.
What to do Next?
You will need to discuss how to deal with employees undergoing gender reassignment with other staff and inform them of a colleague’s transition. The trans person may want to do this themselves or might want it done for them. If this is the case, the trans person still needs some control over what you tell their colleagues and the language you use. Direction needs to be given to the staff on what is appropriate language and how the trans person wishes to be addressed. Ensure you have a robust anti bullying and harassment policy and follow your disciplinary procedure with your employees.
Remember, transgender people deserve to be treated with the same respect as anyone else. If you need more advice on how to deal with employees undergoing gender reassignment then give us a call on 01706 565332
Metis HR is a professional HR Consultancy based in the North West of England supporting clients across the country. Metis HR specialises in providing outsourced HR services to small and medium-sized businesses. Call us now on 01706 565332 or email us to discuss how we may help you.