Supporting Transgender Inclusion in the WorkplacePosted in : HR Updates ROI on 16 October 2018
In 2016, Ireland became the sixth country in the world to allow transgender people to self-determine their legal gender and the Gender Recognition Act 2015 was introduced. In the past a lack of awareness or understanding of gender identity and the issues that transgender individuals face at work has sometimes led to a less than supportive working environment for employees.
The Employment Equality Acts, 1998-2016 and the Equal Status Act 2000-2016 are other relevant acts and prevent the discrimination of people in the provision of nine grounds: gender, civil status, family status, age, race, sexual orientation, disability, membership of the Traveller community and religion.
In December, new guidelines for employers and employees were launched by the Transgender Equality Network Ireland (TENI). These guidelines offer real information and advice for employers to collaboratively support their transgender employees, to ensure that they have the opportunity to bring their “whole selves” to work and to fulfil their potential in the workplace.
Here are some of the areas that are discussed and advice on how to manage these situations.
Where to start in creating a supportive workplace
With all workplace and culture projects, it is our advice that it is far better to take a proactive approach in designing and building the culture that you want in your organisation as opposed to having a reactive approach and only acting when an employee approaches you. Employers should be creating inclusive, supportive working environments for everyone regardless of the current make-up of their population. This should include having processes in place to support and facilitate an employee’s transition in advance of them stating their intent to transition if applicable.
- This involves examining your recruitment process. Are the advertisements, application forms, letters, job descriptions, interview notes and all related procedures gender neutral?
- Examine your work policies and procedures. These can be very useful in helping all employees and management deal with the change in a positive way. The Dignity At Work Policy, together with the Anti- harassment and Anti-bullying policies can be very helpful.
What to do when an employee first discloses that they want to transition
Transgender individuals may be full of anxiety and fear at this first meeting, unsure of how their employer will react. These concerns can be alleviated if your workplace has a public and easily accessible transition policy and a corporate culture that promotes diversity and inclusion.
Be Supportive. Identity is deeply personal to all of us. Some may want to simply discuss this with you and take no action; others may want to take a number of steps to transition outwardly in work. Taking an individual approach to managing an employee’s transition is key. A good approach is to develop a personalised action plan for before, during and after the transition period. Put into place review meetings, and revise and develop the plan as appropriate. Any plan should be flexible and not fixed.
How do engage with transgender people in a way that is respectful of their gender identity
- Respect the person’s wishes around which name and pronoun (he/she/they) they would like you to use. If you are unsure of which pronoun to use, ask the individual respectfully.
- Some trans people are ‘out’ – open about their gender identity or expression – and others are not. Respect the employee’s choice. Do not share this information without explicit permission.
- Everyone has the right to privacy. The trans status of an employee is sensitive personal information. Information held in personnel files e.g. employment records, insurance company records, medical information, etc., should be maintained with privacy and in confidence. This is a legal entitlement under employment legislation including the General Data Protection Regulation 2018.
- Allow employees to use facilities (restrooms, change rooms) which match their gender identity.
- Ensure that organisational policies on equality, harassment or bullying explicitly include trans people.
- Highlight the need for all staff to work in a safe place with dignity and respect. Take a leadership role and create a workplace where people feel free to be themselves.
In September 2017, as part of its Equality, Diversity and Non-Discrimination Strategy, Dublin Bus undertook in conjunction with TENI to develop a Workplace Gender Transition Policy and Guidelines. The Company recognised just as there are gay, lesbian and bisexual employees in Dublin Bus, there are also employees who are transgender. The Company acknowledged that while the majority of its 3,500 workforce live and work comfortably in the gender corresponding to their sex assigned at birth, this is not the case for all current or prospective employees. The result was a 28-page booklet that provides detailed and accessible information on gender identity, privacy, confidentiality, terminology, restroom access, appearance standards, transphobia, health and wellbeing at work, addressing the concerns of co-workers and clients, and many other issues. Dublin Bus’s work in this area has been put forward as a case study for best practice in relation to workplace diversity by the European Commission.
The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.