The CIPD marks International Day of Transgender Visibility

Dr Jill Miller, the CIPD's Diversity and Inclusion Adviser, calls on organisations to tackle the discrimination that exists against the trans community at work

This Saturday 31 March marks International Day of Transgender Visibility, a celebration of the achievements and courage of trans people across the world, as well as a call to action to continue to tackle head-on the discrimination against the trans community that shamefully still exists.

Stonewall’s recent publication LGBT in Britain - Trans report, found that half of trans people surveyed (51%) have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination, and one in eight trans employees (12%) have been physically attacked by colleagues or customers in the last year.

This situation is unacceptable and International Day of Transgender Visibility is another reminder to employers to ensure their workplace is a safe and inclusive environment where people genuinely feel able to be themselves. A zero tolerance approach to transphobic bullying or harassment is essential. Until this goes without saying, we need to have clear policies in place that spell this out.

Policies then need to be brought alive by the behaviour of everyone in the organisation to ensure the workplace is an inclusive and safe space for everyone. Awareness sessions for staff can be helpful and it’s essential that any instances of bullying or harassment on the basis of someone’s gender identity are addressed.

At a business level, if people don’t feel able to be themselves at work, effort is put into trying to ‘fit’ with others’ expectations, which ultimately detracts from the effort put into work, damaging productivity. And why would someone stay with an organisation if they don’t feel they belong, when they could take their talent and skills to another organisation where they are valued as an individual?

At the CIPD we want our trans colleagues, whether employed by us, working with us as a volunteer or partnering to deliver products or services, feel they belong here and that their voice is heard, helping to further shape our culture and the service we deliver to our members.

Transitioning is a very individual and significant experience and employer support throughout the process can have a big effect on someone’s transitioning experience. It’s crucial to listen to the needs and wishes of each individual and respond sensitively and with respect.

We’ve been using Stonewall’s trans inclusion resources to develop our own Transitioning at Work policy which sets out how we will support staff at any stage of their transitioning process to the gender or non-binary identity they identify as. Our LGBT+ and Friends group worked with our HR team to develop the policy, making it relevant to our particular workplace. They also worked with our communications team, to engage staff with the work that we’d done.

Reflecting on the process, Ciprian Arhire, Co-Chair of our LGBT+ & Friends Group said: "Transitioning is an important and individual experience for anybody wishing to live the gender they identify as. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to transition, every individual will define their own journey. It is in our policies where we must recognise how we support non-binary people as well as those that wish to transition, and demonstrate that people matter through our approach to ensuring all aspects of diversity and inclusion exist in the practices we live and breathe. This is a great example of where Employee Resource Groups can be real allies to HR supporting the design and implementation of inclusive policies and benefits."

As part of a regular review of our general people management policies, we have ensured they are written in gender-neutral language, with particular attention given to our parental policies to ensure they are inclusive. We also introduced four gender-neutral toilets in our head office and sent a clear message to staff that users can choose whichever facilities they feel most comfortable with, without fear of being challenged.

Creating awareness of the issues trans staff may encounter at work and how we can ensure an inclusive environment is also important at the CIPD. For example, all of our staff are encouraged to become a LGBT+ Inclusion Ally and, to mark International Day of Transgender Visibility, we’re holding our second lunchtime ‘Discovery Hour’ on trans inclusion, sharing stories and talking about the appropriate language and terms to use when talking about gender identity, as well as what isn’t appropriate. We’ll be recognising trans role models and talking about how we can further promote trans inclusion here, given that workplace inclusion is not just a moral and societal issue, but a core business one too.

The CIPD’s recent poll of HR professionals revealed that just 10% have a transitioning at work policy in place. If you’d like to create a more trans inclusive workplace in your organisation, more information about creating a transitioning at work policy can be found here.

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