Trans-friendly workplaces

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Amie Trainor
Trainee Solicitor

5 minute read

In recognition of Pride Month this June, we will be posting blog articles which focus on LGBTQ+ issues in the workplace. Today, we will be looking at the rights and protection offered to those who are transgender in the workplace and ways to ensure you are a trans-friendly employer. 


The Law 

The law provides that someone must not be discriminated against because their gender identity is different from the sex assigned to them at birth. The protection against discrimination in the workplace derives from s.7(1) of the Equality Act 2010. “Gender reassignment” is listed as one of the 9 protected characteristics, designed to offer protection against discrimination in law. The terminology used in the Act – gender reassignment – is now dated, with the commonly used terminology being “transgender”. Gender reassignment is defined as someone who proposes to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex. Therefore, a woman making the transition to being a man and a man making the transition to being a woman both share the characteristic of gender reassignment. The statutory definition also comes with some issues, as based on the language used, it is not clear whether protection is extended to those who are non-binary or gender fluid.  

The issue of whether those who are non-binary or gender fluid was considered in the case of Taylor v Jaguar Land Rover Ltd [2020] ET/1304471/2018. This decision actually extended protection under the protected characteristic of gender reassignment. In this case, the employee was subject to workplace bullying, where colleagues referred to the employee as “it” and asked inappropriate and offensive questions. The employer also offered little support regarding issues the employee was having regarding which toilet to use and ignored complaints raised by the employee. The employer argued that as the employee was non-binary, the protected characteristic of gender reassignment did not apply. They ultimately failed as the court extended protection to those who are non-binary/gender-fluid as the employee was “on a journey” of transition and did not need to have arrived at the end of the (very broad) spectrum.  


Tips to be a trans-friendly workplace –


Have a clear equality & diversity policy 

Ensure your organisation has a policy which covers equality and diversity that caters to all groups within the LGBTQ+ community, as all have different needs. This policy must be somewhere accessible to all employees and referenced in communications so the workplace is familiar with its existence. The effectiveness of the policy must also be monitored to make sure it’s having the desired impact on the workforce. This can be done through employee surveys and focus groups. Reviewing other existing policies, such as a dress code policy, to check for any negative implications for trans employees.

Be aware of language and pronouns  

Respecting pronouns and names (such as he/she/they/them) which employees prefer helps to adopt an inclusive workplace. This includes making sure documents and systems do not mistakenly use the wrong pronouns, names or titles for individuals. Keeping a record of employees’ preferred pronouns, alongside other personal details, can also help ensure that they are used correctly for personnel and administrative purposes. Adding pronouns to your email signature and using your pronouns out loud in introductions can also help create a safe space which doesn’t single anyone out.  

Investigate all allegations of harassment or discrimination appropriately  

A recent report published by recruitment firm Totaljobs found that almost a third (32%) of trans people have experienced discrimination in the workplace. This shows that even if you do not believe you have a problem in the workforce with harassment/discrimination, steps must be taken to support a trans employee with any allegations they may come to you with. Having a clear incident reporting procedure for incidents of harassment will help to create a safe environment for trans employees to disclose any harassment or discrimination. It is important that this is confidential and dealt with by an appropriate person. There should also be options for the employee to deal with this in a way which works for them personally. 

Create a change in culture  

Whilst changing the culture in the workforce does not happen fast, several steps can be taken to start this process and help to make your workplace a trans-inclusive environment. This may include rolling out training on trans issues across the organisation which is regularly refreshed to remain relevant in the workplace. Having inclusivity at the forefront of the organisation’s image aids greatly in provoking a culture change. This can be done through the use of pronouns organisation-wide; posting pro-trans statements on social media and company intranet etc; running training and learning sessions; having clear policies; and having gender-neutral toilets. Engage with trans employees and listen to ensure they feel safe and that they belong to monitor the effectiveness of these measures.