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Talking about stigmatised subjects in the workplace can be tricky, but feeling uncomfortable is no excuse. When people are suffering globally, we need to talk about ways to support them.
More than one in four transgender people has lost a job due to bias, and more than three-quarters have experienced some form of workplace discrimination. These barriers within the workplace are not only unacceptable – they’re actually against the law. As an employer, you’re liable for any discriminative behaviour.
To be protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010, the victim doesn’t need to have undergone any specific treatment or surgery to change their sex. The law recognises that the change between sexes is a personal process, not just a medical one. For anybody who identifies as trans, the laws apply.
As a society, awareness is growing around the struggles that trans and non-binary people face. And although we still have far to go – we should start to see this reflected in the workplace.
So, how can you support your trans and non-binary team members to ensure they feel safe, secure, and respected in their roles?
The correct use of terminology is essential to communicate respect and to create a space for dialogue for non-binary and transgender team members. And this is easy to implement within your organisation.
Provide the opportunity for non-binary and trans people to communicate their pronouns by allowing all employees to use their pronouns in things such as company profiles and email signatures. It’s such small changes that have huge impacts to someone’s self-esteem and belonging. Encouraging everyone to do the same – but not enforcing it – is another great way to avoid ‘othering’ people who choose to highlight their pronouns.
And this includes the recruitment process. Remove all gender and previous name questions from applications and ensure your job advertisements clarify that opportunities are open to all suitably qualified applicants. You want a person to work for you because they are best for the job – that’s all that matters.
Everybody is human – it’s easy enough to say the wrong name in a busy workplace, and there are times when you may get somebody’s pronouns wrong. Try to adopt gender-neutral language for those who haven’t shared their preferred pronouns. However, if you have used the wrong pronoun by mistake, apologise, correct yourself, and remember future communication.
For trans and non-binary people, it can be seriously tough, and for many, you may not realise who is suffering. A TotalJobs Survey of 410 trans people showed 65% continue to hide or disguise their gender identity at work, compared 52% in 2016.
You can change this statistic for your organisation. Create a safe space for people so that they know they have someone to talk to, whether as a group, or a completely private and confidential 1:1. Some may be open, and others may not want to talk – but respecting both is absolutely crucial.
Creating an inclusive and safe space is a way to ensure your people know that if they want to talk, they can. It’s not always easy speaking to family or friends and talking to colleagues may not always be the obvious choice, but if they know their workplace supports them from the outset, it can bring great comfort.
Not only is it important to provide a safe space to talk, but it’s essential to have facilities that are available to all. Gender-neutral toilets are a great way to show your people that you care about them, and want them to know they’re safe at work. Specifically gendered bathrooms can make a day in the office uncomfortable for some of your people. But by providing an inclusive environment, you’ll encourage happier working lives for your people.
We can never stop learning; it makes us who we are. Unfortunately, growing up these ‘taboo’ topics were never on the agenda for us to learn. So now, as fully grown adults, we can still be unclear on certain aspects. But that’s no excuse. If we all take a proactive approach to gain a greater understanding, we can become more inclusive as a community.
The only way we can grow and evolve is by learning. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to provide a safe and inclusive environment for every single one of your people. Whether it’s webinars, podcasts, guest speakers, or courses, we now have an abundance of resources to help educate your people. Through learning, your people will gain a better understanding, and greater empathy towards team members.
Your people deserve to feel safe and respected at work – it’s how you build great long-term relationships. We’ve only listed a few here, but there are so many ways to make your work environment an inclusive one. Don’t know where to start? Hold anonymous surveys to find out what your people need to be supported in the workplace, and provide the security your people deserve.
Looking to empower and upskill your employees with online learning? Find out more about our interactive and engaging eLearning courses here.