· Features

Hot topic: Ensuring trans employees are comfortable at work

What can employers do to ensure transgender employees feel comfortable in the workplace?

Erin Bisson, a transgender woman, has won a landmark case to have Condor Ferries remove the words ‘ladies’ and ‘gents’ from its toilets. What legal issues do employers need to be aware of, and what can firms do to ensure transgender employees feel comfortable in the workplace?

Stuart Jones, national head of employment at Weightmans says:

"It is unlawful to discriminate against an employee by treating them less favourably than others because of gender reassignment.

"Employers can create a welcoming workplace through simple steps such as seeking information sensitively and storing it confidentially, training key staff, and raising workforce awareness of equality law and policies.

"Employers should provide focused individual support, discuss how transgender staff would like information to be communicated to colleagues, and how often they would like to meet with managers or HR.

Transgender employees should be permitted to use shared facilities (e.g. changing rooms) appropriate to their acquired gender and any objections from others must be dealt with promptly and firmly. A flexible approach to sickness absence related to the transition process is also an important supportive step."

Nick Green, senior director of talent and capability at Asda says:

"From setting up listening groups to altering our bullying and harassment guidelines to include references to transgender people and developing a transgender policy, we’re keen to ensure that all our colleagues feel sufficiently supported.

"We have developed toolkits to ensure best practice, maintained a zero tolerance approach to negative behaviour towards transgender colleagues, and incorporated various support mechanisms to help make life easier for transgender staff – including clear access to Asda’s LGBT Network and external agencies, such as Stonewall, via the intranet.

"Since Asda transformed its approach transgender colleague engagement has more than doubled in the space of 12 months. We were the first headline sponsor of UK transgender pride event Sparkle, and Asda is the only one of Britain’s big four supermarkets to be recognised as an LGBT-friendly employer in Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers list for 2016."

Check back tomorrow for part two of this Hot Topic, featuring Gendered Intelligence's Jay Stewart and Fox Fisher, an artist, film-maker and LGBT rights campaigner