Organisations must now be equipped to assist members of their staff with a number of areas which are connected to their private lives. Whilst some variations that are made to the normal working practices by some employers that are not necessarily prescribed by employment law, many employers feel that they have to offer extended accommodations, such as flexible working to accommodate child care and care of disabled relatives and disabled workers may have working hours or other accommodations in acknowledgement of their limitations to enable them to continue working. Employers are also urged to be mindful of the mental health of their workforce as well as their physical safety. Now that organisations are keen to demonstrate the diversity of their workforce they are finding that there are further accommodations that an inclusive workforce brings in its wake.
Many organisations have LGBT groups that keep a watchful eye on discrimination and now, in this more enlightened age, more transgender individuals are feeling sufficiently confident to proceed with transitioning when they are gender conflicted. Society is in far better shape now to understand and accept that for some people to be themselves they have to choose the path of gender reassignment. It is generally accepted that embarking on such a major change is something that many people wait decades to decide on, after considerable trepidation and thought. This can still be a very big step to take in the workplace. Concerns about the reaction of family and colleagues are a major consideration for many people. The Equality Act 2010 places a legal responsibility on employers to treat transgender people with fairness. Companies should put in place policies to ensure that all staff are fully aware of what can be expected by way of support and all employees should be in no doubt that the business will offer unqualified support to anyone who is facing transitioning and does not expect any member of staff to behave in a discriminatory or prejudiced fashion.
So far there has been a mixed response from organisations, with many transgender people receiving little or no support and it is not uncommon for workplace bullying to drive a person out, or they are prevented from progressing. Stonewall announced that, according to their survey on the subject, one in eight transgender employees have been physically attacked by their colleagues. Dr. Jane Hamlin of the Beaumont Society, a support group for transgender people, suggests that problems are reported arising from middle management, such as stalling the career of previously well-regarded employees and some employers wanting to move client-facing transgender staff to the back office. Workplace banter is frequently the cause of distress, with colleagues making jokes that are far from funny to a transgender person. Sometimes there is inadvertent discrimination, such as requiring a birth certificate with a job application. Transgender individuals can only get a new birth certificate if they have a gender recognition certificate, the whole process is costly and time-consuming and many transgender people do not or cannot take that route due to the expense.
However, it is not all bad news as more and more employers are taking steps to make life more comfortable for minority groups within their workforce. Even-handed assistance for all employees has been embraced by large organisations such as Barclays, Tesco, PwC and surprisingly Amazon, who has not always enjoyed the best reputation as an employer with complaints from both the warehouse staff and the software engineers alike; but they cannot be faulted for their handling of transgender issues.
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