7 ways to support the wellbeing of transgender and non-binary colleagues
It is increasingly understood that gender identity exists along a spectrum and is distinct from biological sex. While a person’s biological sex is determined by their physical characteristics, gender refers to personal gender identity. Although many people’s gender identity matches their sex, it isn’t always the case.
If a person’s gender identity is different from their sex assigned at birth, they may identify as transgender. If a person’s gender doesn’t fit into the male/female gender binary, they may identify as non-binary.
In the workplace, it is common for colleagues to add pronouns to their email signatures and LinkedIn profiles. This is a simple but powerful means of creating an inclusive culture where we do not make assumptions about someone’s gender identity based on their name or appearance.
Communicating our pronouns lets gender-diverse colleagues be open about who they are.
Here are some steps to creating an inclusive workplace.
1. Review policies
Diversity, equity and inclusion and wellbeing policies should be examined to ensure they are fully inclusive and address transgender issues.
Having a proactive transitioning at work policy, even if there are no known employees currently transitioning, reassures employees that all identities are recognised, respected and accommodated.
It is important for employers to recognise that not all transgender employees will choose to transition and that, where they do, transitioning is a unique process for each person.
There are different types of transitioning:
- Social transitioning, which can include adopting a different name, dressing differently and coming out to colleagues, friends and family as transgender or non-binary.
- Legal transitioning, which involves a person making changes to their documented name and/or gender in formal records such as their birth certificate, employment and medical records.
- Physical transitioning, which involves a person changing their body, either temporarily or permanently. These changes to physical appearance can be non-medical or medical.
2. Offer appropriate benefits
Ensure employee benefits are both non-binary/transgender friendly and specific, and widely communicated.
Healthcare benefits are particularly relevant. The NHS is considered a centre of excellence for people living in the UK who wish to change their gender identity through medical procedures. However, the waiting lists and timescales are long for those awaiting gender transition treatment. These waiting times can have a severe impact on the mental and physical health those seeking treatment.
Where there is budget, employers could consider including gender dysphoria cover under their private medical plans. The leading UK insurers offer this benefit option and are seeing growing take up.
3. Educate for empathy
Education leads to understanding, and understanding promotes a greater degree of empathy for the experiences of non-binary and/or gender transitioning colleagues. Arranging trans-awareness training sessions for all employees can help expand the understanding of those who have little or no experience of trans issues.
Inclusive behaviours should be modelled by all, but managers and leaders in particular have a responsibility to demonstrate accepting and supportive behaviours. Inviting feedback from employees and employee resource groups (ERGs) can be a useful way of understanding how transgender or non-binary employees feel in the organisation, and what policies or organisational change would help drive better inclusion.
4. Provide support
The creation of an ERG for transitioning employees offers a supportive space and a platform for employees to share their experiences.
An ERG can also allow work-related concerns or issues to be raised and suggestions discussed.
5. Recognising new identities
A transitioning employee may feel vulnerable in the workplace, and abiding by their wishes can help them feel more confident and understood. If they want to be known by a new name and have pronoun preferences, these should be respected and used in all spoken and written communications.
The employee should be asked if they want their name, title and gender updated in workplace records.
Incidents of ‘deadnaming’ – calling a transgender person by their birth name after they have changed it as part of their gender transition – that occur either accidentally or deliberately, should be addressed immediately.
Companies should aim to move beyond binary male/female options on applications and other forms and should select vendor and insurer partners who can similarly offer non-binary gender options on forms and in databases.
6. Accommodate absences
Gender transition counselling or treatment will often require an employee to take time off work for appointments. By law, these absences should be treated the same as other medical appointments.
It may be necessary for agreed changes to be made to an employee’s role and duties before or after any treatment.
7. Do it for the right reasons
By committing to transgender inclusion, organisations are signalling that they embrace all diversity and equality considerations.
Identifying and understanding the challenges that gender transitioning staff encounter will remove social and performance barriers within a team. This will not only help improve mental wellbeing, it will enable employees to achieve their full potential within an organisation.
In partnership with WTW
WTW is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.