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How are you supporting your transgender employees – and why you need a clear strategy

Transgender employees are not benefiting from the same level of culture change

Organisations have made strides forward in changing their cultures to be more supportive to gay and lesbian employees and most will now have a LGBT staff policy. LGBT abbreviates lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Transgender or trans is an umbrella term used to describe people with a gender identity and/or gender expression different to the sex assigned to them at birth. Some transgender individuals will be at the beginning of the gender reassignment process whilst others will have completed their transition and be men or women with a trans past.

In September 2014 Out Now, an LGBT marketing and research agency published the report ‘LGBT Diversity: Show me the business case’. This found that employees are still hesitant in revealing their trans status at work, with 53 per cent of respondents not disclosing their trans status to anyone they work for or with. Only 35 per cent were ‘out’ to everyone with whom they worked.

46 per cent of trans respondents felt that disclosing their status would be detrimental to their career prospects. The data collected by Out Now also showed that 51 per cent of trans people would not work for an employer without a LGBT staff policy in place. The data clearly shows that for trans people, a properly designed, promoted and implemented LGBT policy is a key draw when looking at employers.

Companies must ensure that in addition to a clear LGBT policy, there is no disparity between these policies and practice. All staff, especially management, must demonstrably support LGBT policies.

Management must be involved in creating organisations in which employees feel able to be themselves at work. This requires fostering employee networks and getting involved with ways in which to support LBGT employees. It includes supporting transgender employees throughout their transition.

To do this requires managers to receive training on transgender issues. This will require that they hear personal transgender experiences and what transgender employees would hope an employer would offer them in terms of their transition.

The process of transition is very personal for each individual. HR, management and any employee counselling service must work together, with the employee, through transition. It is more common to transition to a new gender before undergoing surgery and employees should be thoroughly supported in integrating into the workplace in their new gender.

Gender re-assignment surgery and the transition process can be protracted and HR plays a key role in facilitating time off for surgery and re-integration thereafter.

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