Insights

Supporting Employees & Gender Identity

Posted by: William Claydon | 14th June 2019

The month of June marks Pride Month, celebrating the LGBT+ community worldwide.

CJCH joined a discussion looking at how employers can support employees when it comes to expressing their gender identity and how they can make the workplace a safe and understanding environment

It must be daunting for an employee to express to an employer, or their fellow colleagues, their gender identity. Unfortunately, discrimination in the workplace around individuals expressing their gender identity still exists. The biggest barrier to inclusion is a lack of knowledge amongst employers and employees. Therefore, raising awareness of these issues is vital to promote inclusion. Our solicitor, Myles Thomas, outlines how employers can best support their employees expressing their gender identity.

What is The Equality Act 2010 and The Gender Recognition Act 2004 and how do they protect employees?

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows people in the United Kingdom who have gender dysphoria, (which is the condition of feeling one’s emotional & psychological identity as male or female to be opposite of one’s biological sex), to change their legal gender.

The Equality Act 2010 protects individuals in Great Britain from (either direct or indirect) discrimination, harassment and victimisation. There are nine protected characteristics, which are:

  • Age
  • Race
  • Gender Reassignment
  • Pregnancy and Maternity
  • Disability
  • Religion or Belief
  • Marriage & Civil Partnership
  • Sex
  • Sexual Orientation
When it comes to employees who are transitioning, or who are expressing their gender identity, what is classed as discrimination?

You are entitled to protection from discrimination if you identify as transgender under the Equality Act 2010. Discrimination occurs under four categories:

  • Direct: When someone treats your worse than another person in a similar situation because you are transgender
  • Indirect: Where an organisation or employer has a policy or way of working that puts transgender people at a disadvantage
  • Victimisation: When you are adversely treated because you have raised the issue of gender reassignment discrimination under the Equality Act. You may also be victimised if you are connected to someone who has complained about gender reassignment discrimination.
  • Harassment: Where someone makes you feel humiliated, offended or degraded because you are transgender.
What are the consequences of discriminating against an employee because of their expressed gender identity?

The employee who is discriminated against could make a claim in the County Court or Employment Tribunal. The result is potentially a large financial penalty. For the individual in question, this may cause emotional distress and affect job performance.

How can employers make sure they are fully equipped to support an employee expressing their gender identity or transitioning?

The effectiveness of a ‘one size fits all’ approach is unlikely. The process is an ongoing one and every person expressing their gender identity is different. However, a good start for employers is open-mindedness to the needs of their employees. Moreover, take the time to understand their concerns. Additionally, awareness of potential health issues with gender reassignment. If an employee requires time off work, then these periods of time off should be treated the same as an employee needing time off for health-related issues.

How can employers make their workplace a safe and understanding environment for employees, no matter how they identify?

It is important to have a clear diversity policy, which is properly enforced & available to employees. Above all, the policy should state that employers will not tolerate any kinds of discrimination. There should be consideration for how to raise concerns and how to best protect individuals. Finally, regular training of employees and of HR employees will help create a culture of inclusivity and acceptance.

How can we help:

Seeking specialist employment law advice is essential to achieve the best outcome to a grievance, dispute or claim against a past, prospective or current employer. We recognise the importance of resolving sensitive employment difficulties. Speak to a member of our team today.

Get in touch via:

Telephone: 0333 231 6405

Email: employment@cjch.co.uk