Business must be ready for Transgender and Other LGBT issues

In this more enlightened age, more 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. 

Organisations must be equipped to assist members of their staff with their status during and post-transition.  However, 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.  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.  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, 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.  Large organisations such as Barclays, Tesco and PwC have excellent records with regard to their inclusion of transgender employees.  Sophie Roberts, who works at Amazon as a software manager in Edinburgh, found her employer surprisingly supportive.  Amazon already had policies in place, including a bathroom policy, and Sophie was met with nothing but support from her colleagues.  Sophie has worked in collaboration with the US Amazon and the firm’s LGBT group Glamazon to adopt general policies for the UK; such things as having answers to commonplace questions so that transgender staff can avoid having to explain personal things over and over again.  

Amazon 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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