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Viewpoint – Towards better trans inclusion in the workplace

Published: 19 June 2018 Tags: trans, work, inclusion By Zane Robinson-Waitt

A survey by employment law firm Crossland Employment Solicitors in yesterday’s Indy 100 revealed that employers are still unsure when it comes to understanding the current employment laws protecting trans people in the UK. Key findings showed one in three employers admitting that they would be ‘less likely’ to hire a transgender candidate. A further 47 per cent said that they would be unsure about hiring a potential trans employee, and 88 per cent claimed they have no trans-inclusive workplace policy.

In light of the report, Zane Robinson, from LGBT Foundation’s trans programme, discusses the difficulties the trans community face when it comes to work and what employers need to do to work towards better trans inclusion.

It comes of little surprise unfortunately that such a large amount of employers still feel uncomfortable with employing trans people in their workplace. The number of trans and non-binary people who present to our services has been increasingly because of their difficulties with finding employment, or about discrimination they face while in the workplace.

We understand that employers are concerned about trans people joining their workforce, which is often spurred on by media backlash towards trans people. But the truth is that trans people are just as concerned about joining your workforce as you are, and often even more so.

So where do these concerns from employers and trans employees come from?

The difficulties faced are often little to do with qualifications – in fact, our report in 2017, Transforming Outcomes, found that 71% of trans people attained higher education, and 44% had a degree, compared to 27% of the general UK population. Despite this, 37% of trans people are in receipt of out of work benefits.

So if trans people are, as a population, very qualified, what stops them entering work?

Employers frequently raise, and have done so in this new report by Crossland Employment Solicitors, that their work environment would not be suitable for trans people. It is unlikely that no trans people would enjoy being in a particular workplace, and ideas of the opposite being true echoes the ‘othering’, blanket narrative of what trans people are like that is frequently emerging in negative media attention. In reality, trans people are more than just trans, and are in every profession, have many hobbies, and are from all walks of life.

It would seem, therefore, that the employers that deem their workplace as not being appropriate for trans people to access are more concerned that the work environment will facilitate transphobia.

Transphobia is often implicit – a colleague may frown when someone they don’t quite think is a man enters the men’s toilets, for example. It can be explicit, such as abuse hurled at someone for presenting in a way that the aggressor does not consider ‘normal’, or inviting a woman to an interview, only to turn her down when she has a deep voice. It’s this disapproval of trans people that creates such huge barriers for trans people trying to access employment.

There is legal framework in place to attempt to tackle this, but often employers are unaware of it. Louie, our Trans Programme Coordinator, had excellent advice for employers to integrate trans people into their workplace:

“Consult the government guide on how to recruit and retain trans staff. Use these guidelines to interrogate internal practices and map out next steps. Work with local organisations with experience and expertise in supporting employers to become trans inclusive and plan how to train your workforce and amend policies to meet the needs of your current and future employees. Develop strategies to challenge and discipline people who continue to be transphobic after training is given and support trans people.”

Inclusion in the workplace is not just beneficial to the marginalised groups seeking work; workplaces that are more diverse have higher productivity. The Centre for Talent Innovation found an 80% productivity increase in diverse workplaces, and similar results are far from rare.

Worried that trans people would be too different to your current employees?

Tackle the transphobia and watch diversity turn into innovation.

For further information and advice contact [email protected]