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Getting started with trans inclusion in your workplace

Trans is an umbrella term to describe people whose gender is not the same as, or does not sit comfortably with, the gender they were assigned at birth.

Trans people face unique challenges in the workplace. Half of trans people have hidden or disguised the fact that they are trans at work because they were afraid of discrimination. And a third of trans employees (34 per cent) were excluded by colleagues for being trans.

With a focus on trans inclusion, you can help create a workplace where trans employees feel free to be themselves and have the confidence to thrive.

Here are some key actions to help you get started.

1. Speak up for trans inclusion

Speaking up for trans equality can help trans employees feel supported and valued in the workplace. Employees may have been recruited from less accepting workplaces or feel uncertain about being out at work. Vocal support can encourage these employees to feel comfortable, and feel valued.

Share messages of support for trans inclusion in your workplace communications. Consider using your workplace intranet page, Yammer, or similar hubs that are viewed by all staff. Consistent messages and information can encourage cis (or non-trans) staff to step forward as trans allies. It can also show the importance of trans inclusion to your workplace culture. If you’re unsure about what terms to use, you can use our list of LGBTQ+ terms.

Some points to keep in mind for your messaging:

  • How does trans inclusion relate to your workplace values?
  • Have you spoken about your organisation’s recent trans inclusion work?
  • Are you sharing stories from both trans staff and trans allies?
  • How can staff help support trans inclusion in the workplace?
  • Are you sharing messages on key dates, like Trans Day of Visibility?

Consider reaching out to your senior leaders spread these messages further. Their influence can help encourage staff at all levels to get involved with trans inclusion. For support on how to get started, read our bitesized guide on engaging all staff in trans inclusion.

Showing an external commitment to trans people will help empower other organisations to do the same. Below is an example of how this may work in practice.

In 2020, more than 100 organisations signed a public statement saying that trans rights are human rights. This project was initiated by Trans in the City, and you can view the list of organisations that have signed here. Show your support by signing up, email Trans in the City here.

2. Make your policies more inclusive

Making your policies more inclusive can help clarify what support is available for trans employees. Trans staff may not be aware of how to access certain types of support, or what is applicable to them. For example, how to request that their name is changed on their email address, or what family leave they may be entitled to.

Updating and reviewing policies to be more trans inclusive should be a proactive exercise. Trans staff may not feel confident to ask what benefits are available to them. Having this written down means staff who aren't out in the workplace can understand and utilise support available to them, without having to out themselves to do so. By ensuring your policies are up to date, you can help provide long-term support directly to your employees.

Here are some key policies to consider reviewing regarding trans inclusion:

Bullying & Harassment policy

  • A clear policy that includes what transphobic behaviour is, practical examples and how to report incidents can be beneficial to trans employees and managers in your workplace. This could prevent a trans employee from having to explain why a potential incident may have been harmful or having to out themselves unnecessarily.

Transitioning at Work policy

  • A transitioning at work policy is guidance for trans employees who wish to transition at work. This can include clear action plans that line managers can utilise, and further guidance for HR staff. This policy can include practical steps to take within your organisation. For example, how to change email addresses for a trans staff member or update a workplace ID card.

Family Leave policies

  • These may include policies such as: maternity, paternity, adoption, shared parental leave and special leave. We would recommend expanding on gendered language and defining key terms like partner so that LGBTQ+ people of all genders know they can access the policies that are relevant to them.

For more guidance on workplace policies, Stonewall Diversity Champions may access our Inclusive Policy Toolkit. You can also request policy reviews as part of your membership.

3. Provide inclusive facilities

Good practice is to support trans people to use facilities appropriate to their gender.

As well as ensuring trans employees can use male and female toilets where these align with their gender, the most inclusive employers work towards also providing gender-neutral toilets.

Providing gender-neutral toilets can allow non-binary employees to have access to facilities without fear of discrimination. There are many other benefits to gender-neutral toilets, like minimising queues and internal office traffic. If your employees require a guardian or carer to provide support, gender neutral toilets can provide a more accessible option.

Consider speaking to your office or facilities manager to see if implementing gender-neutral facilities, or pledging to do so in future, is feasible for you.

4. Embed trans inclusion into hybrid and digital working

If your workplace is moving towards more digital and hybrid ways of working, it’s important to think about how this might affect trans inclusion. You could consider:

  • Introducing meeting guidance that encourages employees to introduce themselves with their name and pronouns in virtual and hybrid meetings.
  • Including in your code of conduct that employees should try not to assume a colleague’s gender identity based on their voice or appearance. And if they’re not sure how to address a colleague (for example, which pronouns to use), ask them how they’d like to be referred to.
  • Consider if webcam use can be optional during internal meetings. Some trans staff may not be able to participate in video calls safely if they aren’t out at home. For example, an employees' gender expression at work may not match their expression at home. And it can be stressful for all staff to be ‘camera-ready’ all the time!

5. Work with your LGBTQ+ network group

LGBTQ+ network groups can provide vital support to employees, support the development of inclusive policies and procedures, and act as a critical friend to organisations as they develop their trans inclusion work.

Speak to your LGBTQ+ Network Group about how they are engaging with trans inclusion. They may wish to update their terms of reference to explicitly include trans people. It’s important that the terms of reference set out that the group should be inclusive of trans people, even if the network group is small and informal. Having a formal mechanism, such as a trans rep, can help ensure that trans issues are consistently engaged with.

You may also want to consider working with your LGBTQ+ staff network to create virtual spaces for trans staff to build support networks. For example, a virtual coffee morning, where trans staff can socialise informally.

Engaging regularly with your LGBTQ+ network group can help ensure you are working collaboratively on trans inclusion. If your workplace doesn’t have an LGBTQ+ Network Group, consider setting one up.

6. Build an action plan

Your trans employees may have had difficulties in feeling accepted at work in previous organisations, or in feeling valued for who they are. Change can take time, but by beginning your trans inclusion journey, you can work towards an environment where every trans employee feels supported and comfortable at your workplace.

Map out where you would like to be in terms of trans inclusion, and what steps you may need to take to get there. For example, if you wish to amend your current policies, can they be reviewed by your LGBTQ+ network group? How often will these policies be reviewed, and how quickly can they be updated?

Every workplace is different, and the best approach to action planning is not ‘one size fits all’. Our Diversity Champions programme offers bespoke action planning, resources and guidance to meet your specific organisational needs.

Join our Diversity Champions programme. With over 900 organisations as members, it is the leading employer’s programme to ensure LGBTQ+ staff are accepted without exception.

If you’re already a Diversity Champion, speak to your Client Account Manager about how to advance trans inclusion in the workplace. They can work with you to create bespoke action plans, introduce you to other organisations, and share knowledge of good practice.

No matter what stage you are at in your trans inclusion journey, we are here to help.

⬅️ Return to Workplace Trans Inclusion hub.