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Transgender Issues- guidance notes on inclusive and supportive practice

The information below has been drawn up to outline some of the issues that could be faced by transgender employees before, during or after the process of gender reassignment and to give guidance, especially to managers, on inclusive and supportive practice.

A transgender person (‘Trans’ is the preferred inclusive term for all transgendered people) is someone whose perception of their own gender identity does not conform to the sex they were assigned at birth. They might have identified with the opposite sex from an early age. Some Trans people describe it like being born in the wrong body. Most Trans people do not feel comfortable with the term Gender Identity Disorder, or Gender Dysphoria as they think these suggest a psychopathology which may make it more likely for others to make negative value judgements.

Many, but not all, Trans people decide to undergo gender reassignment i.e. to transition from the gender they were assigned at birth, to become the gender they identify with. This often involves finding a sympathetic G.P. who refers them to a Gender Identity Clinic. After various assessments and evaluation, which examine in detail medical and personal history, current circumstances and the emotional stability of the person, treatment will entail taking hormones for at least a year. In male-to-female gender reassignment, (the most common transition), hormones will reduce body hair, cause some breast development, make skin softer and the body shape more feminine. In female-to-male gender reassignment, the hormonal effects are reversed. However, hormones will not alter bone structure, hands and feet will remain larger; the pitch of voice may still be low for a woman and hormones will not entirely eliminate facial hair. As a male-to-female transgender woman, the member of staff may face ongoing difficulties over the years, as she struggles with the limitations of medicine and surgery to facilitate passing as an ordinary woman in day to day life.

Transition at work is a crucial part of the process of gender reassignment. Trans people are assessed before surgery, by their ability to maintain employment among other things. If a Trans person cannot function in their acquired gender at work because of harassment, not only may their application for a referral for surgery be jeopardised, they may also have a claim for unlawful harassment or discrimination.

If the Trans person elects to have and is accepted for surgery, s/he will have to live as a full time woman/man for a minimum of a year before the surgery. It can be very expensive to access privately the specialist health care and expensive surgical reassignment surgery needed. It can also be a slow process, (it can take 6-10 years), if someone is seeking gender reassignment surgery through the NHS. It should be emphasised that it is not a requirement that a Trans person undergoes surgery or other medical treatment to receive protection from the law.

Consideration during the process.

Upon notification that a member of staff is considering gender reassignment, a meeting should be held between that member of staff and their line manager to discuss in confidence how they wish to deal with transition and to agree and follow a process with which they are comfortable. A member of HR and/or a trade union representative can be present if required. A crucial element of this meeting is to decide who should be told what, and when and how this should occur.

Reassure them and any others involved that a change in gender doesn't alter the value, standard, or skills of an employee.

The point of transition in the workplace is the biggest trigger point (trigger points are events which can lead to other people behaving in a prejudiced or discriminatory fashion). Other trigger points occur when the person first starts to present in their preferred gender publicly, later when the decision to transition to living permanently in the acquired gender is discovered within the family, then finally during periods of gender reassignment surgery. The Trans person may feel particularly anxious as others start to notice the change in appearance.

They may be dreading telling work colleagues for fear they may lose their professional status, or that they may face ridicule and harassment. Reassure the member of staff of your support.

It is recommended that the issues below are considered during the initial consultation meeting:

Disclosure - who should be told what, when

It is up to the Trans person to decide who to tell, and when and how to tell them. The critical points will be when undergoing hormone treatment, which begins to alter appearance, and when the person starts to live permanently in the preferred gender role.

There is no obligation to inform colleagues or students that a staff member is intending to undergo, is undergoing, or has undergone gender reassignment. Such information is necessary only where the relationship is with someone who knew the person prior to the change and this relationship is to continue in the future. Always seek permission of the Trans person to disclose any information to others. This should be on a confidential, strictly ‘need to know' only basis.

Offer to be with them if they wish, to support them if they choose to tell their team, other colleagues, or students of their transition. It is unlawful to reveal that an individual has, or may have, applied for gender recognition unless permission has been given by that person.

Harassment.

Did you know that 40% of Trans people are not living permanently in their preferred gender, or acquired gender because of fear of discrimination in employment?

UCL has a legal duty to protect all staff including transgender staff from harassment. All voyeuristic, intrusive and personal questions or discussions are unacceptable and probably unlawful. Make this clear to staff and students, and ensure they know that they may face a claim against them if they ignore this direction. Also make clear no harassment, bullying, or victimisation of any kind will be tolerated, that such behaviour is unlawful under the Equality Act 2010 and would also be contrary to UCL's Harassment and Bullying Policy http://www.ucl.ac.uk/hr/harassment/

Make clear all UCL staff and students have responsibility for challenging discrimination, promoting equality and ensuring that there is no discrimination or harassment towards transgender staff. Emphasise that action will be taken swiftly against anyone harassing or bullying the Trans member of staff, or anyone making inappropriate comments to, or about the person.

Check periodically with the transgender member of staff they are not receiving any negative reactions.

Time Off.

Good practice is for the Trans person to take a short holiday before the day of transition (the day s/he will come to work dressed in the clothes of their preferred gender.)

The majority of transgender people undergo medical treatment, which can include hormone therapy and reconstructive surgery. This will probably necessitate taking time off work and may have an impact on workload and colleagues. It is more complex for reassignment surgery from female to male, which might necessitate more time off work, especially as the procedure could take up to two years to be completed. Managers should be aware of the effects the hormone treatment could have on a person, such as mood swings.

Time off to attend hospital or doctor's appointments which last for part of a working day should not be counted as sick leave. Time taken during working hours for the above appointments must be paid and the dates and times of the appointments should be recorded but not classified as sick leave. Time away from work for surgery and to recover from surgery will be recorded as sickness absence, but should not trigger the formal Sickness Absence Procedure.

Managers should promote a flexible stance wherever possible to enable staff to undergo gender reassignment surgery. It may constitute unlawful discrimination if an individual absent while undergoing the gender reassignment process is treated less favourably than those absent because of illness or other medical treatment. Discuss workload allocation with the Trans member of staff before the absence from work and on return. Discuss any adjustments that might need to be made to facilitate the return to work.

Name change, records and confidentiality

Transgender staff who have undergone transition maybe anxious to protect their privacy surrounding their acquired gender. The right to confidentially must be maintained. Current personnel, or any other records/ letters/ documents for transgender staff should not refer to a previous name.

In a small number of cases, it may be necessary for some records (e.g. with regard to pensions and insurance) to retain a reference to sex of the employee at birth. Access to such records, and all personnel records should be restricted to staff who require such details to perform their specific duties.

A Trans person will be able to change their name at UCL on production of a formal change of name. They do not need a Gender Recognition Certificate to do this. To acquire a Gender Recognition Certificate, the person has to present evidence to a Gender Recognition Panel that they have lived permanently in their new gender role, at all times, for two years prior to the application. A Gender Recognition Certificate enables the person to have a new birth certificate, if their birth was registered in the UK, and to be legally recognised for all purposes in their new gender role, including marriage and civil partnership.

Practical arrangements.

What arrangements need to be made in the interim regarding toilets, changing rooms etc? Toilet facilities need to be appropriate to the new gender role at the time of transition. Unisex facilities would be an advantage. Disabled toilets are rarely acceptable. A transgender worker should have access to "men only" or "women only" areas according to the gender in which they are transitioning at the point they are starting to live permanently in their ‘new' gender. Managers should reach agreement with the individual regarding the point at which the individual switches to using the facilities of the employee's ‘new' gender.

Some areas of UCL may need to show some flexibility in dress codes to accommodate the process of transition from one sex to another.

Recruitment

It should not be expected that applicants and interviewees for employment will wish to disclose transgender status - some people consider it a very private matter; also many have experienced prejudice and harassment as a result of disclosure. There is no obligation for an applicant to disclose their transgender status. This issue is not relevant and this question should never be asked at interview. If the applicant does choose to disclose, this cannot be a reason for not offering employment.

Regarding references, if giving a reference for someone moving to a new job, the referee must use the name which is used by the transgender member of staff and not refer to a former name or gender identity.

For further advice contact the Equalities and Diversity Team.

Useful information:

Press for Change http://www.pfc.org.uk/

The Gender Trust www.gendertrust.org.uk

Trans staff and students in higher education - Equality challenge Unit 2010
http://www.ecu.ac.uk/publications/trans-staff-and-students-in-he-revised

The Female to Male Network http://www.ftm.org.uk

September 2010