Insight into research made by IES about supporting trans employees in the workplace


Report contains the views of the authors, employees, employers, trans organisations and other stakeholders interviewed for the research of IES.

IES is an independent, apolitical, international centre of research and consultancy in public employment policy and HR issues.
Supporting trans employees in the workplace identifies a number of obstacles that currently prevent better inclusion of trans staff in UK workplaces and includes suggestions for employers looking to improve their practice.

Although some employers have become more aware of the need to address inclusion of trans staff in recent years, there remains some extensive work to be done. Bullying, negative treatment, misinformation and ignorance are still major issues in the workplace and have a serious negative effect on the inclusion, wellbeing and lives of trans workers. There are some persistent gaps in understanding and discourse about non-binary and intersex experiences. Clearly, much work has to be done to improve awareness and understanding amongst employers, employees and the wider public of what it might mean to be trans or intersex.

However, the evidence in this report from published research and guidance, stakeholders, ‘good practice’ employers and their trans employees suggests there are tangible things that can be done to improve management of trans employees.
It is important to have policies which take stock of the needs of trans workers, that provide a framework for behaviour, signal a culture of understanding and inclusion and work as a strong attraction strategy for trans applicants.

Policies should be introduced proactively and not reactively. It is fundamentally important that policies are cascaded down to all frontline staff within an organisation and monitored to check they are being followed.

Knowledge and awareness training among the workforce and line managers is vital in combatting ignorance, aggression and intentional or unintentional hurtful comments. Manager and recruiter training is particularly vital as they are on the front line in terms of interacting with and managing trans employees. They need to be sensitive and ensure consistent application of organisational policy. However, training for all staff can embed behaviour change across the wider workforce. Induction is a good place to include such training, but organisations could also capitalise on events throughout the year.

Trans people need to have control over the process of transitioning or coming out in a workplace. Similarly, intersex people must have autonomy over if and when they choose to discuss this. However, care must be taken that they do not bear the full burden of leading the process and those who do come out should not be made to feel exposed. A balance needs to be found. Peer support in the form of staff networks, a workplace champion or trade union representation can ensure that trans staff are able to get the support they need.

Lastly, it is worth considering that the overwhelming majority of organisations who participated in this research (and who have been recognised as exemplifying good practice) are large or very large and have more available resources to direct towards obtaining recognised kite marks. There are likely to be specific challenges for small organisations where there are likely to be fewer trans or intersex staff. Likewise, there are likely many smaller organisations who exhibit good practice but have not been publicly recognised for it.

Source: Supporting trans employees in the workplace by Rosa Marvell, Andrea Broughton, Evelyn Breese and Elaine Tyler (The Institute for Employment Studies), was published in August 2017.

To see full report please go to ACAS Website