Darren Towers: Making health and wellbeing inclusive for trans employees

Darren Towers

We know that people perform better when they can be themselves, but trans staff face distinct challenges in the workplace, from physical spaces, such as gendered facilities, to direct harassment based on gender identity.

Stonewall’s 2018 LGBT in Britain: Trans Report, published in January 2018, found that 51% of trans and non-binary people have hidden their identity at work for fear of discrimination.

The first step toward embedding inclusion within a health and wellbeing strategy is to actively involve trans staff. Diversity and inclusion cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach, so employers need to listen to the needs of their trans employees and address the specific challenges they face, without putting the burden of solving those challenges on the shoulders of trans employees.

Key areas to consider include dress codes, gendered facilities and HR systems or processes. Getting these right can have a hugely positive impact on the wellbeing of trans and non-binary staff.

Dress codes and uniforms should be gender-neutral and applied consistently across the organisation. Employees should be able to access facilities, spaces and fitness classes which align with their gender identity. Gender-neutral toilets and changing areas should also be introduced if not already available. Making it easy to change gender markers or names on HR systems and details on security passes, for example, will also help considerably.

Another aspect of a health and wellbeing strategy to contemplate is medical and mental health support. Not all trans people want, or are able, to have medical intervention as part of their transition, but if an organisation can provide medical insurance to staff, it should carefully review whether this is trans-inclusive. Similarly, if an organisation provides an employee assistance programme (EAP), this is an opportunity to ensure trans staff have a route to gaining confidential advice and support. When procuring an EAP via a provider, check whether it explicitly states that counsellors are trained in trans equality and understand gender identity and expression matters.

People spend most of their adult lives at work, so ensuring health and wellbeing policies and workplace cultures are fully inclusive is a vital step towards improving the lives of trans and non-binary people. It sends a clear message that an employer fully supports trans equality and makes for more engaged employees and productive workplaces all round.

Darren Towers is executive director at lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender inclusion charity Stonewall