Emma Kosmin: How to support staff going through gender transition

Many of us spend most of our lives at work, so it’s vital that people feel free to be themselves in the workplace.

Going through a transition while at work can feel daunting and exposing. It is so important that employers understand this and provide trans and non-binary employees who are going through the process with all the support they need. The first step is for leaders to reassure the individual that their workplace will fully support them.

Organisational policies should make clear what support employers will provide to trans and non-binary staff and who they can contact if they want to tell their employer or ask for support. If employers provide health insurance coverage, it’s important that this package includes transition-related treatments, and that staff are told what is provided by their policy.

HR and line managers also need be aware of what transitioning may mean for staff, including changing their name or gender marker on company systems and formal documents, and changing their gender expression at work. Staff may also need to take additional time off for transition-related treatment, appointments and recovery.

Employers should also make sure that staff are trained on how to best support individuals who are transitioning. Coming out or opening up at work is never an easy process, and employers must support staff who want to inform their colleagues or clients of their new identity and gender expression. If there’s a formal dress-code, employers should ensure that transitioning staff feel free to dress in-line with their gender expression, and provide support if needed.

Many transitioning employees will benefit from access to community support through lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, plus (LGBTQ+ ) networks or external organisations, and employers should ensure that staff have access to those networks whenever they need, and are signposted to organisations who can provide specialist support. Throughout their journey, it’s up to the employee to disclose however much they want about their identity and transition journey, so it’s vital that staff that are supporting them respect their boundaries and confidentiality.

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Ultimately, everyone’s transitioning journey is unique but it’s crucial that all workplaces are ready and able to support staff and are adaptable to every individual’s needs.

Emma Kosmin is associate director of workplace client relationships at Stonewall