Herbert Smith Freehills launches gender affirmation surgery benefit for UK staff


Global law firm Herbert Smith Freehills has launched a medical benefit for UK-based transgender employees, enabling them to access gender affirmation surgery and psychological support as part of their benefits package.

The new medical benefit, which launched on 1 January 2018 for 1,651 UK staff, will cover all or part of the cost of gender affirmation surgery, as well as provide access to psychological support for transgender employees at any time during their transition process.

The medical benefit, provided by Axa PPP Healthcare, forms part of the organisation’s global policy to support transitioning employees and ensure a culture of inclusion for transgender staff. The new benefit therefore forms part of Herbert Smith Freehills’ wider diversity and inclusion strategy.

Herbert Smith Freehills is also offering other medical benefits for global transgender employees. This includes time off for medical appointments and procedures, as well as time off for employees who want to support family members who are transitioning. The law firm is also looking to expand its gender affirmation surgery and psychological support medical benefit to a global scale in due course.

Herbert Smith Freehills has further confirmed its diversity and inclusion commitment by launching its Global Transitioning Guidelines, applicable across its 27 global operating sites for 4,200 worldwide employees. The guidelines outline the law firm’s global policy framework regarding transgender matters and includes guidance on how transgender employees can navigate their gender transition at work, as well as features a summary of gender diversity and identity terminology and definitions. The guidelines also provide practical guidance for HR professionals and leaders at the organisation, and outlines steps to help create a transitioning support plan for employees. The Global Transitioning Guidelines have been designed to educate employees in order to help foster a diverse and inclusive work environment.

Herbert Smiths Freehills gained advice from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) advocacy groups, such as trans*formation in the UK and Pride in Diversity in Australia, when compiling the new global guidelines.

The new medical benefit in the UK and the global guidelines were communicated to employees via a news story posted on the organisation’s intranet.

Justin D’Agostino (pictured), global head of disputes and regional managing partner, Asia, said: “We are a transgender inclusive workplace, and these guidelines ensure that transgender employees are treated with the same respect and understanding in every office across our global network. I am proud of the commitment the firm is making to our [employees], and am grateful that we are able [to] reflect on the importance of valuing every individual as their true and whole self.

“The transgender community faces ongoing discrimination and in launching these guidelines we are acknowledging the ongoing impact of transphobia on the everyday lives of our transgender [employees] and clients and the importance of creating a global workplace that is safe and supportive.”