NEWS & RESOURCES

Managing Gender Reassignment

Trans is an umbrella term for somebody who experiences gender incongruence, gender diversity or gender dysphoria, meaning they do not align to the sex they were assigned at birth. This includes someone who:
  • intends to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment
  • identifies that their gender is not the one assigned at birth. This is both someone who is planning, or has had medical interventions, as well as someone who does not plan or has not had medical interventions
  • is non-binary, meaning they do not solely consider themselves to be male or female. They may or may not have had medical interventions to align their body with their non-binary gender identity.
These are not mutually exclusive alternatives.

Definitions

Definitions and terminology continue to evolve. Here are just some of the definitions, although there are many more.
  1. Bi-gender
    A person who considers themselves to be both male and female at different times
  2. Cis/cisgender
    Where the person’s sex assigned at birth and gender identity are matching.
  3. Deadnaming
    Calling someone by their birth/pre transition name after they have changed their name
  4. Gender dysphoria/incongruence
    Where the person experiences distress due to the mismatch between the sex they were assigned at birth and the gender they identify with.
  5. Gender fluid
    Someone who changes how they feel about their gender from time to time, and may identify as a woman on some days, as a man on others, or as a combination of both.
  6. Gender neutral
    Someone who does not identify with any gender but may embrace aspects of both man and woman and may possibly fall on a spectrum between the two.
  7. Gender neutral pronouns
    Gender neutral pronouns such as they, per, zie, ze, fey may replace binary pronouns (he/she, his/her).  And a gender neutral title such as Mx may replace Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms.
    per – gender neutral pronoun alternative to he/she
    zie – gender neutral pronoun alternative to he/she
    ze – used instead of he/she to refer to a person of unspecified or non binary gender
    fae – is a gender fluid alternative pronoun
  8. Gender reassignment (or ‘transitioning’)
    Processes by which a person aligns their life and physical identity to match their gender identity.
  9. Gender recognition certificate (GRC)
    A certificate enabling an individual to be legally recognised in their affirmed gender.
  10. Intersex
    This is a physical medical condition that describes someone whose anatomy or physiology differs to what constitutes either male or female. In some intersex conditions, it can mean that the person’s anatomy or physiology is neither male nor female.
  11. Non-binary
    A person who has a non-binary identity, means they neither identify as male nor a female. They may say they are neither gender, or may have some other sense of gender such as:
  12. Pan-gender
    Individuals who feel that they cannot be labelled as female or male gender
  13. Poly-gender
    Individuals attracted to people of multiple genders
  14. Third gender
    individuals who do not identify as male or female, but rather as neither, both or a combination of male and female genders.
  15. Sexual orientation
    This is term is used to describe a person’s sexual attraction between one person and another such as, heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual or a-sexual. It is separate to gender identity.
  16. Transvestite
    According to Acas, this term is generally viewed as inappropriate and likely to cause offence
  17. Transgender
    Someone who has a gender identity which differs from the sex that they were assigned at birth.

Transitioning

People may change gender with or without any medical intervention, so therefore the time taken for the process is different for every individual and may involve:

  • changing the name via deed poll and changing pronouns socially
  • a legal change of gender, and changes to details on official documents, eg driving license, ID, birth certificate
  • changing the way the person dresses
  • adopting mannerisms consistent with the new gender
  • medical interventions
  • counselling
  • coming out with family and friends
  • coming out at work.

For those who do have medical intervention, treatment is multidisciplinary and may involve any or all of the following:

  • psychotherapeutic support
  • endocrine treatment
  • surgery – 12-18 months of endocrine treatment is usually required prior to surgical intervention. Surgical treatments include:
    • chest surgery – breast augmentation or mastectomy
    • genital surgery
    • facial surgery – particularly feminisation surgery
    • vocal surgery – to change the pitch of the voice
    • speech and language therapy to help develop gender-appropriate voice and communication skills
    • hair treatments – including hair transplantation, hair removal, hairpieces
    • exploration of fertility implications of treatment, and gamete storage.

Managing absence for these employees is therefore commonly a key part of the discussions.

Managing the transition process

It is a personal choice as to whether an employee informs the company of their intention to transition. Managers may be embarrassed or unsure how to manage an employee who is transitioning because gender reassignment is not common.  The key is to keep communications open and regular; to listen and provide ongoing support; to allow the employee to take the lead as much as possible; to treat the employee with dignity and respect, and to take any necessary steps to ensure that colleagues and business contacts do likewise.

To fully support an employee transitioning, an individual transition plan should be created, led by the employee and supported by the line manager and jointly agreed. The aim of the transition plan is to ensure that the employee feels fully supported at work whilst transitioning as well as enabling the business to manage any time out of the workplace and identify any support measures that may be needed.

Once complete, the transition plan must remain confidential at all times and stored securely with access restricted to the employee, their line manager and any other relevant person as agreed by the employee, such as another manager, or a member of the HR team.

Transition plans will be unique to the employee and should be subject to review by both the employee and the line manager to ensure that it remains fit for purpose for both parties. It is advised that the employee is encouraged to to lead the discussions on the creation of their transition plan given the very personal and sensitive nature of the plan.

What should be included in a transition plan?

We would expect the transition plan to cover:
  • Identifying a single point of contact who will act as support for the employee and who will agree and sign off the action plan
  • Clarify how and who will inform colleagues and the organisation and what information will be communicated and when
  • Agree with the employee how confidentiality will be maintained and whilst considering the employee’s wishes
  • Confirm any new name, title, and pronoun that the employee would like to use moving forward and the date it will become effective from
  • Establishes which workplace records will need changing and from when
  • Whether any external third party needs notifying, such as HMRC, pensions
  • An expected timeline of the transition process including a date from which the employee will take up their new identity (if known)
  • Any anticipated time out of work for medical appointments and planned absences
  • When the employee wishes to use the toilet facilities associated with their new identity
  • Any dress code or uniform requirements
  • If Occupational Health should be involved, or other professional support such as from their own GP or specialist consultant or via the Employee Assistance Programme.
  • Whether any refresher workplace training may be beneficial for colleagues to support the employee’s transition.

You can download your own trans and gender equality template from our HR Doc Shop, here.

Considerations

Dates:
It is important to have an understanding of the dates and timescales of each stage of the transition process. The transition process can cover a period of more than two years whilst the employee starts to live in the acquired gender. Medical treatment may also extend over many months.
Treatment:
Be aware of what gender reassignment may involve for this individual in terms of medical treatment and time off.  What are your policies and procedures for this?
Does your absence policy allow paid time off for absence?

If significant amount of short absences are foreseen (eg for clinic appointments), might you be able to agree some compromise where the time is made up or some flexibility in working hours?

Any authorised absences from work should be recorded as normal, but note that employees who are undergoing gender reassignment are protected from less favourable treatment in relation to absence from work for this reason, so you should treat this in exactly the same way as you would treat an absence due to illness or injury. Legislation does not specify a minimum or maximum amount of time for this absence, but it would be sensible (and supportive) to discount it from any calculations used to trigger absence management reviews (ie view the absences as a short-term reasonable adjustment.)

Reasonable adjustments?
Ensure that the employee can discuss any requirements or adjustments they may need. If the treatment is likely to result in physical discomfort (hormone injections for example may cause physical pain and discomfort) then review the duties to see if any temporary flexibility in working hours or tasks may assist the employee to maintain regular attendance at work.
Dress:
If you have a dress code, discuss this and any adjustments that may assist the employee. Ensure that any gender appropriate uniform is made available at the appropriate time.
Records:

Check what records need to be changed and when. These may include business cards, email addresses (including group membership), information on company websites or marketing material, IT systems, voicemail, address and phone lists, distribution lists, social media entries such as LinkedIn profiles, registration with any professional bodies, HR and payroll records etc.

Most will simply involve a change of name, but some will require confirmation of the change in sex (eg pensions documentation) and there may be other personal documentation (driving licence, qualifications etc) that the employee will change but you will want copies of.

Communication:

Take the lead from the individual as to how much information is communicated, to whom, how and when. The employee may wish close colleagues to be informed, but not for this to be generally known – in which case respect the need for confidentiality and ensure also that those who are told are instructed to keep this confidential.

The agreed staff could be informed verbally at a team meeting (at which the employee is/is not present – give a choice), or on an individual basis, or else through written communication.

The information will normally include how to address the colleague (new name, correct pronoun), how to support the colleague, how to deal with questions that may come from outside the team without breaching confidentiality etc.

It is important that those informed can ask questions in a context of respect and dignity – but best to encourage them to use the Internet for any general questions rather than asking personal or intrusive questions that may cause offence. (Many staff may simply be curious, particularly if they haven’t come across this before.)

Ensure that the employee is informed of those colleagues that must be told – eg payroll, pensions. Does the individual deal with clients/customers/suppliers who may need to be informed? Agree a plan for this and a suitable timescale, and ensure that any communication is agreed in advance with the employee. Some employees prefer to keep it entirely confidential (especially new recruits who are at the end of the process and do not wish others to know of their previous name and sex), in which case this should be respected.

Facilities:
The individual should be allowed to use the facilities (toilets, changing areas, showers and lockers) appropriate to the gender in which they present. Once starting to live in the acquired gender on a full time basis, they should be allowed to use the facilities appropriate to that acquired gender. Ensure that colleagues are aware of this in advance to prevent any surprises. Trans employees should not be required to use unisex disabled toilets, unless they choose to do so, particularly as a temporary measure during the transition period.
Policies and culture:

Ensure that staff are reminded of, and trained to implement, your equal opportunity policy, and also any other relevant policies (such as diversity, dignity at work and bullying/harassment).

Address any perceived or reported breaches immediately, including any bullying. Note that persistent use of the wrong pronoun (she, he) can be very undermining, as can inappropriate jokes or banter.

Job role:
Some trans employees find it easier to change jobs, relocate to a different department, location or even employer, and start “afresh”. If you are a large employer and are able to offer opportunities for this, then ensure that these are made known and offered to the individual.
Personal life:

Be aware that the employee may also face problems in their personal life – family and friends may struggle and previous relationships may be affected, in which case the employee may need additional support. If you have an employee assistance programme, do ensure that the individual is aware of this and how to access it.

Keep the situation under review and change your plan as and when necessary. Once the transition period is over, ensure that any old documentation (such as marketing material, website pages, HR records such as maternity records for a woman who has transitioned to a man) is destroyed or amended to prevent inadvertent disclosure of confidential information.

Actions to take for employers

A few general tips:
  1. ensure that your application forms (and any other documentation that asks for titles) allow applicants to define how they wish to be addressed, so offer the option to put “other”.
  2. warn candidates of any checks that you make for new recruits such as a DBS check, credit reference check etc. Where you require previous names, ask for this in a sensitive way and ensure that it is preferably dealt with by a nominated person who will be aware that the names on the checks may not match and who will store the data in a confidential and secure place. Note that the DBS has a specific process for trans applicants, who should contact the DBS sensitive applications line on 0151 676 1452 or email [email protected] for further advice about completing the form.
  3. equal opportunity monitoring – if you intend to monitor gender and gender reassignment, ensure that you give a written assurance that this is for equal opportunity monitoring purposes and remove the data from the application form prior to shortlisting, so that the risk of bias is removed. Asking appropriate questions about gender identity and trans status does indicate that you take this seriously – but ensure that any questions about gender identify are asked separately from ones about sexual orientation. When asking for gender, you could include “T” as an alternative to male and female, or give the option “prefer not to say”.
  4. ensure that your equal opportunities policy covers gender reassignment and that employees and managers are all aware that gender reassignment is a protected characteristic. You may wish to also have a diversity policy, or a policy on dignity at work.
  5. regularly review your policies and procedures and consider whether the proportion of any minority who can comply with any requirement or condition is considerably smaller than the proportions of persons not of that group. Are there any areas where indirect discrimination may occur? If there is a disproportionate impact on one group, consider whether the requirement/condition is justifiable and proportionate.
  6. encourage a culture of zero tolerance for bullying, harassment or banter which is unacceptable and offensive. Train your staff and managers to uphold this.
  7. consider introducing a set of core values which set out the importance of treating colleagues with dignity and respect.
  8. address trans employees as they would wish to be addressed – check which they would prefer, discreetly, as soon as possible. Mistakes in gender address can cause offence and distress.
  9. if asked for a reference for someone who has transitioned since leaving your employment, do check with the ex-employee whether you should refer to their previous name and gender or not. Ensure the content refers to the correct name and gender.

We are here to help

If you are considering outsourcing your HR, Payroll or Health and Safety, Contact us on 0844 324 5840 or get in touch with us here.

SHARE THIS:

Instagram

GET IN TOUCH

Got questions? Looking for advice?

GET IN TOUCH

Got questions? Looking for advice?

RELATED RESOURCES

Explore our comprehensive library of related resources to gain valuable insights, expert tips, and helpful tools for optimising your HR practices.

PARTNER REGISTRATION

Register your details below and we will contact you regarding how HR Solutions can support your organisation.

MAKE A GENERAL ENQUIRY

We’re here to assist you with any questions or enquiries you might have. Simply fill out the form below, and our dedicated team will get back to you.

Request your free trial

Register your details below and we will contact you about your 30 day free trial of the HR Knowledge Base.

REGISTRATION FORM

Register your details below and we will contact you about access to the HR Knowledge Base.  As part of your approved industry membership organisation you can get access to the HR Knowledge Base, created by Business HR Solutions, which is the go-to resource for thousands of business owners and managers across the UK.

REQUEST A PROPOSAL FROM US

We’re here to assist you with any questions or enquiries you might have. Simply fill out the form below, and our dedicated team will get back to you.

BOOK YOUR PLACE

Please complete the form and one of our team will call you back to discuss your query/booking.

2023/2024 SME BUSINESS SURVEY

Our latest 2023/24 SME Business Survey sheds light on the intricate dynamics shaping the SME sector and unveils critical insights that can guide businesses toward sustainable success.

IF YOU WISH TO PURCHASE HR ADVICE LINE TIME, PLEASE COMPLETE THE FORM BELOW.

HR Solutions are here to help. We offer a standard hourly rate package for ad hoc HR advice which means you can pay for what you need, whenever you need it, and then quickly get advice. Our highly experienced advisors are on hand to provide you with practical employment advice to help you manage your workforce.  You can purchase HR Advice Line time now, and the time purchased will be valid for 12 months.