Learn How Employers Can Support Transgender Rights in the Workplace

Learn How Employers Can Support Transgender Rights in the Workplace

Employers of all sizes want to support a more inclusive, safer workplace culture for their associates. What better way to show that commitment than to take simple yet meaningful steps to fully include transgender associates in the workplace.

The statistics are clear: inclusive companies are 120% more likely to hit financial goals. And 85% of CEOs with diverse and inclusive cultures report increased profits. Therefore, it's important for leaders to recognize their role in fostering a workplace culture that values that diversity, and also to realize that action – and especially inaction – speaks louder than words.

A frequently unconsidered constituency that could use more visibility and support right now are transgender employees. They face significant social, medical, even physical discrimination. Building a culture that proactively supports transgender rights in the workplace not only shows your commitment to diversity but also empowers all employees to bring their entire selves to work. And finding ways to demonstrate your commitment to these basic human rights can help retain employees and attract professionals who share those values.

Here are several ways your organization can show support for transgender rights that, by extension, help to foster a safer, more welcoming work environment for everyone.

Update corporate policies to use inclusive language

What you do may be more important than what you say, but what is written in corporate policies undoubtedly impacts what happens in the reality of day-to-day work. It may not seem like a lot, but it is incredibly empowering when every employee sees themselves in the corporate policies. It adds weight and credibility to the verbal statements leaders make elsewhere.

ADP has updated its non-discrimination policies to include language that protects employees and applicants who are transgender or nonbinary, and trains managers and supervisors on how to avoid implicit and explicit bias.

Modernize your benefits policies and administration

Revise parental leave policies to reflect your commitment to transgender rights in the workplace by replacing words like "mother" and "father" with gender-neutral terms like "parent." You could even use the term "caregiver" to include consideration for any employee who is caring for a child, regardless of the relationship.

It's important to allow employees to be as visible as they wish in the workplace and to give them the opportunity to self-select their gender from a range of options. To acknowledge and embrace employees who are transgender or nonbinary, update your handbook and benefits policies (and forms) to include gender-neutral language by avoiding references to specific genders and by including they/them pronouns.

Review the rest of your employee benefits documentation language, such as health insurance or life insurance summary plan descriptions. If those documents have gender-specific or gender-indicative language, work to eliminate it. An example: If the benefits description refers to coverage or beneficiary status for a "husband" or "wife," consider changing to the more appropriate and inclusive words, "spouse" or "partner."

ADP's own products are evolving to help support this increased visibility. For example, the Workforce Now HR solution is introducing a nonbinary gender option.

"This summer, our clients' employees will have the ability to self-identify their gender or to explicitly decline to identify their gender," said Amy Kaplan, director of product management at ADP Workforce Now. "If the client chooses to allow it, employees will also have the ability to indicate their gender as "X," which may include non-binary, third gender, two-spirit, transgender, gender fluid and other gender identity."

"Small enhancements such as these help both our clients and their employees be more inclusive beyond the binary, which is the typical offering now," Kaplan continued. "We feel this is another step in helping our clients reach their diversity, equity and inclusion goals. It's clear this is an expectation our current and future clients will have."

Create inclusive physical workspaces

It helps to engage directly with transgender and non-binary associates to identify the everyday pain points in their workday. For instance, if your workplace restrooms are still labeled Men's and Women's, this can create anxiety for employees who are transgender or nonbinary. Consider removing the designations and switching to gender-neutral restrooms that are available to all employees, regardless of gender identity. This approach is preferable to adding a third restroom for gender-neutral use, which can inadvertently draw unwanted attention to workers who are transgender or nonbinary.

Celebrate employees — If they wish

Employers can show support for employees who are transgender by acknowledging and celebrating their achievements, if the individual is comfortable with that. Many employees of all gender identities prefer not to be the center of attention, and it's important to respect that. Ideally, each employee's immediate team members and direct supervisor would be aware of their comfort level with that type of attention, so check before putting the spotlight on anyone.

You may consider officially recognizing Transgender Day of Visibility or running fundraisers for transgender-supporting organizations, if employees who are transgender are comfortable with such initiatives.

Implement transgender rights training

Many organizations conduct a variety of trainings with their employees on how to behave in the workplace, from sexual harassment awareness to sensitivity training. Include transgender issues in those training sessions, and make sure to cover all the relevant topics one might encounter at work, including gender-based harassment training (how to spot it, how to avoid it and the consequences for engaging in transgender harassment), bystander training (to empower employees to intervene when they witness harassment or abuse), and pronoun training. As with all employee conduct training, this is a process, not a one-time event, so it must be reinforced consistently throughout the organizational culture to be effective.

Make work safer and more welcoming for everyone

Devoting the necessary time and attention to transgender rights in the workplace benefits everyone, not just employees and applicants who are transgender. By taking proactive steps to help ensure a more inclusive work environment, your organization can create a culture that enables employees of all identities and backgrounds to thrive. The result will be a dynamic, multifaceted team that can take on the business challenges you face today and for years to come.

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