How should a business owner deal with a situation like this?The first thing to remember is that a transgender employee is a person like any other, and they should receive the same respect and fair treatment as any other employee. All employees are different, which should clearly indicate that all transgender people are different. You should respect these differences and try to create a supportive environment for all employees. Where you have an employee who is transitioning, they will have to live as their chosen gender for between one or two years prior to having any surgery. This means that the person will come to work as their chosen gender. In this case, you will need to speak with the individual to ascertain:
- How they’d like to be addressed – do they prefer he or she, for example?
- Which toilet facilities they would prefer to use
- How they would like this to be communicated to their colleagues – would they prefer a meeting conducted by their manager, information sent by email, or would they prefer to speak to their colleagues face-to-face?
AwarenessYou may need to run a short training session on equality and diversity to get the message across.
Toilet facilitiesThe law states that anyone can use any toilet providing they are not causing a public nuisance. However, the problem employers may come across is that another worker may not feel very comfortable about having to share the toilet facilities with a transgender employee. If this is the case, do not ask the transgender employee to use alternatives such as the disabled facilities, toilets on another floor, or do anything else which may single them out. This could be claimed to be discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment. Speak to the other employee in question and work out a temporary alternative for them. Of course, this may feel unfair to this employee, so you may need to monitor the situation to avoid any unnecessary conflict, harassment or bullying.
A happy, well-adjusted team is the goalThe aim is to create a tolerant environment which is acceptable to all, and one where all employees feel comfortable to be themselves, with the help of a few minor adjustments. A big spin-off from this is a happy workforce, and a happy workforce normally leads to better morale, better communication and better productivity.
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