What to include in a gender identity policy

What to include in a gender identity policy

Every employee should feel safe, respected, supported, and valued in the workplace. Recognising the unique rights of every employee can help to create a diverse and inclusive workplace. A key aspect of this is to develop a robust gender identity policy that promotes inclusivity for all gender identities.

What is a gender identity policy?

Essentially, it’s a guiding framework offering clarity on the business’s stance, procedures and practices related to gender diversity. By addressing critical aspects such as terminology, non-discrimination, pronoun usage, restroom and facilities access, dress code, and employee support, organisations can cultivate an environment where individuals can thrive authentically and bring their whole selves to work.

Developing and implementing a comprehensive policy can help employers to take meaningful steps towards fostering inclusivity, reducing barriers and creating a workplace culture that embraces and celebrates gender diversity.

Creating a clear policy also defines what kind of behaviour is expected from all employees and about discrimination and the law, and what is not acceptable.

Definitions to educate and provide clarity

The policy could include key terms to support the education of employees on gender identity. However, it’s important that any terms are reviewed regularly to ensure that they remain relevant. Caution should also be used when using terms to ensure they don’t cause offence. It’s important to note that an assumption is not made on a person’s sexual orientation based on their gender identity.

Using a reputable resource like (https://www.hrc.org/resources/glossary-of-terms) you may wish to define:

  • Gender identity
  • Gender expression
  • Transgender or Trans Person
  • Gender non-conforming
  • Non binary
  • Gender fluid
  • Gender dysphoria
  • Transition
  • Gender Recognition Certificate
  • Sexual Orientation

The needs and experiences of transgender or gender non-conforming employees will vary. Managers should therefore avoid stereotyping and making assumptions about their employees, they should work in collaboration with the employee to ensure they feel comfortable and supported as an individual.

The use of names / pronouns

Every employee has the right to use the name and pronoun of their choice. If you are unsure about what name or pronoun to use politely ask a colleague how they wished to be addressed. Staff should also be encouraged to ask for what they need, without judgement.

Your policy should include the pledge to:

  • Recruit and promote fairly. Selection for employment, promotion, training or any other benefit will be on the basis of aptitude and ability.
  • Create an environment in which employees can openly and honestly initiate or engage in discussions about gender identity, gender expression or transition, whether they are themselves, or someone they are supporting.
  • Respect the employee’s right to share what information they wish to and not disclose personal or private information to others unless it is with the consent of the employee.
  • Provide advice and information to managers about supporting employees who are transitioning to their gender identity and what resources are available.

Supporting sensitive conversations

Employers should put together some general guidance to support sensitive conversations. This should recognise that some employees may find it difficult to talk to a manager about their gender identity or expression. Help staff prepare for such chats by getting them to consider in advance what they feel comfortable sharing with managers and encourage them to mentally rehearse what they want to say.

It should be acknowledged that these conversations between managers and employees might be ongoing and changeable depending on the circumstance.

Employees should be encouraged to:

  • Take personal responsibility for their own health and wellbeing and raise any concerns they have with their manager.
  • Be open and honest when having conversations with managers.
  • Be willing to help and support colleagues.

In turn, managers should:

  • Provide opportunities for employees to raise any issues relating to their wellbeing.
  • Be a key contact in helping the employee to manage their workplace transition.
  • Not make any assumptions regarding their gender, sexual orientation, or transition status.
  • Discuss and agree with the employee on how best they can be supported.
  • Be familiar with the useful links to signpost employees.
  • Discuss what, if anything, the employee wants to be shared with colleagues, how this will be done, by who, and in a way that respects the individual’s privacy but that allows colleagues to understand.
  • Deal with any inappropriate conduct aimed towards someone because of their gender.

Workplace Support

Other elements to consider include:

  • Toilet facilities – how you will provide accessible facilities for employees or if there are additional facilities required for privacy.
  • Work with a transitioning employee on a workplace transition plan that maps out: a timeframe, how the employee wishes the transition to be communicated to colleagues, what support is available, plan leave for any medical procedures.
  • Training for colleagues to encourage more awareness and understanding. 

Data protection

When managing or processing information relating to an employee in regard to gender, the organisation should process personal data collected in accordance with its data protection policy, HR data protection policy, and employee privacy notice.

Data collected from the point at which the organisation receives information relating to gender or transition should be held securely and is accessed by, processed by, and disclosed to, individuals only for the purposes of supporting the employee in accordance with this policy. Further information can be found in our privacy policy.

Employment law to be aware of

Gender Recognition Act – 2004

The UK Gender Recognition Act (GRA) enables people aged over eighteen to gain full legal recognition for the gender in which they live. Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC) ensures that an employee has all the rights and responsibilities associated with that gender.

Equality Act 2010 – Discrimination

It is unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation under the Equality Act 2010.

Useful resources

  • Stonewall – UK-based charity that stands for the freedom, equity and potential of all lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer, questioning and ace (LGBTQ+) people.
  • ACAS resources on creating an inclusive workplace.
  • Equalities Act 2010.

Written by:

Alison King
Managing Director - Alison founded Bespoke HR in October 2005. After many years working for others in senior HR functions; she decided to start up on her own. There isn’t much that Alison doesn’t know about the world of HR, and she has surrounded herself with a team in her own mould.