9 Things HR Can Do to Support Trans & Non-Binary Employees

9 Things HR Can Do to Support Trans & Non-Binary Employees

Work is stressful for all of us. But in a world where your identity is often a cause of contention, it can be an incredibly difficult—even deadly—place to be for transgender and non-binary employees.

In recognition of Transgender Day of Visibility (March 31), we’ve put together a (non-exhaustive) list of ways that HR and leadership teams can support their transgender and non-binary employees and make their workplaces more physically and psychologically safe.

1. Offer inclusive benefits

Transgender and non-binary people face many forms of discrimination in the provision of health insurance and other benefits. HR teams need to act as their advocates when selecting these plans. Specifically, HR and benefits administrators should ensure they ​​remove transgender exclusions and provide comprehensive transgender-inclusive insurance coverage. Click here to read Transgender-Inclusive Benefits: Questions Employers Should Ask. 

This can also mean offering supplemental benefits like therapy, virtual therapy, telehealth, EAPs, meditation apps, legal support, wellness apps, and more, which can support the employee’s mental, physical, and legal needs.

2. Implement pronoun visibility

One simple, yet impactful, way that HR can support employees is by implementing pronoun visibility. We’ve already seen this increase in usage in the workplace with LinkedIn implementing the ability to share your pronouns. But this can be done in more ways, including offering all pronouns on your HRIS, creating pronoun-inclusive job postings and applications, and asking employees to display their pronouns in their email signatures and Slack names. Reminder: this should be implemented or encouraged for all employees and it should be a proactive action. Don’t wait for employees to come to you when they feel uncomfortable or unrepresented; implement pronoun visibility now.

3. Institute gender-neutral bathrooms

Perhaps OSHA said it best, “All employees, including transgender employees, should have access to restrooms that correspond to their gender identity.  It is essential for employees to be able to work in a manner consistent with how they live the rest of their daily lives, based on their gender identity. Restricting employees to using only restrooms that are not consistent with their gender identity, or segregating them from other workers by requiring them to use gender-neutral or other specific restrooms, singles those employees out and may make them fear for their physical safety. Bathroom restrictions can result in employees avoiding using restrooms entirely while at work, which can lead to potentially serious physical injury or illness.” Ensure that within your workplace you at least offer either single-occupancy gender-neutral facilities or multiple-occupant, gender-neutral restroom facilities with lockable single occupant stalls.

4. Implement anonymous reporting

Anonymous reporting can empower employees to come forward earlier with issues (like microaggressions, sexism, racism, transphobia, homophobia, etc.) they may have not previously reported for months, proactively helping the organization identify issues before they become bigger problems. In fact, 74 percent of employees say that they’d be more inclined to give feedback if it was truly anonymous. Ultimately, anonymous reporting helps establish a culture of communication, trust, and psychological safety, since employees know they are protected and supported throughout the reporting process.

5. Ditch the dress code

Some companies have dress code requirements that differ for men and women. Not only is this idea generally antiquated, but it can be incredibly alienating for transgender, transitioning, or non-binary employees. If your company must have a dress code, be general and be careful not to include gendered language in the policy.

6. Support transitioning employees

HR can (and should) be a rock within the company for transitioning employees, and when notified, HR should work with each transitioning employee individually to ensure a successful workplace transition. This includes, but is not limited to, supporting name changes (and all resulting email address, ID card, photo, letterhead, nameplate and health insurance documents changes).

7. Adopt trans-inclusive policies

If you haven’t already, ensure that you have clear company guidelines prohibiting gender and gender expression bias. Also be sure that you have strict rules about calling each employee by their preferred name and pronouns. Make sure that every employee is aware of these, signs on to comply, and understands that non-compliance can result in termination. With all of this, make sure you’re respecting all employees’ privacy and not revealing any personal or medical information.

8. Create ERGs & support groups

Building a diverse and inclusive organization starts with creating a culture that embraces and celebrates people’s differences. Investing in employee resource groups (ERGs) is a great way to give your employees a forum to meet like-minded people, raise awareness on key issues, and share their culture and values. By establishing an ERG, trans employees, non-binary employees, and allies in your workforce can share experiences, educate others on gender identity, and serve as a unified voice at your company. Most importantly, members of the ERG can come together to advocate for themselves both inside and outside of your organization.

9. Acknowledge & celebrate Transgender Day of Visibility

Last but not least, take a stand as a company. Acknowledge days like Transgender Day of Visibility so that your trans and non-binary know that you support them, even in a “politically-charged environment.” Just make sure that if you talk the talk, you also walk the walk.

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