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Off the record: Transsexual employees

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Ranjit Dhindsa, employment partner at Reed Smith explains how to handle the logistics when an employee undertakes gender reassignment including directions on which toilet should be used during the process.

When an employee announces they are about to have a sex change, what they need (and are legally entitled to) is support and understanding. Gender reassignment is a complex and sensitive issue which employers need to include in their diversity training and handle with care.

The employer should consult, plan and agree with the employee on how to handle any sensitive issues, including whether the employee wishes co-workers to know of the change in advance and whether they want to inform any colleagues and clients themselves, or would prefer the company to do this for them once the change has occurred.

If the employee wishes to disclose the situation to their colleagues, education of staff by the employer should take place on two levels (with the employee’s prior agreement): general information about transsexuality, and specific information to enable people to understand the situation of the individual involved. At the point of change of social gender, it is common for transsexual people to take a short time off work and return in their new name and gender role. This is often a good time to brief contacts.

The employer should inquire whether the employee would like to stay in their current post or be redeployed – this cannot be forced on the employee, but they may prefer it.

The employer must also consider how to handle any harassment or hostile reactions from colleagues or third parties such as clients, customers or suppliers. The legal obligations of the company and its staff, and the unacceptability of harassment should be made clear. The employee should be informed that if he or she feels that they are being harassed they should bring it to the employer’s attention and other employees should be reminded that if there is evidence of harassment, disciplinary action will follow.

Read more to discover what direction should be given regarding use of toilets.

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Annie Hayes

Editor

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