Good practice for law firms on creating a trans inclusive workplace

Published 14 November 2019

Who is this information for?

All law firms we authorise.

Purpose of this information

This sets out good practice on trans inclusivity. It provides information about ways in which you can comply with principle 6 and paragraph 1.1 of the Code of Conduct for Firms (to be published on 25 November 2019) in relation to trans equality. It represents our current thinking on this topic and is not an exhaustive list of requirements.

We talk about:

  • Terminology
  • producing a trans specific statement
  • drafting a policy
  • using inclusive language
  • engaging with staff
  • looking at facilities
  • diversity monitoring.

General

You should encourage and promote an inclusive workplace culture and provide equality of opportunity to all staff. Having equality measures for trans people will help you do this. This means encouraging a welcoming environment in which all staff can meet their full potential and are treated as individuals.

This also includes providing support and understanding to those who wish to take, or have taken, steps to present themselves in a gender different from their registered sex at birth.

In seeking to promote an inclusive workplace culture you may wish to go beyond simply complying with the law in recognising that the current legislation does not cover a fully inclusive definition of trans.

Your obligations

Our approach to equality, diversity and inclusion

What you can do

Explain the terminology

Trans is an inclusive term for people who may identify themselves as transgender or transsexual, but also includes identities such as agendered, non-gendered, non-binary or gender queer.

Trans is an inclusive term describing all those whose gender expression falls outside typical gender norms, including those who live continuously outside gender norms, sometimes with and sometimes without medical intervention.

Transitioning is the term used to describe the process someone goes through to change their gender presentation or sex characteristics to match with their internal sense of gender identity, with or without medical intervention. Not every trans person will feel it is appropriate to use the binary genders of male or female during or after transition.

As with all of us, every trans person is different. Some people will transition to their preferred gender full-time and others will choose to live in their preferred gender part-time; some choose to undergo surgery or have other medical interventions and others choose not to.

Making sure you and your staff understand the terminology will help you demonstrate inclusive behaviours.

Produce a statement

Your firm can put in place a simple but comprehensive statement about trans equality and inclusion. This is likely to include information about how your firm will benefit from working with and employing trans people at all levels of seniority. Such a policy normally states that discrimination and harassment against any staff member, including discrimination and harassment against trans people, will not be tolerated.

A statement clearly defines your commitment to the inclusion of all trans people and regardless of a person's formal legal standing, the statement should state that trans people will be treated with dignity and respect. There are many different identities which fall under the trans definition and you may wish to list some of these.

Whatever the individual circumstances, it is important that as a firm you are flexible and supportive, and work together with trans people to provide appropriate support.

Draft and implement a policy

A policy on trans equality and inclusion will help to articulate support in this area. A policy provides visibility and reassurance and lets staff know this is something you take seriously. A policy outlines your responsibility towards staff who may wish to identify as trans and will be designed to focus on the support and advice provided to all staff, including managers or others who help to manage the support process at an individual level.

A policy normally includes information on confidentiality; for example, respecting the confidentiality of trans staff and not revealing information without their prior agreement. The policy may also include information about the use of facilities to express that anyone can access facilities which align with their gender identity.

Alternatively, you could include information about trans equality in an existing equality and diversity policy. If you do this, use inclusive language throughout the policy and include specific reference to trans equality and inclusion.

Use inclusive language

You can remove gendered language from information as it is not always necessary to use he/she or his/her. Instead you can use their/they. This is an important way in which you can confirm your commitment to trans equality and promote inclusiveness. Another example is using 'people' instead of men/women.

Gender neutral language which may stereotype people according to their sex can be avoided. For example, you can use the term 'chair' instead of "chairman".

A gender-neutral title "Mx" is used by the Government and other organisations in the UK. This can be included as a title option in application and monitoring forms. If you wish to do so, you can remove reference to all titles and use a person's first name and last name in place of this. When writing letters with 'Dear Sir / Madam', think about using the name of the firm or organisation to which the letter is addressed.

If you are not sure whether someone identifies as male or female, keep your language neutral until you know what terms they prefer to use.

Think about changing the wording on your website and make specific reference to trans equality and inclusion.

Engage with your staff

There are several of ways to inform and engage with staff and colleagues. You could provide training or facilitate an event. If the firm has a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) network, use the network group to communicate to staff about trans equality and inclusion. This can help build knowledge, open a discussion and allow staff to ask questions and receive support.

Learning about trans is about not making assumptions. It is about being aware of factors specific to trans people and making sure your firm treat all people in an inclusive and non-discriminatory way by taking such factors into account.

Having active role models in place will be helpful. It usually works best if the role model is a senior manager or partner of the firm and is visible about their commitment to trans equality. Anyone in the firm can be a role model.

However, if the role model is trans, do not force them to be visible or impel them to do trans equality work if they do not wish to do so. Role models might wish to host or chair a trans specific workshop or seminar or publish an article as part of a regular internal communications bulletin.

Confidentiality is crucial and it is important not to inadvertently 'out' someone, without their permission.

Facilities

You may wish to introduce gender-neutral toilets. This may mean something as simple as changing the signage.

It is not acceptable to restrict a trans person to using disabled toilet facilities unless they are disabled.

Diversity monitoring

Monitoring trans equality can help you understand the needs of your trans staff and clients. It can help highlight areas for improvement and demonstrate your commitment to equality and inclusion.

If questions about trans are included as part of your diversity monitoring requirements, have in place protocols with regards to data protection, anonymity and confidentiality. Think about why you are collecting trans data and the possible changes you may wish to implement as a result of any findings.

Communicate to staff about why you are asking these questions and what will happen to the information that is gathered. Trans staff are more likely to disclose information about themselves if a firm demonstrates it is trans inclusive. This can be demonstrated by implementing a trans policy or updating existing equality policies.

You may also wish to consider providing specific trans awareness training to staff who handle enquiries about monitoring forms or process the data collected so that data is:

  • held securely and confidentially
  • obtained fairly and efficiently
  • recorded accurately and reliably
  • used effectively and ethically
  • shared appropriately and lawfully.

We included monitoring questions on sex and gender identity as part of our firm diversity data collection. As part of this, we have worked closely with several expert organisations on developing these questions to ensure good practice.

Records

If a trans staff member is transitioning, their staff record should be changed at a mutually agreed time to reflect their preferred gender and name. Records that reveal a person has transitioned must be properly protected. You should consider what paper records you hold and whether these should be replaced. You have duties to keep such information confidential. Records should not be changed without the permission of the individual concerned.

Further help

If you require further assistance, please contact the Professional Ethics helpline.