Discussion: How can businesses best serve transgender people?

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Discussion: How can businesses best serve transgender people?

Sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group

PinkNews joined with Lloyds Banking Group to discuss how businesses in the UK can best serve transgender employees and customers.

Leaders from the world of retail, health, banking, insurance, media and politics joined the roundtable dinner. Politicians attending included the Minister for Women, Equalities and Early Years Caroline Dinenage, SNP member of the House of Commons Women and Equalities select committee Angela Crawley, former Minister for Equalities Baroness Featherstone as well as David Isaac, the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

“Who has a gender neutral toilets policy in their office?” PinkNews CEO, Benjamin Cohen, asked. About a third of people put their hands up. “Still a long way to go, then.”

“When the Gender Recognition Act became law in 2004,” Benjamin began, “it was considered to be the most advanced legislation in the world. But now, in 2017, it seems to be lagging behind some other countries.”

Awareness of trans issues has become increasingly mainstream – as we sat for dinner, PinkNews had published 11,960 articles on trans issues – yet the increased awareness has highlighted how far there is for business to go.

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Discussion: How can businesses best serve transgender people?
(Left to right: Benjamin Cohen, PinkNews CEO; Karin Cook, Lloyds Bank; Caroline Dinenage MP, Equalities Minister)

Karin Cook, Group Director, Operations at Lloyds Bank, said that discussions like this one are crucial – we all benefit when people “can bring their whole selves to work”. Lloyds has produced a guide for all employees on LGBT issues and now lets them choose their own uniforms, rather than being prescribed one based on assumptions. But it will take companies from across the board to further this agenda.

Toilets and changing rooms
Gender-neutral toilets have been all over the news of late. In the US, President Trump is rolling back protections on this issue in schools. Karin Cook noted that Lloyds is looking to introduce a pilot of gender neutral toilets, but discussions are ongoing.

Brigadier Bobby Walton-Knight, Assistant Chief of Staff (Support) to the Field Army, said much of the army’s new accommodation is en-suite, resolving the issue of gendered barracks. He was confident that the Army could adjust to the requirements of trans officers and frontline personnel as and when they come through. Caroline Dinenage MP, Equalities Minister, recalled that on her visit to the Falkland Islands all of the army accommodation was gender-neutral because it was built when only men were allowed on the frontline.

ITV’s Director of Creative and Co-Chair of ITV Pride, Matt Scarff, noted the redevelopment of ITV’s flagship building on the Southbank, where discussions are ongoing to have gender neutral toilets in the new building. This is something Channel 4 has already introduced on their ground floor.

Oliver Entwistle, Head of LGB&T Policy Team in the Government Equalities Office, shared that two government departments are introducing gender-neutral bathrooms. The departments will be going for a mixed approach between gender neutral toilets and male or female-only toilets.

Discussion: How can businesses best serve transgender people?
(Centre: Kimberley Bird, Trans*formation and Lloyds Bank)

John Basnage, of Hogan Lovells, said that it has introduced gender-neutral toilets in its offices but added: “we don’t know what sign is appropriate to use yet.” David Sellick, Partner and LGBT Executive Sponsor of Ernst & Young, said: “At EY we’re beginning to rebadge our accessible restrooms as ‘Inclusive Restrooms’ which feature clear gender neutral signage. This next step on our own journey follows the publication of EY’s gender identity, expression and transition internal support guidelines in October 2016.”

One of the most challenging areas under discussion was gym changing rooms. Mark Forrest, Head of HR at Nuffield Health, recalled the case of one trans woman who had wanted to use the women’s changing rooms. The general manager of the branch did not know what to do. After a number of discussions and training, the manager agreed to let the member use their preferred changing rooms. However several other women complained about the trans woman and threatened to cancel their membership. This is an on-going issue. It was also noted that profit margins in the leisure industry are slim, and it can be challenging, sometimes impossible, to reconfigure buildings to account for new gender-neutral facilities or cubicles.

John Dickinson, Chair of Tesco OUT, highlighted that Tesco has always had gender-neutral changing rooms due to the shortage of space for such facilities in stores.

Isabella Segal, a partner in London accountancy firm Nyman Libson Paul, pointed out that trans people themselves are divided on the issue. She said that as a post-op transgender woman she didn’t want to use a gender neutral changing room or bathroom, she wanted a women’s one.

Discussion: How can businesses best serve transgender people?
(Isabella Segal, Nyman Libson Paul accountants)

One contributor, concluding, joked that: “People can pee wherever they like, so long as it’s in the toilet!”

Baroness Featherstone condemned comments by BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour host Dame Jenni Murray, who had written in the Sunday Times that “trans women aren’t real women”. It was noted by others around the table that Dame Murray used her prominent position to make a deeply divisive comment, and the lack of punishment from the BBC was indicative of trans issues finding themselves somewhat down the pecking order.

It was highlighted that newspapers frequently report trans issues inadequately, and they need better education. Caroline Dinenage said that she has arranged events with editors previously, in an attempt to bring them up to speed on best practice for reporting such issue. However, often those who accept are already on side, such as PinkNews.

ITV’s Matt Scarff said the company has held a series of ‘lunch and learn’ events for staff, including lunches attended by newsreader India Willoughby and radio DJ Stephanie Hirst, and they have proved effective in educating colleagues on the issues and best practice in the workplace.

David Isaac, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, echoed the need for better training for the media. However, as the former Chair of Stonewall, he was also optimistic – whereas LGB issues had taken three decades to become mainstream, awareness on trans issues was developing much more speedily. David also explained the critical role the EHRC could play in driving change by bringing strategic test cases.

Dr James Bellringer, Urology Consultant and an expert in gender reassignment, highlighted a dire state of affairs for gender reassignment resources. Demand is increasing 20% year on year, but the resources allocated are not. The funding allocations for gender reassignment are insufficient by the time they’re decided, and it is causing a major backlog, he said.

Many doctors and GPs coming through the NHS also are not given training on gender issues. Dr Bellringer acknowledged that the extent of issues newly qualified doctors need to learn about is vast, and gender reassignment is considered a low priority compared to spotting a poorly child, for example.

More seriously, he mooted instances of some GPs, themselves small businesses, refusing to supply hormones to trans patients. Some have refused on ‘moral grounds’ to supply trans patients with appropriate hormone treatments, which has been known to push some patients into purchasing seriously dangerous drugs on the internet and elsewhere.

Discussion: How can businesses best serve transgender people?
(Dr. James Bellringer, Urology consultant)

There isn’t a single underwriter in the UK that caters for the medical needs of trans people, Kimberley Bird, from Trans*formation, said. Although Lloyds has a system whereby they pay into a trust, rather than medical insurance for colleagues, meaning they have been able to provide trans health care for employees.

Forms and data
John Dickinson, Group Diversity and Inclusion manager at Tesco, said that the company is looking to move to big data, instead of relying on gender. For example, Benjamin Cohen, PinkNews CEO, noted that his supermarket knows that he is a vegetarian, despite having not told it.

Benjamin highlighted that many forms ask for a title – such as Mr/Miss/Mrs – including workplace forms. It was suggested employee contracts and data collection should be gender neutral. Emma Cusdin, HR Business Partner and co-found of trans*formation at Aviva, argued for an Mx option to be included when asking for a title.

Some people suggested employers should record if they have trans employees, and how many. It was pointed out, however, that employers are very reluctant to do so as they can get a fine of £5,000 per person if that data is accidentally or purposefully leaked.

Many of the companies that were around the table are large and employ many thousands of people. While they can set positive trends within their company, what can be done for small businesses? Fiona Cannon, Group Director, Inclusion and Diversity at Lloyds, argued that the likes of Lloyds and similar major companies are key to setting a positive example. They need to, firstly, pave the way for best practice in trans inclusion in business. Secondly, they have a direct role to play in helping growing businesses by explaining methods they can be trans friendly to colleagues and customers in ways that benefit their business overall.

It was widely agreed that the Gender Recognition Act requires updating, something the Equality Minister Caroline Dinenage concurred with. Others around the table led by Angela Crawley suggested the Equality Act needs updating, with Isabella Segal, of Nyman Libson Paul, specifically mentioning the ‘spousal veto’ being outdated. The minister said: “we will continue to keep the issue under review.”

It was agreed that the economic case for assisting trans staff is strong. James Bellringer, gender reassignment expert, noted evidence that suggests trans employees perform much better after completing their transition, frequently climbing the career ladder faster. This benefits both business and the government with more productive employees, earning more and therefore paying more in taxation.

Discussion: How can businesses best serve transgender people?
(Fiona Cannon, Lloyds Bank; Emma Cusdin, Trans*formation and Aviva)

The PinkNews roundtable dinner was sponsored by Lloyds Banking Group.