Kemi Badenoch helped quash trans inclusive workplace policies as equalities minister

Kemi Badenoch speaking in parliament

Kemi Badenoch, former equalities minister and now a frontrunner in the Tory leadership race, pressured the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) into quashing trans-inclusive workplace policies.

In July 2021, the FCA announced a consultation on new diversity proposals.

The policy would have allowed for trans employees to self-identify their gender for the purposes of reporting on workplace diversity. For example, it would have allowed for trans women to be included in figures on the number of women working in the finance industry.

Months later, media reports led to the FCA being inundated with anti-trans backlash.

Letters, seen by Vice News, show that Badenoch subsequently pressured the financial services regulator to withdraw the proposals allowing trans folk to self-identify.

The documents were provided by whistleblowers to Vice after Freedom of Information requests were reportedly blocked by the FCA, the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), and the government.

According to Vice, in November 2021, Badenoch said in a letter to the FCA: “The ‘sex’ of an individual is an important protected characteristic.

“It would be helpful to understand what measures are in place to ensure that your approach does not undermine your efforts to measure and improve the representation of the female sex in company boards.”

EHRC CEO Marcial Boo told the FCA in a separate letter that the policy would “make it more difficult for you to gather accurate data on the longstanding under-representation of women in senior roles”, adding: “In UK law, a person’s legal sex is determined by what is recorded on their birth certificate. A trans person can change their legal sex by obtaining a Gender Recognition Certificate.”

Following the letters, as well as a meeting between the FCA and the EHRC, the policy was amended to be “as transphobic as possible”, FCA employees told Vice.

The new policy would have mandated that trans employees should only be recognised if they held a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), a document which the vast majority of trans people (more than 99 per cent) do not have.

Following resistance from queer FCA workers, the regulator then changed the policy yet again, opting to give no guidance at all on the recognition of trans employees.

One former FCA employee told Vice: “Our leaders made us adopt a spineless approach, in order to keep everyone unhappy.”

“The final version is obviously less progressive, but it’s not as terrible as it was going to be after we received the letters. I just can’t believe we had to go backwards on trans equality because of the UK’s equalities minister.”

The guidance was finalised and published in April 2022, and states: “We have removed the guidance on self- identification…. and have given companies more flexibility to determine how best to collect data from employees.”

A spokesperson for Badenoch said in a statement: “In response to a FCA consultation, and in her capacity as Equalities Minister, Kemi wrote to the FCA on how they could comply with the Equality Act and improve the representation of women on city boards.”

The FCA oversees 58,000 businesses and more than two million employees, though the policy would have applied to around 1,000 firms listed on the stock exchange.

A spokesperson for the FCA said: “The FCA is committed to having a diverse workforce – we want all our colleagues to have the dignity and respect they need to flourish, fulfilling their potential without fear of discrimination, harassment or victimisation. Our internal policies set out our commitment to trans inclusion.

“The changes we made to our policy on diversity and inclusion on listed boards were made in response to feedback from listed issuers and other stakeholders to our consultation. The final policy allows issuers to make their own decisions about how they report data, while protecting the privacy of trans board members”.

Kemi Badenoch’s Tory leadership bid is a terrifying prospect for trans folk

Following the first vote among MPs this week, Kemi Badenoch is joined by Rishi Sunak, Penny Mordaunt and Liz Truss as frontrunners in Tory leadership race.

Badenoch has a long history of anti-LGBTQ+ comments, especially anti-trans comments, and was previously condemned for “utterly failing” queer people in her equalities role. 

During her time in the Government Equalities Office, Badenoch held secret meetings with the LGB Alliance as well as so-called “ex-gay” groups, was reported to have skipped a key meeting on Gender Recognition Act reforms, defended anti-trans professor Kathleen Stock, and once described trans women as “men using women’s bathrooms” in a leaked recording. 

She shows no sign of toning down her rhetoric in her bid for Conservative party leader, and just this week described her plans to “abolish” gender-neutral toilets at a “free speech” event.