Transgender people still face many extreme difficulties and experiences of discrimination in the workplace despite the Equality Act 2010 extending to protect transgender people. A report in 2018 by Stonewall discovered that 1 in 3 UK employers admitted they would be less likely to hire a transgender person. The report further revealed the levels of this extreme prejudice between different sectors with the retail sector reporting to have the highest at 47%, IT was not far behind at 45% and Leisure and Hospitality coming third at 35%. This is very worrying as it signifies that despite the Equality Act 2010 there is a considerable high percentage of recruiters that are biased against transgender workers and this prejudice extends across several sectors.
The Equality Act 2010 states that a transgender person is someone ‘who propose to, are undergoing or have undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex’. Further guidance to this definition also states that ‘to be protected from gender reassignment discrimination, you do not need to have undergone any specific treatment or surgery to change from your birth sex to your preferred gender. This is because changing from your physiological or other gender attributes is a personal process rather than a medical one’.
However, much confusion still remains amongst employees about what this act actually means with only 23% of employers in a survey carried out by Stonewall conscious of the laws safeguarding transgender workers while a 3rd also revealed that they would still discriminate against transgender workers by simply not hiring them. This lack of understanding and acknowledgment of the laws protecting transgender people has led to many experiencing forms of bullying and discrimination and in even more severe cases physical abuse. In the last year 1 in 8 transgender employees in the UK have been physically attacked by customers of colleagues, this is an alarming number and is making transgender employees more concerned about expressing their true identity when in a work environment. So much so over half of trans and non-binary workers have secluded the fact they are LGBT to avoid being discriminated against.
There have been many cases where transgender people have felt pressured in to ‘coming out’ to their work employees and managers but this only led to a lack of understanding or poor treatment among colleges creating a hostile work environment. This caused severe effects to their mental wellbeing to such an extent they have had to move departments in work or change jobs all together.
Much more work needs to be done to improve employers understand of transgender issues and encourage them to make a much greater attempt to support transgender workers without marginalising them even more. Currently there is a significant lack of trans-inclusive policies in the workplaces again across a variety of sectors and only a trivial 3% offering support systems for workers who wish to disclose their transgender status while only 12% have a zero-tolerance policy on transphobic bullying and harassment.
Transgender people have a right to feel as secure and equal in their work environment as anyone else, this absence of understanding of employers across multiple sectors is preventing transgender people from having equal opportunities of gaining employment. The lack of support within companies for transgender people to prevent discrimination is also minimal leaving many transgender people vulnerable to direct and indirect discrimination.