May 18, 2016

Man, Woman… Who cares?!

“I’m not a woman. I’m not a man. I’m something that you’ll never understand” is a line from a Prince song back in 1984.

Employers need to know what support their gender fluid employees need, and are entitled to, and with the recent death of Prince, there has been much talk about how he led the way in being gender fluid.

So what is Gender Fluidity?

Gender fluid people do not feel limited by the stereotypical expectations of men and women. They may feel genderless and want to be seen simply as a human being, or they may see their gender as a mixture of being a man and a woman. They could also feel more feminine one day and more masculine on other days.

Transgender people, or trans people, are terms to cover the many ways that people find their gender identity different from the gender they were assigned at birth.

There are other words that gender fluid people may use to describe themselves which include; non binary transgender, genderqueer, gender variant and agender.

What an employer needs to know

The Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination against people because they are transsexual, and is in place to prevent:

  • Disability discrimination
  • Sex Discrimination
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Racial discrimination

In relation to this topic, the term used in the Equality Act 2010 is “gender reassignment”.

It states that people are protected from gender reassignment discrimination, regardless of whether they are undergoing any specific treatment or surgery; this is because it is classed as a personal process, rather than just a physical/medical one.

Inter-sex people are not explicitly protected from discrimination by the act, but they must not be discriminated against because of their gender or perceived gender.

Supporting a Gender Fluid Employee

It is important that if a person chooses to come out as gender fluid in the workplace, that support is given:

  • The employer must be led by the employee’s needs and expectations
  • Be supportive
  • Ensure the workplace culture is respectful and compliant with diversity and equal opportunities policies.
  • The Equality Act 2010 places a duty on employers to take positive steps to eliminate discrimination, foster good relations and promote equality
  • The employer should be led by the employee regarding how they would like to be referred to (ie he, she or they may want to be referred to in a different way).
  • Consider giving the gender neutral option of Mx on forms along side Mr, Mrs, Ms etc. It is often the only option for gender fluid people or people that do not want to give their gender
  • Discuss any implications of a uniform policy and accommodate preferences
  • Do not ask or allow others to ask inappropriate questions ie anything of a higher level of intimacy than questions you would ask a non gender fluid person
  • Ensure the employee feels valued and not treated any differently

For further guidance and support on how to support gender fluid employees, contact our Employment Law team.

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About the author

Stephen Johnson

Stephen has over 25 years experience in private sector HR and management roles, working as a Manager for over 10 years and eventually moving into the financial services industry. In his current role as an HR Policy Review Consultant he develops, reviews and maintains our clients’ employment documentation. With extensive knowledge of management initiatives and HR disciplines Stephen is commercially focused and supports clients in delivering their business objectives whilst minimising the risk of litigation.