A workplace can be a stressful environment for people who are made to feel conscious of their identity, not given access to basic facilities where they feel comfortable, and finally reach a point where they end up feeling helpless with no recourse or ability to change the situation.
According to a 2017 report published on the human rights of transgender persons in India by the National Human Rights Commission, 92% of transgender persons are denied jobs and 99% of them have faced some form of social rejection. The report contained many such shocking facts about a much mistreated and maligned community which led to the Transgender Persons Act, 2019 being passed. We believe employers across India must step up and do their bit towards creating a more inclusive workforce.
The Transgender Persons Act, 2019 has directed certain initiatives.
However, here are 4 things companies can do to help transgender employees feel supported:
- Employment: Employers should put out an Equal Opportunity Policy, direct the HR department to revise hiring norms. Sensitization is a must to enable everyone in the workforce to understand how we as a society endorse gender-conforming roles and reject those ‘breaking the norm.’
- Skilling: It is vital to recognize that transgender people have been discriminated against in education and for job opportunities over the years. They may not have the requisite learnings or training for a skilled job. In such cases, some Training And Upskilling Initiatives for transgender persons would be a big step in the right direction.
- Basic Rights: The basic needs and rights of transgender employees have to be safeguarded, including confidentiality. This includes sensitizing the entire workforce to practice inclusive behaviour and shun discriminatory practices. Studies have shown that discriminatory behaviour causes negative feelings, social isolation, and unproductivity (and this is not limited to transgender persons but to anyone. If the organization has an Anti-Discrimination Policy that punishes such behaviour, it could reset the workplace culture and affect all the stakeholders positively.
- Infrastructure: It is also important to provide some infrastructural support, with the use of restroom facilities and or access to hygiene products and healthcare. Imagine not feeling comfortable using the restroom at the office? Nobody deserves to feel like that.
The Act may be the reason for employers bringing in these changes but it is just the right thing to do, isn’t it? To help employees feel accepted, celebrated, and valued, the same way they contribute and bring value to the organization.
While there might be some non-compliances and failures of implementation in some places, the important thing to have in place is a feedback system so that affected employees can speak up and be heard.
- Redressal: Establishments are required to designate a person to be a Complaint Officer, to handle the complaints relating to the violation of the provisions of the Transgender Persons Act.
From the above, we may note that there are several company policies that would benefit from a relook from the right perspectives.
An equal opportunity policy, as mentioned above, should first be formulated.
The code of conduct should be updated to contain guidelines as to preferred pronouns of employees i.e., whether they would like to be referred to as he or she or they/them.
The leave policy should be amended to factor in health concerns that affect transgender persons.
The anti-harassment policy should certainly be modified to consider targeting of transgender employees as harassment and prescribe redressal.
Employers should plan and roll out appropriate policies and practices to action the above points, and go a few steps closer to inclusivity.
While the Act will direct and guide us, but it is in each one of us to break the prejudices and stereotypes to build an equal society. Organisations can be great enablers by creating an ecosystem for it.