Gender is an integral part of our identity. While some of us identify as male or female based on the gender assigned to us at birth, many don’t. As per a 2019 study, it is estimated that up to 40 percent of trans people identify as non-binary. Meaning they do not identify as either male or female.
While acceptance of trans individuals is improving in the legislative and cultural spheres, the same cannot be said for workplaces. Non-binary individuals face particular challenges in the workplace that are unique from other LGBTQ employees.
The C-level leadership and HR leaders need to be cognizant of these challenges. If they want to create an inclusive and sensitive workplace then they need to provide a framework and processes that help non-binary employees overcome these challenges. After all, the modern workplace is one where employees feel safe and can openly participate in company culture regardless of their ethnicity, religion, race, or gender.
Why do you need specific policies for non-binary employees?
In a 2015 survey of 27,715 trans individuals, 77 percent said that they hid their gender at work, delayed their gender transition, and refrained from asking their employers to use the correct pronouns (he, she, they, ze) just so that they could hold on to their jobs.
67 percent reported negative results of coming out such as being fired from the job or forced to resign, not being hired, or being denied a promotion.
A quarter reported other types of mistreatment such as mandating them to report as their assigned gender to keep their job, having personal information about their identity being leaked, or being denied access to bathrooms that align with their gender identity.
What can HR leaders do to ensure the inclusion of non-binary employees?
You don’t have to wait for a court ruling to implement gender-identity-specific non-discrimination policies across your organization. In order to do so, you will need to address two main challenges that non-binary people face: protecting and promoting the rights of people of all gender identities and increasing employees’ understanding and acceptance of their trans colleagues
Here are 5 policy changes that you can implement at your workplace to create an inclusive and safe environment for employees across all gender identities and expressions. For more resources, you can refer to the Society for Human Resource Management and nonprofit organizations such as the Human Rights Campaign, Out & Equal, and the Transgender Law Center.
1. Protect gender identity and gender expression
Include non-binary protections in your company’s anti-harassment and non-discrimination policy. During the recruitment and onboarding process, be clear that an individual’s gender expression and identity are protected in the organization. Any infringements will be met with strict action.
2. Allow gender expression
Your office may have a dress code. But it should not exclude non-binary employees from expressing their gender. Modify unform clauses and apply them across the organization to avoid promoting gender stereotypes.
As an HR leader, you can empower employees to self-identify using tools such as the company’s intranet or internal mailing list. HR managers should implement an inclusive list of pronouns and genders for administrative systems and forms.
3. Sensitize employees
Lack of understanding and knowledge is a major contributing factor to the exclusion and mistreatment of non-binary individuals at the workplace. It is important to implement sensitivity and anti-harassment training throughout the organization from junior employees to senior staff.
4. Establish bathroom access
One of the main challenges faced by non-binary employees is sex-segregated bathrooms. Many workplaces mandate that their employees conform to using facilities that do not correspond to their gender identity. This is harmful and discriminatory.
For non-binary individuals, gendered bathrooms are still problematic. Here are some ways you can overcome this hurdle:
- Single-occupant gender-neutral bathrooms
- Multiple-occupant, gender-neutral bathrooms with single-occupant stalls.
- Avoid using gendered signage on stalls or facility doors
5. Implement inclusive health insurance policies
As per U.S. law, doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies cannot discriminate against trans or non-binary people in the provision of healthcare.
Also, healthcare plans cannot exclude transition-related care. Every individual must be treated without any discrimination. Your company can go a step forward and allot a healthcare plan for employees that fully covers confirmation surgery, mental health counseling, prescription drugs or hormone therapy, and other treatments that are commonly utilized by trans and non-binary individuals.
Your employees can feel committed to your organization only if they are accepted for who they are. Non-binary employees are no exception. Yet few organizations have succeeded in creating an inclusive work environment where gender norms are not enforced upon the employees.
As an HR leader, we hope that you take proactive steps to make your organization a place where employees, regardless of their differences, can find a safe space to work and grow.