With the increased cultural visibility of gender neutral and transgender communities, the conversation around gender pronouns (for example “she/her”, “he/him”, “they/them”) is becoming louder and is one that is here to stay.
For many people, considering their preferred gender pronouns has never crossed their mind.
But for those whose gender does not necessarily align with the gender that they were assigned at birth, it can be a deeply personal, sensitive and emotive decision. It is important to be mindful that assuming someone’s gender based on their outward appearance and expression may not always be correct.
As often is the case, these societal shifts inevitably carry through to the workplace. Therefore, understanding how to proactively approach this topic within your own workplace, will ensure that your workplace is inclusive and comfortable for all, no matter a person’s gender.
What does the law say?
The Equality Act 2010 provides that it is unlawful to discriminate against someone because of a protected characteristic, of which there are nine. This includes “gender reassignment” and “sex”.
A person has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is “proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has 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”. Note that no medical intervention is required, and a person can fall under this protected characteristic even if they decide to stop the process of transitioning.
Recently, it was found that those with “complex gender identities” may fall within the definition of gender reassignment under the Equality Act. Although this was only a tribunal decision and therefore is non-binding, it does suggest that those who consider themselves to be “non-binary” (i.e. someone who does not subscribe to the customary binary approach to gender) may also be protected from discrimination. Read more about Taylor v Jaguar Land Rover  here.