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Supporting trans staff policy


This policy outlines Birkbeck’s commitment to ensuring that trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary staff are treated with dignity and respect and are not disadvantaged in the workplace.

The College values and celebrates the diversity of its community and seeks to promote a culture that supports equality of opportunity for all staff, including trans, gender non-conforming and non-binary staff.

The policy sets out the steps the College takes to welcome and support trans staff and to prevent discrimination.

It is vital that we are able to recruit and retain skilled staff who reflect the College and the communities it serves. This includes ensuring that trans people are welcomed and respected and that our policies do not unintentionally operate in ways that discriminate against anyone, including trans staff.

Providing a working environment that is free from discrimination, harassment or victimisation because of gender identity is an important step in ensuring that trans employees, including non-binary people, are respected and valued. The College recognises that trans job applicants and employees are not required to inform the organisation of their gender status or gender history.  The gender in which an individual chooses to present will always be acknowledged and respected.

Gender reassignment is one of the nine protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010. The Act protects a person from discrimination, harassment and victimisation if they are 'proposing to undergo, are undergoing, or have undergone a process (or part of a process) of gender reassignment'. There is no requirement for the person to be under medical supervision as gender reassignment is considered to be a personal rather than a medical process. Under the Act, time off for medical appointments or other treatment for these purposes should be treated no less favourably than time off for illness or other medical appointments. Likewise a person who takes time off work for gender reassignment must not be treated less favourably in respect of employment decisions, for example by being denied access to training or promotion opportunities.

The Act also protects anyone who is perceived to have the characteristic of gender reassignment or is associated with someone who has the protected characteristic of gender reassignment, such as an individual's partner or a friend.

Under the Equality Act 2010, the College is legally responsible for any acts of discrimination, harassment and victimisation carried out by its employees during the course of employment. However, an employee who treats a colleague less favourably because of, for example gender reassignment, may also be held personally liable for discrimination.

The other piece of legislation that is relevant to this policy is the Gender Recognition Act 2004. This allows trans people to apply for a gender recognition certificate (GRC), which will give them legal recognition in their acquired gender and enables them to obtain a new birth certificate. The Act safeguards the privacy of an individual with a GRC by defining information relating to the gender recognition process as 'protected information' and, except 'in certain specific circumstances' (for example, for the purpose of preventing or investigating crime), it is a criminal offence to disclose such information without the individual's consent.

Failure to take account of this policy may result in disciplinary action being taken against an employee.


The policy covers all employees, contractors, temporary workers and job applicants and applies to all stages of the employment relationship.

The policy accompanies Birkbeck's equality and diversity statement and Principles of Dignity at Work and Study.


Appropriate language and terminology regarding trans people evolves; however, it should be understood that how individuals choose to identify and how they choose to describe themselves should be respected by their managers and colleagues. Rather than assume, it is best to ask someone how they wish to be addressed. For further advice on appropriate language please refer to Supporting trans staff: guidance for staff and managers (PDF) (Birkbeck staff only).

Using inappropriate language and terminology can cause offence and distress and undermines the College’s aim to create an inclusive workplace for trans people.

Inclusive, gender-neutral language should be used where possible; pronouns such as ‘he/she’ should be avoided and replaced with gender non-specific pronouns such as ‘they’. 

Birkbeck recognises that gender identity and sexual orientation are not interchangeable terms. Trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals do not have a prescribed sexual orientation and this should not be presumed. Trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals have the same diversity of sexual orientations as cisgendered.


Birkbeck recognises that the transition process and the time it takes will be unique to each individual and that it may not be a linear process.

Transitioning is a major decision and may take years to decide upon. Staff may fear transphobic behaviour by their work colleagues. It is therefore vital that the College supports the individual so that they can continue to work without fear of discrimination and harassment and that colleagues are helped to understand the process.

Some trans, non-binary and gender non-conforming people might choose to transition, and those that do will navigate their own individual paths, selecting the elements that they need and want from the options available. There is no one way to transition.

Social transition means changing one’s gender expression using cultural cues and signifiers such as name, pronoun (he, she, they etc.), title (Mr. Ms. Mx. etc.) and any other gendered aspects of presentation and documentation.

Medical transition means having medical intervention such as hormone therapy or surgery. Social transition is a prerequisite for access (through the NHS) to some medical interventions.

Once the College has been made aware by an employee that they will be starting, or have started, the process of transitioning, an appropriate point of contact will be agreed with the employee. That person will work with the employee to develop a confidential Action Plan (see Supporting trans staff: guidance for staff and managers (PDF) (Birkbeck staff only)) to manage the individual's transition at work.


Responsibilities for managing, implementing and monitoring the policy are with:


  • Line managers are responsible for:
    • promoting equal opportunities in practice and, where applicable, for preventing discrimination
    • ensuring that they and their staff are aware of this policy and the College’s commitment to support trans staff
    • ensuring that their staff undertake appropriate equality and diversity and unconscious bias training as made available by the College
    • challenging staff who discriminate and ensuring that the relevant procedures are followed
    • agreeing a plan with a staff member who is (or plans to) transition to ensure that they are supported throughout the process
    • ensuring that a trans person is addressed and treated as the gender with which they identify with
    • if chosen by a member of staff who is transitioning, to undertake the role of key contact during that person’s transition
    • to ensure that any online or paper records are updated as required (in conjunction with HR and Payroll/Pensions and others as necessary).


  • All staff have a personal responsibility to:
    • support the equal and fair treatment of colleagues
    • be aware of, and comply with, this policy and the commitments that it entails
    • undertake appropriate equality and diversity and unconscious bias training as made available by the College
    • challenge/report discriminatory practice or language.


  • Assistant HR Business Partners will support and advise managers and staff on the interpretation and management of policy and practice.
  • HR Strategy, Policy and Equality and Diversity team will review this policy, its legal compliance review and any relevant data monitoring.


  • Equality and Diversity Committee (E&DC) will review and monitor policy and practice in this area to ensure this meets the needs of the College and its staff.
  • Human Resources Strategy and Policy Committee (HRSPC) will endorse any appropriate changes to the policy.


  • Approval provided by: Human Resources Strategy and Policy Committee
  • Date approved by committee: February 2019
  • Policy author and job title: Natalie Pancheri (HR Project and Policy Lead) and Gareth Stirrat (Principal HR Business Partner)
  • Version number: 1.0
  • Date Equality Assessment completed: November 2018