As a small business owner, what are your responsibilities when an employee decides to transition from one gender to another, or privately tells you that they identify as gender neutral? The staff member is a valuable member of your team, and you want to make the workplace aspect of their transition as positive as possible. This is undeniably the best course of action for maintaining the quality of your business. What should you consider doing?
Inclusivity and Respect
The matter of how to inform your staff that one of their colleagues is transitioning can be a very delicate one. You need to respect your transitioning employee's privacy while still being sure that everyone else is aware of what is appropriate in terms of their colleague's new status. You could talk about the matter in generalities, without naming names. You should clearly state (ideally in written form) that any form of discrimination or abuse will not be tolerated, and anyone participating in such behavior can be subject to repercussions. You are essentially trying to foster an environment of inclusivity and respect. You should discuss this with your transitioning employee prior to doing anything.
Workwear and Uniforms
If you require your employees to have workwear or a uniform that must be worn in the workplace, you need to examine your existing requirements. If your policy dictates that employees must wear a gender-specific uniform (such as trousers for men, or skirts for women), it's easiest to simply discard these requirements altogether. Your transitioning employee might be on a journey to complete gender confirmation surgery, or they might not, but it's essential that they're able to dress in something that is appropriate for your purposes while still being comfortable for them. This could even involve them wearing different items during the process that might typically be intended for either gender. Reach out to workwear suppliers and see what your options are.
Most toilets in a workplace will be designated as either male or female, and this can be problematic for someone who is transitioning. If you only have one toilet for everyone to use, then this is not an issue. But if you have gender-specific toilets, it's best to designate all toilets on your premises as gender neutral. This is the most efficient way to create a safe space for your transitioning employee.
Transitioning from one gender to another can sadly be a rocky road for many people, so you'll want to do everything within your power to ensure that none of those rocks will be found in the workplace.