2 min

Private sector pulling ahead of BC Liberals on trans rights?

Tips for human resources professionals trying to support trans employees

“HR managers want to do the right thing,” says TransFocus consultant Drew Dennis, but they need resources to assist trans employees. Credit: Robin Perelle/Daily Xtra

Even as MLA Spencer Chandra Herbert reintroduced his trans-rights bill to the BC legislature for the fourth time on April 27, 2016, some companies in BC’s private sector are considering steaming ahead without government leadership.

“There are definitely some organizations or some unions in the labour market that are leading the way,” says trans workplace consultant Drew Dennis.

At a Human Resources Management Association conference held the same day Chandra Herbert reintroduced his private member’s bill, one speaker explained the differences between gender identity and sexual orientation, and highlighted the need to accommodate trans people in the workforce.

Lawyer Elizabeth Reid cautioned human resources professionals against lumping in trans people as an indistinguishable part of the LGBT spectrum.

“There are very different communities with very different needs,” she told delegates.

Reid says many trans people do not need or seek accommodation. But some accommodation in the workplace should be provided as needed, she says.

She suggested employers could:

• provide appropriate washrooms or change rooms;

• teach people in the workplace to use their colleagues’ preferred name and pronouns;

• provide time for medical requirements;

• correctly allocate gender-based uniforms;

• assist employees transitioning in the workplace.

“HR managers want to do the right thing,” says Dennis, but they often have problems finding resources to assist trans employees.

What’s needed, Dennis, says, is information tailored to trans employees’ workplaces, rather than a cookie-cutter approach.

Chandra Herbert calls the private sector movement in this area “exciting.”

“We’re seeing movement in the private sector and the public sector unions taking action to be more inclusive,” says the NDP MLA for Vancouver West End.

“What it shows is the public is ahead of the government on this,” he says.

He hopes this will encourage the BC Liberals to act and approve his trans-rights bill, which is now awaiting second reading.

Trans Alliance Society chair Morgane Oger tells Daily Xtra workplace shifts are “really encouraging.”

That businesses are now moving ahead of government shows Victoria’s “contempt for people,” she says.

“The role of the government is to keep bad things from happening to people,” Oger says. “They’re not doing their job.”

Trans rights in the workplace are only one area of concern, she notes. Trans people face discrimination — and need government protection — in many more areas of their lives, she says.