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Non – binary Inclusion within the Workplace: A HR Guide

Non – binary inclusion is becoming increasingly significant in the workplace. As a Human Resources professional, it is essential that you understand what the term means for your business and how you can foster a work environment based on inclusion and support.

In this guide, we will explain what the terms non – binary and gender inclusion mean. We will take a look at equal employment laws in the UK and policy changes over the years. We will also discuss anti-harassment policies and staff training to help you create a positive, nurturing and inclusive corporate culture for your employees.

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Non Binary Meaning

Non-binary is an umbrella term that refers to anyone who does not fully identify with one of the two traditional genders: male or female. It includes those who identify as both or neither of the binary genders, those who identify as having fluid or multiple genders, and those with unrecognised genders, amongst others. For example, some people have a gender that blends elements of being a man and a woman. Others don’t identify with any gender. And some people’s gender changes over time.

Non – binary inclusion means not discriminating against someone because they identify as a non-traditional gender. This includes the workplace, but it also includes schools, sport and within society as a whole. Although there is a growing recognition of non – binary identities, as a society we still have a long way to go before those with non-traditional genders feel truly understood and accepted. The same can be said for gender inclusion, where men and women are viewed as equals, as there is sadly still too much gender discrimination occurring within the workplace.

As an employer, it is important to understand gender and non – binary inclusion and what it means for your company. You should provide support to any employees that identify as non – binary, and strive to build an environment based on support, respect and inclusivity. Not just in the way you manage your employees, but in the way they interact with each other too.

Non – binary Inclusion and Equal Employment

Generally speaking, employees are protected by law from discrimination in the workplace. This includes discrimination due to age, disability, race and religion. It also includes sexual discrimination and discrimination based on gender. In the UK, employers are bound by the Equality Act (2010) which states that employees must not be discriminated against due to age, race, sexuality, gender or gender identity. This covers all aspects of employment including recruitment and hiring, contracts, promotions, training and dismissals. Employers must also ensure there are no compliance issues relating to the Gender Recognition Act (2004) which recognises and protects the rights of transgender individuals. This includes direct discrimination, indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.

As an employer, there are numerous ways to prevent bias and discrimination. A good place to start is providing equal opportunities during the recruitment process. You might include removing biased language from job descriptions, restructuring referral systems or requesting a blind CV from applicants. A blind CV does not include any personal details that refer to a candidate’s gender, age or ethnicity. In fact, the only information requested from candidates relates to academic training, work experience and contact information. This removes any potential risk of gender bias and discrimination against non – binary individuals and helps companies hire a rich and diverse workforce.

Policy Changes

Before the Equality Act came into force in 2010, employees were protected from discrimination by a number of laws. This includes the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, and the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. The Equality Act replaced these anti-discrimination laws. The aim was to make the law easier to understand and to provide individuals more rights.

However, the Equality Act still failed to protect the rights of those who identified as non – binary. UK law was still failing to recognise any gender other than male or female. This meant that whenever a non – binary individual applied for a job, used an official service or accessed healthcare or education, they were forced to identify with one of the recognised categories of male or female. Although the Gender Recognition Act 2004 meant that transgender people were able to change their legal gender by applying for a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC), this was not offered to those who identified as being “gender fluid”.

Thankfully this began to change in 2020 when a UK employment tribunal ruled that non – binary employees should be recognised and protected from discrimination under the Equality Act. It was a landmark case that clarified a long-held ambiguity surrounding the rights of non – binary individuals.

Anti-Harassment Policies

Bullying and harassment continue to be significant workplace issues despite increasing awareness. Harassment might be due to age, sex, disability or gender (including non – binary). Examples range from unfair treatment, being denied recruitment, training or promotion opportunities, and persistent unwarranted criticism. Ongoing harassment in the workplace can lead to stress and anxiety and affect general morale.

As an employer, you are responsible for preventing bullying and harassment in the workplace. You should have a range of robust anti-harassment policies in place and you must offer training to all your employees on conduct and expectations.

We recommend you consider implementing the following policies to promote non – binary inclusion within your company:

  • Protect gender identity and gender expression.
  • Give employees the ability to self-identify on HR platforms and systems.
  • Remove gender-specific language from all your policies.
  • Include an inclusive list of pronouns and genders on your platforms and systems.
  • Modify your dress code so that it does not perpetuate gender stereotypes. Make sure all guidelines are gender-neutral.
  • Make sure all your policies comply with the Equality Act 2010 and other relevant legislation.
  • Include non – binary protections in your discrimination and anti-harassment policies.
  • Promote a culture of zero-tolerance against discrimination of any form.
  • Make it clear during onboarding that gender identity and expression in the workplace is protected.
  • Provide your employees with anti-harassment training. Educate them and encourage non – binary inclusion in all settings.
  • Consider providing gender-neutral bathroom facilities
  • Remember that it is always up to the employee how much personal information they disclose.

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Employee Training

One of the most important factors when it comes to managing diversity and inclusion in the workplace is employee training. Most discrimination and exclusion can usually be traced back to a lack of understanding and awareness. The best way to create a positive environment where no member of staff feels excluded or prevented from doing their job is to engage and educate your staff at every level of the company. Provide employees with sensitivity and anti-harassment training and set clear boundaries in your policies so that they understand why this training is important.

Methods for promoting non – binary inclusion in the workplace might include the following:

  • Educate your employees on the importance of diversity, inclusion and equal employment opportunities
  • Train from the top down and make sure you include all levels of your organisation (including senior executives)
  • Provide safe channels for open dialogue
  • Provide regular training and reinforce values daily
  • Promote a culture based on diversity and inclusion
  • Set clear boundaries to encourage an environment of safety and trust
  • Empower all employees and educate them to advocate for non – binary inclusion

If you follow these guidelines you will create an environment where every single one of your employees can flourish, regardless of gender identity.

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