Transgender advocacy group says new civil service rules ‘protect staff from unsafe conditions’

A transgender campaign group has said new rules compelling Northern Ireland’s civil servants to use whichever terms transgender people wish is an “important first step”.

By Adam Kula
Monday, 31st August 2020, 8:00 am
Updated Monday, 31st August 2020, 1:06 pm
The flag of the LGBT movement (formerly just known as LGB, or gay pride)
The flag of the LGBT movement (formerly just known as LGB, or gay pride)

Meanwhile, the Equality Commission told the News Letter that the move appears to be in sync with equality laws.

They were both responding to news from the News Letter that a new rule was inserted into civil servants’ handbooks in 2019, while there was no minister in place, setting out how workplaces must respond to people who describe themselves as transgender.

This does not just mean people who medically transition; it also takes in cross-dressing people, those who do not want surgery or hormones, or people who say their gender is a fluctuating spectrum.

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Transgender NI, an advocacy group based in Belfast, hailed the changes as positive.

It said: “We welcome this move from the NI Civil Service to ensure all trans employees are protected from harassment, intimidation & unsafe working conditions.

“There is still work to do, such as ensuring management and HR are adequately trained to support trans employees, however this policy is an important first step.

“Every individual, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, deserves to be and feel safe in their place of work. These changes are merely in line with existing longstanding law and policy across the UK, and existing case law elsewhere in the UK clearly supports the NI Civil Service’s approach.”

The News Letter also contacted the Rainbow Project, perhaps the most prominent LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) campaign group in Northern Ireland, but it declined to comment.

The Equality Commission was asked about the rules, including the fact they compel people to use language (like pronouns ‘ze’ or ‘zir’ for instance) which may conflict with their own beliefs.

It said: “The rules about equality at work are very much the same for all the equality grounds – you are protected from discrimination on the grounds of your sex (including transgender), age, disability, religious or political belief, race or sexual orientation...

“Regarding the use of language to colleagues, the law protects everyone from harassment at work.

“Harassment against a transgender person should be dealt with in the same serious manner as for any member of staff who is being harassed, for example, on the basis of their race or religion.

“The NICS policy seems to be in keeping with equality laws.”

It was put to the commission that its response had said nothing about the rights of people who disagree with transgender ideology.

It responded: “Equality law protects everyone at work and it is important that all employers operate within the law.”

READ MORE NEWS LETTER COVERAGE OF THESE ISSUES:

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