A study by law firm Irwin Mitchell has found 15% of UK managers would not be comfortable dealing with a complaint from a trans member of staff about their treatment in the workplace.
By comparison, 76% of leaders said they feel comfortable dealing with general complaints.
Charlotte Rees-John, employment partner at Irwin Mitchell, said the figures are surprising based on the number of enquiries the firm has received around this issue.
She said: “It’s positive, although quite surprising, that so many business leaders are confident they could deal with a complaint about the treatment of trans employees in the workplace.
“It can be a polarising debate and I’m not surprised that those who aren’t confident about dealing with these types of issues, worry about causing offence.”
More on trans inclusion:
Number of trans-related employment tribunals increases
Living openly as a trans woman in the workplace
Why your company needs a gender expression policy
The study found 10% of small business owners and 30% of those working in business and finance wouldn’t feel confident dealing with a complaint about treatment of trans colleagues.
Those who identify as male are less confident than females dealing with a complaint.
Pierre Gaubert, co-founder of LGBT+ professional network myGwork, said employers need to commit to creating a safe workplace for all employees.
Speaking to HR magazine, he said: “LGBT+ professionals, particularly, lesbians, non-binary and trans employees, are not getting the adequate support they need from management or HR, and discrimination in the workplace is going unchallenged.
“Everyone deserves to feel safe in the workplace, and organisations need to make a commitment to LGBT+ education and training.”
As trans and non-binary people are often the subject of public debate, Gaubert said it is important employers take action.
He added: “Right now it is particularly important that workplaces are actively creating a safe environment for their trans and non-binary colleagues, whose rights are consistently coming under threat.
“Employers have a responsibility to take any complaints made by their trans employees seriously and provide managers/leaders with the adequate training, resources and up-to-date policies to deal with it effectively.”
Rees-John said business leaders should be given training to feel confident handling complex equity, diversity and inclusion issues.
She said: “That’s where good diversity and inclusion training comes in. It should explain the language around this issue, for example what various terms mean and why they are important to trans people, challenge prejudices and encourage staff to accept and respect other people’s points of view, even if they are fundamentally different to their own.”
The findings are based on nationally representative survey results of 2049 people in a UK leadership role.