As gender identity issues in the workplace gain more publicity and media attention, many employers are seeking guidance on how to update their dress code policies and other aspects of gender identity to facilitate a more inclusive work environment. Virgin Atlantic recently received praise for leading the change in dress code requirements.
It is often beneficial to both employers and employees if there are dress code policies in place for staff to follow. However, government and Acas advice stresses the importance of ensuring that any dress code policy does not inadvertently discriminate. This has traditionally been seen in the context of ensuring that men and women are subject to the same or equivalent dress codes. However, recently attention has focused on how dress code policies can impact those who do not identify with the gender they were assigned at birth or who do not fall under the gender binary. traditional kind.
Virgin Atlantic has been praised for recent changes to its dress code policy as part of its philosophy of being “the most inclusive airline”. All Virgin Atlantic staff, including pilots, cabin crew and ground staff, will now be able to choose the uniform they feel most comfortable wearing, however they identify. This change was reportedly welcomed by employees, with the policy hailed as an example of how staff can be actively encouraged to be themselves at work. US TV personality Michelle Visage has been a strong supporter of the move and has featured in promotional materials for the campaign, saying Virgin’s efforts to foster inclusivity are “hugely important and personal” to her. It seems likely that other companies will look to follow suit, with Disney being another high-profile example of a company changing its requirements to allow employees greater freedom to choose clothing that suits their gender identity.
Government guidance on the matter indicates that it is advisable to avoid gender-specific prescriptive requirements. This echoes calls from LGBTQ+ activists to avoid the scenario where people feel unable to express their true gender identity in the workplace. For purely business reasons, it is generally beneficial for companies to create a workplace where individuals feel welcome, regardless of their gender identity, in order to attract and retain top talent. Importantly, it is also illegal under the Equality Act 2010 to discriminate against a person on the basis of a gender reassignment. While not directly related to avoiding gender-specific dress codes, removing these requirements is one of the steps employers can take to help trans* people feel more welcome and able to thrive. At work.
The dress code policy implemented by Virgin Atlantic is part of its wider initiative to review its policies around gender identity. This initiative has also included furloughing those undergoing gender reassignment, mandatory inclusivity training for all employees, and optional use of pronoun badges for staff. Additionally, passengers who do not identify as male or female will be able to use gender codes “U” or “X” when booking flights. These steps highlight the types of positive actions employers can choose to take to ensure that employees of all gender identities feel comfortable and welcome in the workplace.
Clearly there is still room for improvement when it comes to trans* inclusion throughout the workplace, but with a growing number of employers reviewing their policies and assessing how they can be adapted, progress is certainly being made. When employers take proactive steps, such as introducing inclusivity training to improve awareness of the issues faced by trans* colleagues or encouraging cisgender employees to highlight their pronouns to normalize this practice, it can make a difference. a big difference. It is encouraging to see a growing number of employers adopting this approach, and changes such as those made by Virgin Atlantic are fundamental to driving change towards diverse and inclusive work environments.