A Manifesto for Trans Inclusion in the Indian Workplace : An inclusivity guide for HR

Godrej India Culture Lab launched a research paper, which suggests some strategies that can make an organisation transgender friendly.


Rarely will you see transgenders sitting with their laptops or doing a desk job in an office in India. We Indians are more used to seeing ‘hijras’ singing at weddings, blessing new-borns, begging on the streets, trains and buses or even forced into the sex trade. Everybody knows that these are not the jobs they do willingly, but professions they are forced into because of discrimination and harassment. They hardly have any decent employment options to choose from.

Forget about the society, even the families of transgenders find it difficult to accept them as normal. Many underage transgenders are forced to work in beauty parlours and also end up being exploited for sex.

In an attempt to change the attitudes of industry leaders towards hiring from the LGBTQ community, the Godrej India Culture Lab launched the A Manifesto for Trans Inclusion in the Indian Workplace, a paper which largely talks about why organisations should hire LGBTQ people and how we can make our organisations transgender friendly.

According to Parmesh Shahani, head, Godrej India Culture Lab, not more than 300 trans people are working in the corporate world in India right now. “ It has been five years since the NALSA judgement, which came in 2014, and still we have not been able to create jobs for transgender people. There are lakhs of transgender men and women who need jobs,” says Shahani.

“We interviewed around 30 people from the transgender community including NGOs and agencies, who work with the transgender community as first-hand information for this paper,” adds Shahani.

The paper puts forward a case for trans inclusion in the organisations and how it can benefit the companies. According to the paper, transgenders form an untapped market which has enormous potential. The paper reveals that $200 billion (six percent of GDP) can be assumed to be the earned income from India’s estimated 45 million LGBTQ people. India’s loss in GDP due to homophobia and transphobia is up to $32 billion, or 1.7 per cent of our GDP as stated by the World Bank.

Parmesh Shahani

“It has been five years since the NALSA judgement, which came in 2014, and still we have not been able to create jobs for transgender people. There are lakhs of transgender men and women who need jobs.”

The Manifesto comes out with some recommendations and strategies which can make an organisation transgender friendly.

Active trans hiring activity with the help of HR can prove to be very effective. While posting a job, a company can avoid using gendered language,such as ‘He/She’.

In the dress code policies, companies can allow its employees to dress in accordance with their full-time gender expression.

Sensitisation of existing employees is very important to make an environment transgender friendly. This can be done through roundtable discussions, workshops and pre-placement sesitisation. It is very important to involve the transgender employees in the whole process, who can share their experiences and stories with their colleagues.

Making the infrastructure trans friendly is equally important. Creating a gender-neutral restroom is a step in this direction. According to many respondents in the paper, making a separate third gender restroom creates a divide. Therefore, a gender-neutral and a gender-specific restroom will be the best answer for organisations.

The manifesto also states that benefits should be given to partners and spouses of both the sexes. Given the current legal scenario, cohabiting partners should be considered equivalent to spouses when it comes to health insurance. Ideally, the insurance company should also include gender affirmation procedures and hormone therapy in their coverage.

The paper lays out the process and measures that can be taken during the transitioning process of a transgender employee. After this process, the name and appearance of an individual may change and corresponding changes will have to be made in the passport, as well as the Aadhaar and PAN cards.

There are some effective steps mentioned in the paper, which can be taken during the transition process, as follows:

1 Having a conversation with the employee, where the HR representative, co-workers and employees who have already transitioned are made part of the discussion.

2 Framing a timeline for the transition process, which may include the leaves required for the process and changes to be made in the identification cards and government documents.

3 Making the co-workers aware before the process.

4 Anti-discrimination policy should be embedded in the messaging of the company so that customers, who interact with trans people are aware of the company’s stance.

5 Employees and co-workers should be careful while discussing/casually talking on subjects other than work, such as sexuality and gender, which can make a transgender uncomfortable.

The paper also suggests forming an employee resource group for robust advocacy of the trans policies, both within and outside the company, and being mindful of trans employees’ particular circumstances.

“HR should understand the circumstances of a transgender candidate and be sensitive towards them. Help them in which ever way they can and go the extra mile,” suggests Shahani.

According to Shahani, the HR community is responding positively and wants to know the ways in which they can make their workplace inclusive. “This paper can guide HR to make their workplace inclusive and transgender friendly,” claims Shahani.

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