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HR guidelines on the use of chosen or preferred names of staff and faculty

At UBC, we endorse and support our faculty and staff in their use of names other than legal names to identify themselves for professional, personal, or privacy reasons.

The following guidelines explain the importance of, the ways to support, and legal limitations around the use of preferred names.

As part of our commitments to build a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable environments, please respect the preference identified; an exception may be made in the few instances where legal obligations exist.

Preferred names: Is it a preference?

UBC’s HR system provides an option for all UBC employees to provide a “preferred name.” To reflect language in most HR systems, these guidelines primarily use the term “preferred name” to refer to the name that an employee uses that is different from their legal name.

This terminology does not suggest that a preferred name is merely a preference that can be disregarded. UBC staff and faculty may choose to use other expressions, such as “chosen names,” in reference to a name that is different from a person’s legal name.

Background and rationale

The following guidelines provide direction to ensure that employees’ preferred names are used wherever legally possible (and more consistently) at the university. Using the preferred names of faculty and staff, whether on official university documentation, in IT systems, and in everyday conversation, upholds Policy SC7 – Discrimination (formerly Policy #3) and the UBC Respectful Environment Statement.

Many employees use preferred names. For example, some employees have a professional identity that includes a first or last name that is different from their legal name.

Having information systems display a preferred name helps lessen confusion in interactions with students and colleagues (who may not realize that “Jane Kim” and “Michelle Doe” are the same people as “Minjun Kim” and “Michelle Perez”), supports faculty and staff’s professional identities, ensures privacy when needed, and helps create a respectful work environment.

For trans and non-binary employees, who are protected on the ground of gender identity and gender expression in BC Human Rights legislation, the use of preferred names can be especially important to ensure safety and privacy. Learn more about gender diversity.

Considering that many people make assumptions about someone’s gender based on their name, many trans and non-binary people use a preferred name that reflects their gender identity and/or expression.

Being able to use a preferred name can also help reduce the likelihood of trans and non-binary employees being misgendered by colleagues. Addressing a person using their preferred name and gender has been recognized by human rights tribunals as best practice for non-discrimination (2015 BCHRT 54).

Permissible use of preferred names

As per the UBC Data Standards on Person Name (page access requires CWL login), preferred names may concern an employee’s given name, last name, or both.

Except as defined in Section 3 of these guidelines, members of the university community are entitled to use preferred names to identify themselves. The university acknowledges that preferred names should be used as consistently as possible in an employee’s daily work life, in communications with the employee/er, and in information systems.

For example, an employee’s preferred name can be used in the following contexts:

  • UBC Directory
  • Faculty & staff email (FASmail)
  • Offer letters
  • Recommendation letters
  • Name tags, website staff bios

Prohibited use of preferred names

a.) The use of a preferred name does not replace areas where a legal name is required by law (Section 5).
b.) The use of a preferred name cannot be used for misrepresentation or fraudulent purposes.
c.) The choice of a preferred name must be appropriate, cannot be obscene, and must not violate any university, provincial, or federal policies or regulations.
d.) Images or symbols (such as $ or %) are not administratively eligible to be implemented in preferred names. Accents and other linguistic symbols should be accepted if there is technical ability (e.g., Bäcker, Muñoz, Loïc, Sørina). This includes phonetic characters used in Indigenous languages, such as xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam).

The university reserves the right to remove any preferred name in contravention with these guidelines without prior notice to the individual.

Display of preferred names

The university recognizes that current systems do not consistently display preferred name information.

Going forward, the university should work to display preferred name information to the university community wherever feasible and appropriate, and should make a good faith effort to update reports, documents, and systems so that an employee’s preferred name(s) can be used consistently.

The display of preferred name information should be a priority in all systems that display name information publicly (e.g., course schedules, directories) and/or to other members of the university community (e.g., UBC Card, service requests).

Legal name requirements

The use of an employee’s legal name is required in the following contexts:

a.) Forms or documents related to Canada Revenue Agency, such as pay stubs, T4s or T4As.
b.) Forms or documents related to health benefits.
c.) Forms or documents related to the employee’s pension plan.

The university reserves the right to add additional contexts when in accordance with legislation or law.

Prefixes

To support a welcoming, inclusive, and equitable environment at the university and the consistent use of preferred names, prefixes (such as Ms., Mr., Mx., Dr., etc.) should always be optional on forms and in systems.

This recommendation is aligned with UBC Data Standards on Person Name (page access requires CWL login).

Privacy

UBC staff with certain administrative needs (e.g., Human Resources) may see both legal and preferred names.

All employees with access to employment, benefits, and other sensitive information should be trained on the implications of this access, the use of preferred and legal name, and the importance of keeping legal name information private except on a “need-to-know” basis.

Procedure for employees to enter a preferred name in Workday

Employees can change their preferred name in Workday. For Workday resources and help visit the Integrated Service Centre

Conclusion

We continue to advance a consistent use of preferred names across UBC, building on earlier efforts that focused on enhancing the student experience. If you or your staff would benefit from further education on these topics, the Equity & Inclusion Office supports education efforts as well as systems change across the university.

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