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Supporting transgender and gender-diverse faculty and staff at UBC

At UBC, we know that diversity is welcomed, respected and considered foundational to excellence in research, education and engagement.

UBC recognizes that respect and support for transgender and gender diverse faculty and staff are central to their success and wellbeing. It is our interactions at work that can help us to feel a valued member of society. The recognition of gender diversity, specifically for people who identify as transgender, two-spirit, or non-binary, affirms and acknowledges that gender is highly personal and fluid, and is worthy of respect at UBC.

As a manager/supervisor, you are a leader in your unit and as such have the responsibility to provide a welcoming, inclusive, and respectful work environment. By working proactively with an employee who wishes to transition and/or utilize gender affirming procedures, you can help create a positive experience for the individual and all employees in your unit. The following information is intended to help you through this process and to assist you in modelling behaviour that shows respect for diversity and inclusion that you expect your staff to demonstrate in their relationships with each other and the people they work with across the campus.

For employees looking for information and support,please visit Transgender and Gender-Diverse Faculty and Staff at UBC.

Human rights and employer responsibilities

Transgender people have protections under the BC Human Rights Code and it is important for HR professionals and managers to understand these protections and facilitate the prevention of discrimination against trans, two-spirit, and/or non-binary employees in their place of work. Federal protections are also in place under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For more information please see: www.transrightsbc.ca.

An employer’s responsibilities to transgender individuals include:

  • Providing hiring, training, compensation, promotion and termination processes free from discrimination;
  • providing access to appropriate washrooms, change facilities, dress code, and uniforms;
  • upholding privacy and confidentiality wherever possible, including keeping trans status confidential if this is the employee’s request;
  • understanding and following provincial law regarding gender identity and expression (e.g. changing personnel records to reflect a trans employee’s gender identity);
  • approving time off for gender affirming medical procedures;
  • recognizing that transgender medical care is not cosmetic in nature;
  • making accommodations for an employee, up to the point of undue hardship;
  • addressing bullying and harassment concerns based on someone’s gender identity or gender expression; and,
  • encouraging a respectful work environment by leading by example and/or offering education support to their team.

Note: Throughout the document, transgender also includes two-spirit and non-binary gender identities. Two-spirit and non-binary will be used when specifically referred to in relation to UBC policy, practice or in reference to resources.

Definitions to assist you in understanding gender diversity

Transitioning in the workplace: planning a collaborative, supportive approach

Trans, two-spirit, and non-binary employees have the right to change their gender identity and/or gender expression while in their workplace. These changes support gender diverse employees to be themselves at work, but as with all changes, it is an adjustment both for the individual who is transitioning and for others in the workplace who need to make changes to how they interact with the transitioning employee. It is important to understand that changes may occur gradually or rapidly and that there is no right or wrong way to transition.

In some cases, employees may wish to keep their gender affirming changes and plans private, or to let only some people in the workplace know. In other cases, individuals may wish to announce their transition widely. In either case, the first step in supporting a trans, two-spirit, or non-binary employee is consulting with them to determine their wishes regarding confidentiality and desired supports. If the employee belongs to an employee group, they may want a representative from their union or association to be present.

Guidelines for the manager/supervisor and support team

The following guidelines help to identify the types of supports or changes that a manager or supervisor should consider when a transitioning employee shares their intent to transition in the workplace.

1. Disclosure of intent to transition

  • When an employee requests a meeting with you they may or may not advise you in advance of what the meeting is about. For example they may indicate that it is a personal matter.
  • At the disclosure meeting, ensure you listen carefully and avoid passing judgement. You want the employee to feel comfortable expressing their intent and their concerns.
  • Let the person know that you will support them through their transition in the workplace, but you will need their help in understanding what that will look like, and how best to support them.
  • Assure the person that your conversation will be held in confidence, but you may need to consult with Human Resources or other offices if you are unsure of supports, benefits, employee rights, etc. This is done to ensure that the employee is receiving the best support possible.
  • Remind the person they are covered by existing university policies, including Policy SC7 – Discrimination (formerly Policy #3), the Respectful Environment Statement, as well as provincial and federal laws.
  • Suggest that you work on a transition plan together.
  • Let them know that they can bring a support person to future meetings.
  • Do not ask intimate personal questions about surgeries, hormones, sexual orientation, etc. These matters are private and should only be disclosed by the transitioning employee if they deem it important and/or necessary.

2. Transition Plan

A transition plan should be based on the expressed desire of the disclosing employee. You can help shape the plan by asking them to consider a wide variety of issues, such as:

  • Their timeline for transitioning
  • The pronouns they would like to use
  • Anticipated medical leaves
  • Communications to colleagues/clients – who, what, when, and how
  • Training for colleagues so that they have a better understanding of how they can be supportive
  • Changes to Human Resources Management System and other systems with regard to pronouns, legal name, email address and signatures, etc.
  • How they can access further benefits information
  • How they might handle questions from insensitive or less knowledgeable colleagues and seek assistance from you or others

3. Inform yourself

  • Familiarize yourself with LGBTQ terminology.
  • Complete a Positive Space workshop. Visit www.positivespace.ubc.ca for more information.
  • Find out what resources are available to you at UBC by contacting your HR Advisor or Equity & Inclusion Office.

Educating UBC staff, students, faculty members and external partners to UBC

Knowledge and awareness are key to reducing the likelihood of misunderstanding and tension in the workplace, especially when individuals are transitioning or affirming their gender identity.

All UBC members can complete Positive Space workshops, offered by the Equity & Inclusion Office. This workshop provides participants an opportunity to learn more about LGBT2SQIA+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans (transgender, genderqueer, non-binary), two-spirit, queer, questioning, intersex and asexual) matters including the issues and needs of LGBT2SQIA+ people, concepts such as homophobia, transphobia and heterosexism, and the role and expectations of being an ally, especially within the university setting.

4. Implementing the transition plan

When the employee is satisfied that the transition plan is ready for implementation, ensure you are clear on your responsibility and the timing.

  • Review all communications, whether written or face-to-face with the transitioning employee before implementing
  • Check in with the transitioning employee regularly to see how things are going.
  • Be prepared to answer questions from other staff, customers and clients, but consult with the transitioning employee, if you have not already done so, how you will respond to these types of questions.
  • Ensure that all employees in your unit are familiar with the Respectful Environment Statement.

Systems notes for managers

Some UBC systems that are currently in place will require you to work with your employee to change their information. In some cases, the system requires us to have an individual’s legal name on file (for situations that involve legal matters, reporting to the Canada Revenue Association (CRA) for income tax and/or banking information). In other cases, when a person’s preferred/chosen name can be used (such as in our IT systems) you, as a manager/supervisor, can request that name changes be made to support the employee’s transition. In all situations, please inform the transitioning employee about what information is required and why, this will help to ensure this is a transparent and consistent a process as possible. If you have questions or need assistance in working with any UBC system, please contact your HR Advisor.

UBC and other external resources

As a manager/supervisor, it is helpful for you to become familiar with the health benefits available for your faculty or staff member who are wishing to transition. The resources include public health and wellness supports, including UBC benefits provisions and resources.

For more information, please see Transgender and gender diverse faculty and staff at UBC.

Time off

Time off for medical appointments

Some UBC employment groups are eligible for paid time off for medical appointments during working hours. For more information, visit the Human Resources Workplace Wellbeing and Benefits Leaves page.

Sick Leave

Faculty and staff are eligible for paid time off with benefits for gender affirming surgery and post-surgery, however the length of time eligible depends on the employee’s membership within UBC employment groups. For more information, visit the Human Resources Workplace Wellbeing and Benefits Leaves page.

In the event that the employee is medically-required to be off work for more than six months (four months for CUPE 2950), the employee should make an application to the UBC Disability Benefits Plan (for Staff) or the Income Replacement Plan (for Faculty). These plans provide a monthly income if the employees is unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness or injury.


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