A recent edition of the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme highlighted a distressing issue which certainly merited the broader recognition which this publicity achieved.
The programme concentrated on the plight of transgender patients who, faced with lengthy waiting times to see NHS specialists, resort to buying hormones online from unregulated sources.
Reading this, you may be thinking that, although this is concerning, it remains an issue which is unlikely to affect large numbers of your clients’ employees. But Aviva is seeing an increasing number of requests from large corporate customers who want support in helping members of staff encountering difficulties of this kind. Thankfully, workplaces are becoming more inclusive and employee needs which might once have been dealt with awkwardly – or considered taboo – are now being openly discussed. Many of us want to support this.
Self-medication carries obvious dangers to health. But even for people who manage to negotiate gender transition without feeling forced to such a risky measure, long waits to access treatment can have other negative effects. While gender dysphoria – lack of identification with a person’s birth-assigned gender – is not a mental health condition, the pressures of living with a gender mismatch can certainly contribute to mental health problems.
NHS gender identity clinics have a range of professionals in many clinical disciplines, all working together in the same setting to support the patient. But the number of these clinics is limited, so waiting times can be lengthy. And although it is great that the need for additional support is recognised, providing it is, understandably, not something that will happen overnight.
The role of private care provision is expanding within today’s changing workplace – and supporting transgender employees seems to be a perfect example of one area in which employers can demonstrate their duty of care to good effect. We know that mental health care, such as counselling, can be one of the most important steps to take if individuals are experiencing any mental health conditions related to gender dysphoria.
Employers who are seeking to support a trans-inclusive workplace can also take advantage of a growing supply of resources, including workplace events, toolkits and expert-delivered guidance on best practice. Pointing your clients in the direction of the stonewall. org.uk website is a good way to help them set out on this journey.
A culture of openness and inclusivity within the workplace is, of course, the first requirement for good intentions to take effect – and we should all do what we can to encourage this, as well as helping to introduce employers to the practical steps they can take to help bring employees the support they need.
In a working environment where employees are increasingly looking to their
employer for support with health and wellbeing issues, businesses which respond sensitively to those needs stand to benefit from improved staff loyalty and can only enhance their reputation as good employers. They will also foster the spirit of inclusivity and mutual support which allows all workers to perform at their best – something that’s almost impossible to do if you can’t be yourself at work.
Surely that’s something that all of us can do our bit to encourage.