Half of employers in the United Kingdom claimed they weren’t sure if they would hire a transgender person, according to survey results released this week.
In a survey of 1,000 employers, one in three workplaces polled by Crossland Employment Solicitors admitted they were “less likely” to hire a candidate if they knew the person applying for the job was transgender, as the U.K.-based magazine Business Matters originally reported.
Acceptance of trans workers varied by industry. Retail was among the least inclusive of transgender people, with 47 percent of companies in the sector reporting that they were “unlikely” to employ trans individuals.
Other industries fared slightly better, although just three percent of businesses overall claimed there were sufficient protections in place to shield trans people from bias in the workplace. Forty-five percent of employers at information technology (IT) firms probably would not hire a trans candidate, while just over a third (34 percent) of businesses in the sectors of manufacturing and hospitality said the same.
The polling firm behind the survey said the results recognize not only the routine discrimination trans workers face but also lack of knowledge about LGBTQ rights.
“Our findings reinforce what bodies such as Acas and the Women and Equalities Select Committee have been highlighting to the Government for years: Trans identity is more complex than the law currently recognises,” Crossland Managing Director Beverley Sunderland said in a statement.
While the U.K.’s 2010 Equality Act paved the way for equal access in employment for transgender people, one of the loopholes of that legislation is that it did not include trans individuals who do not plan to transition or do not currently have the resources to do so. Just 33 percent of respondents in a 2011 survey from the National Center for Trans Equality claimed they had surgically transitioned.
Gender confirmation, which costs upwards of $20,000 on average, is extremely costly for a population that faces disproportionate poverty. Thus, 14 percent of transgender women and nearly three-fourths (or 72 percent) of trans men said they never plan to surgically transition.
“What is clear is the need to change the law to protect not just those who are going through gender reassignment, but the wider transgender community such as non-binary workers,” Sunderland said.
A third of employers showed a basic misunderstanding of how civil rights laws in employment operate in the U.K., believing that all transgender workers are protected from discrimination under the Equality Act. This is even despite the fact that “an equal number [admitted] that they would discriminate against trans people by not hiring them,” as Business Matters noted.
But those who understood the limitations of the law claimed they were against extending the Equality Act to shield all trans people from bias. Six in ten employers (59 percent) said civil rights law should not protect nonbinary individuals or those who do not plan to surgically or medically transition.
Reports from the LGBTQ advocacy group Stonewall indicate transgender people are extremely aware of the challenges they face under current law. Half of trans individuals conceal their status at work, in fear of discrimination.