Gethin Nadin

Gethin Nadin

Chief Innovation Officer

The world of work’s understanding of gender has significantly improved in recent years (it’s now common to see pronouns on email signatures, or businesses offering time off for gender-confirmation surgery (GCS)), but there is still a significant way to go.

Organisations need to do more than stating “no discrimination based on ‘gender reassignment or identity’”, but it can be challenging to know where to begin. Employee benefits are critical to the wider employee experience – the world of work cannot continue to evolve until reward and benefits evolve, too – so let’s start there.

1. Don’t stay silent for fear of getting it wrong

Society is increasing its understanding of what it means to be gender-diverse (that is, to identify in a way other than the gender you were assigned at birth). More people are familiar with genders that exist beyond binary male and female, and most people know what ‘transgender’ means.

Despite improved awareness, many people remain so afraid of getting something wrong that they try to avoid the topic entirely, and many organisations remain too concerned about making mistakes to implement any real changes.

But this isn’t an issue we can ignore any longer. Having an inclusive workplace can be the difference between happy, loyal employees and miserable staff who work poorly. Taking a stance, campaigning to talking openly about gender, and actively encouraging learning can only be positive – even if you make a mistake.

If you accidentally mess up someone’s pronouns or name, don’t stress about it! Just correct yourself and move on. Don’t make a big fuss and draw attention to it (as this just makes the person feel like they’re being difficult) – either correct yourself or just continue and use the right language next time. Encourage employees to do the same. You’ll be surprised what changes grow from simply being unafraid to have the conversation. 

2. Adjust your language

While this may feel like an obvious suggestion or an easy fix, cisnormative language (language which assumes the reader and wider world are all cisgender) can be insidious. When creating your employee benefits communications and education, it’s crucial to be inclusive.  

Some things to avoid may be the use of binary pronouns (she/her or he/him) in employee examples in the handbook, reduced options when selecting gender on a form, or policies that use gendered terms like ‘husband/wife’ and ‘mother/maternity leave’ rather than ‘spouse/partner’ or ‘birth parent/parental leave’. While these may seem like simple words, for someone who sits outside those terms, they can immediately be isolating and othering.

Even after you evolve your internal documents, benefits policies and collateral that comes direct from providers may feature gendered language – so address it with the provider or amend the copy yourself. While use of this language is rarely done out of malice, it is scattered throughout an employee’s experience – and for an employee who doesn’t fit into one of these boxes, it can be isolating, exclusionary and invalidating.

3. Expand your health benefits offering

The number of available health benefits has tripled in recent years, but for gender-diverse employees it is still lacking.

Navigating physical health and medical care as a trans or non-binary person can be challenging at the best of times, and discriminatory at the worst. For employees receiving – or paying into – healthcare benefits through work, they should be able to rest assured that their identity will not be called into question.

Even better is if you can provide benefit choices which cater specifically to the needs that some gender-diverse employees may have. For example, while not all transgender employees will choose to go through top surgery, for many it can be an affirming and life-saving investment, yet it is one which is inaccessible in its expense (costing up to $10,000 in the US).

Some organisations have gone so far as to implement benefits such as medical cover to include GCS, while others ensure there is emotional support available for employees undergoing GCS in the form of employee assistance programmes and counselling which specialises in gender dysphoria.

Consider reviewing your PMI, telemedicine or healthcare cashback benefits to see what is included that may be of use for gender-diverse employees. If you’re not sure, ask the provider – would they cover the cost of HRT (hormone replacement therapy)? What about surgery? Does your EAP offer gender therapy?

Final thoughts

These are just a handful of ways employers can reassess their wider benefits strategy to make the workplace more accepting and inclusive, but whether you change one piece of policy wording or implement a whole new benefit – every step helps someone.

If you’re still not sure where to begin, some great resources to start with are:

Originally published on REBA.





Gethin Nadin

Gethin Nadin

Chief Innovation Officer

Gethin is an award-winning psychologist who has been helping some of the world’s largest organisations to improve their employee experience and wellbeing for more than two decades. The last 11 years have been spent working as part of the senior leadership team at Benefex where Gethin leads thought leadership as Chief Innovation Officer.

As a frequent writer and speaker on employee experience and employee wellbeing, Gethin has been featured in Forbes, The Guardian, The Sun, The Huffington Post and The Financial Times as well as all major HR, Reward and Pensions publications. Gethin has been listed as one of the world’s top 101 Global Employee Experience Influencers for the last two years running, is listed on the Employee Engagement Powerlist, is one of LinkedIn’s top global contributors and an Inspiring Leader 2021. Gethin is also a regular keynote speaker, ex-Chair of Wellbeing at the UK Government-backed Engage for Success and a Fellow at the RSA.

In 2018, Gethin published his first book - the HR bestseller ‘A World of Good: Lessons From Around the World in Improving the Employee Experience’, which has gone on to inspire HR and Reward teams at some of the world’s best known brands. In early 2022, Gethin co-authored his second book ‘Das Menschliche Büro - The Human(e) Office’ a collaboration between leading academics and workplace professionals from across Europe. In October 2022, Gethin published his “third” book ‘A Work In Progress: Unlocking Wellbeing to Create More Sustainable and Resilient Organisations’ which also became an immediate bestseller.

A World of Good: Lessons from Around the World in Improving the Employee Experience
A Work In Progress: Unlocking Wellbeing to Create More Sustainable and Resilient Organisations