Countdown introduces policy support for transgender staff

  • News
  • May 8, 2017
  • Sarah Dunn
Countdown introduces policy support for transgender staff

Countdown has recognised the rights of its transgender staff in a new transgender transitioning policy which aims to support them. The policy makes Countdown’s commitment to providing an inclusive environment clear, and offers practical assistance to team members who are transitioning genders.

The supermarket has around 18,000 team members across 184 supermarkets, distribution centres, processing plants and support offices.

Countdown’s general manager corporate affairs, James Walker, says as one of the largest employers in New Zealand, Countdown is continually reviewing its employment environment. Last year Countdown was one of the first Kiwi employers to launch a family violence policy, alongside The Warehouse Group.

“We think it’s extremely important that we had a proactive and clear policy around our transgender team members because no matter your sex, age, ethnicity or gender identity, or sexual orientation, we want everyone to feel supported when they work at Countdown,” says Walker.

“We’re one of the largest employers in the country, and part of that responsibility is to ensure that we are leading our sector and are a great place to work.  That means having formal support processes in place for our transgender team members when they need it, such as when they wish to be known by their new name, using toilets and changing rooms that match their gender identity, and ensuring they can take time off for medical care relating to transition.”

The policy also includes a support service for those managing transitioning team members.

Walker says a lot of the feedback Countdown had received from managers and teammates involved worrying about using the right language, or not knowing how to approach conversations. Countdown has several coaches with extensive in helping people through the gender transitioning process that can help team leaders with those conversations.

Tracee Nelley, president of Agender NZ, praised Countdown for the new policy.

“Countdown is definitely on the right track with the implementation of this policy and we can only hope that other companies see the importance and follow suit.  We at Agender NZ support Countdown and are happy to be involved with such a forward-thinking company,” says Nelley.

Under the new transgender transitioning policy, Countdown team members are entitled to:

  • Be treated with respect
  • The right to do their job free from harassment or discrimination, regardless of sex, age, ethnicity or gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Transitioning team members are entitled to take leave, using any leave entitlements they currently have, for any medical treatments while transitioning.   Personal medical details do not need to be disclosed.
  • Able to use a bathroom that matches their gender identity, at a time that’s right for them.
  • Able to decide when they wish to be referred to by new pronouns e.g. his/her.
  • Able to adopt a workplace dress code matching their gender identity, at a time that’s right for them.
  • Free access to EAP, Countdown’s employee assistance programme, for nationwide confidential counselling and support.
  • Working with managers to talk with teams.

Transgender people are are protected under the Human Rights Act from discrimination on the grounds of gender identity. This protection covers almost all aspects of employment including job advertisements, application forms, interviews and job offers. It also applies to unpaid workers and independent contractors.

In a 2011 document on 'Transgender people at work', the Department of Labour (now MBIE) advised employers not to ask a potential or existing employee if they are trans as in most employment situations, gender identity has no bearing on the employee's ability to perform a job.

For more advice on transgender people and employment, see the Department of Labour PDF provided by Agender here, or a more up-to-date guide on rainbow workplaces is available from Standards New Zealand for a fee.

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