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    Open for business - diversity and inclusion at Unum

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    It’s International Transgender Day of Visibility on 31st March, so what better time to remind everyone that workplaces should be all-inclusive. Here’s what Unum are doing to promote diversity and inclusion, especially for the LGBTQ+ community, and ensure everyone’s welcome to work.

    It’s International Transgender

    Any business is only as strong as its team members. And it’s the ideas and unique contributions that come from a diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and experiences that enables a company to truly play to its strengths.

    We have long prided ourselves on being an inclusive employer, where everyone is welcome to be themselves. But we recognise that it’s far from a perfect world – or even business world – for many people. It’s one of the reasons why we decided to pin our rainbow colours to the proverbial mast, and help lead the way in our sector and the wider financial community.

    To ensure we remain at the forefront and continue to challenge ourselves, we became a Stonewall Diversity Champion in September 2017. We also set ourselves the target of becoming one of the top 100 companies listed in Stonewall’s Workplace Equality Index – a benchmark that assesses progress on LGBT equality – within five years.

    Working with Stonewall, our diversity and inclusion initiatives include:

    • Creating a unified vision which recognises diversity makes the company stronger

    • Dedicated Diversity and Inclusion Employee Resource Groups empowering staff to develop plans that raise awareness, educate and promote opportunities to get involved in creating an equal workforce

    • Specialised training, toolkits, and informative sessions that promote inclusivity and remove barriers

    • Revamped policies ensuring LGBT staff are specifically addressed and protected from discrimination in the workplace

    • Working with charity partners that support the broader LGBT community, like the Albert Kennedy Trust and Pride Portland!

    Our article, How to create an LGBT-friendly workplace (and why you should) went live on Clive in September 2017. It highlights the lower quality of life that LGBT people say they experience compared to their straight counterparts, and - mirroring our own goals - covers a number of touchpoints employers should consider, such as:

    • Their corporate and social responsibility in creating a supportive environment

    • Employee Resource Groups, formed from people with similar life experiences or characteristics, and based around the issues LGBT people face

    • Inclusive policies

    • Diversity training for line managers

    • Resources and wellbeing support

    • Community partnerships

    At the time of writing, ‘How to create an LGBT-friendly workplace’ has been viewed almost 6,000 times.

    We’re also able to draw on a position of experience. Staff who have transitioned within Unum have spoken out, which has been invaluable in helping guide our thinking.

    We created:

    • A new transgender, gender identity and gender expression policy

    • Transgender toolkits that provide important policy information, FAQs and recommendations for employees and managers on how to work with colleagues on transgender issues

    • A new gender identity employee fact sheet answering common questions

    • New dressing areas in our fitness centre locker rooms within our main US offices to provide options for greater privacy

    • Updated UK and US dress code policies to remove gender-based pronouns and other gender bias.

    Transition takes place across the boundaries of personal life, social life, and work life. And all those experiences are entirely different. Calling it a “metric tonne of effort”, our colleague in our Portland, USA office, Kay Gerber, together with HR’s Sandy Rosen, listed seven key points someone transitioning should consider, based on Kay’s own experience.

    • Transition on your terms - Don’t let someone else tell you how or when it’s going to happen. These are individual decisions. Choose terms you’re comfortable with.

    • Tell someone you trust at work - A diversity officer, human resources professional, on-site nurse, manager or even a colleague. Someone you trust will support you and have your best interests in mind.

    • Get familiar with company policies - Companies are required to abide by equal employment opportunity laws, and transgender employees are protected against discrimination based on gender. Some companies have a transgender policy that specifically addresses discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Remember to research company dress code policies.

    • Make a plan – This may include identifying all the places where your name needs to change, like email address, business cards, name plate and HR paperwork. The plan should also map out your first day at work in your new gender and how open you want to be. Be ready for the bathroom scenario.

    • Establish boundaries. Have an understanding with HR about what constitutes aggression, unconscious bias, harassment and discrimination – which can be verbal or non-verbal. If you feel someone has crossed a line, tell HR so they can take action.

    • Be open to more change. As you get comfortable in your new gender, you may become more intentional about your career. Recognize your value and that your unique perspective brings a competitive advantage to a company.

    • It’s a journey. Just like any other major life change, transition in the workplace is a journey. Regular check-ins with an HR contact are a must to discuss how it’s going. Also, don’t forget to lean on your support network. Chances are, you’ve found a group of people who understand your heart, believe in your purpose, and want you to be happy.

    Liz Walker, Human Resources Director at Unum UK, said: “Trans people face distinct challenges in the workplace. As employers, International Trans Visibility Day is a great opportunity to think about how we can overcome those challenges to make sure everyone on our team feels included, engaged and able bring all the richness of their experience and expertise to work every day.”

    For more information on transitioning at work, visit Stonewall for a range of inclusive toolkits.