Out-Law News

British Airways lets male staff wear makeup and piercings

Rob Childe tells HRNews about practical ways to improve transgender inclusivity within the workplace

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  • Transcript

    British Airways has relaxed its uniform policy to allow male pilots and cabin crew to have piercings, wear makeup and carry handbags.  From Monday 14 November all employees who would normally wear uniform have been allowed to wear false eyelashes, mascara and nail polish, and wear earrings. But the airline will still keep its ban on visible tattoos. They will also not make any changes to their physical uniform, continuing with their male and female gender-specific uniforms.

    A BA spokesperson told MailOnline: 'We are proud of all of our colleagues at British Airways and we are committed to an inclusive working environment. We have worked with our people to create updated guidelines for grooming, beauty and accessories, allowing our colleagues to bring the best, most authentic version of themselves to work every day.' The airline has teamed up with RuPaul's Drag Race star Michelle Visage in a bid to 'reflect the diversity of its workforce' and 'offer its people a fluid approach to its red and burgundy uniforms.

    Personnel Today covers the story and suggests BA is trying to update its image to keep up with the likes of Virgin Atlantic, which has used gender diversity as part of its brand appeal in advertising. In fact, as they point out, Virgin Atlantic has gone further than BA by allowing staff to choose non-specific gender uniform, with men able to choose skirts just as women can opt for trousers. They also allow visible tattoos.

    Clearly, building some flexibility into a uniform policy is one way to address trans-inclusivity, and it’s an obvious one for the airline sector, but what about other sectors? What practical steps can employers take to improve trans-inclusivity more generally? Earlier, Rob Childe joined me by video-link from Manchester and I put that question to him:

    Rob Childe: “Well there are a number of things that I'd recommend employers think about if they are looking to become more trans-inclusive and to go on that journey to becoming more inclusive. The first, I think, is to have a gender identity policy in place. Now this is a really useful tool for managers, employees, and HR to have access to, at the point that an individual comes forward and says that they're transitioning or that they are non-binary or gender fluid etcetera. Now, this policy doesn't need to be long or complicated because the reality is that we know the journey that trans and non-binary individuals go on is unique and is going to vary case by case. So the policy isn't comprehensively going to cover every eventuality but it's more a framework to enable the discussions to take place internally and it's also a really good signal to the rest of the workforce that the organisation takes trans inclusivity really seriously. The other step that I'd encourage employers to take is to have some diversity and inclusion training that specifically focuses on gender identity. So this is something that we offer either through our Employment Law Plus team or we also team up with an organisation called Global Butterflies who are an exclusively trans staffed training agency focusing on HR issues because time and time again, the case law tells us, that it's not enough simply to have a policy sitting on a shelf gathering dust. Employers need to make sure that they embed their policies and their commitment to inclusivity through directly training their staff and managers and HR etcetera. I think in terms of other things to think about, well, pronouns are a big one. So what can the organisation do to encourage the use of pronouns within the workforce, what steps can be taken to remove non inclusive language. So the classics would be to remove letters that go out saying 'Dear Sir' or Dear Madam' as they are seen not to be inclusive for obvious reasons. Another step that I would recommend employers look to take is to monitor gender identity when doing annual diversity staff surveys. This can be a really useful tool because it will show the organisation how many trans and non-binary employees there are, and that can act as a bit of a catalyst, or a motivator, to make a business case for employers to take steps to become more trans inclusive to support the wider workforce.”

    Rob works closely with Pinsent Masons’ diversity and inclusion consultancy Brook Graham. If you are interested in knowing more about the work they do, the clients they've worked with and some of the successful strategies they have implemented we suggest you visit their website. We have put a link to that in the transcript of this programme.


    - Link to website of diversity and inclusion consultancy Brook Graham

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