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Employment law

Using pronouns in the workplace

We explain your right to disclose your pronouns at work and what actions employers are taking to ingrain the use of these in inclusive strategies.

15 February 2022

For some people, the gender that they were assigned at birth may not be the gender that they feel comfortable with, or that they identify with. That’s where the importance of gender pronouns in the workplace comes in.

How you interpret someone’s gender based on appearance or name may not be correct; a person may wish to identify using gender neutral pronouns, such as ze/hir or they/them pronouns. Others may choose to use he/him or she/her.

It’s important to be mindful of this. Using personal pronouns at work creates a respectful and inclusive environment for all.

We look at some of the ways you can share your pronouns at work and what you can do if your employer doesn’t support the use of gender pronouns in the workplace.

How to communicate your pronouns at work

There are a number of steps you can take to communicate your pronouns to your colleagues:

1. Verbalise – If you’re comfortable doing so, you can let your colleagues know what your personal pronouns are by saying something like ‘my pronouns are she/her’. If you’re someone who’s comfortable talking about pronouns in the workplace, regardless of your own gender identity or sexual orientation, then it’s a good idea to do so. It helps foster a safer, more inclusive environment for those colleagues who perhaps don’t feel so confident sharing, and normalises the usage.

2. Email signature – If you have access to do so, it can be helpful to include pronouns in work signatures. If you don’t have access or the relevant permissions, speak to your IT administrator, as they should be able to add this in for you. This is a straightforward way to make your personal pronouns clear.

3. Include in online profiles – You could also try adding your personal pronouns to your online profiles. Many now have dedicated areas where you can add your gender pronouns.

4. Ask that your pronouns be included on your name badge – Adding pronouns to your workplace name/identity badge is also an option, and may be a good one for those who wish to avoid discussing this with colleagues.

Your employer may have their own policy detailing how to share your pronouns at work, so it’s always a good idea to check this. It’s important to note, however, that employers shouldn’t force the use of personal pronouns at work. LGBTQ+ support network, Stonewall, explains that there are a number of important reasons for this, such as colleagues not being ready to share their gender identity.

What can you do if your employer doesn’t have anything in place?

It’s not currently mandatory that employers have a policy for using gender pronouns at work, but there are steps you can take to ensure that your working environment is an inclusive space.

How can I correct someone if they get my gender pronouns wrong?

The best way to correct someone if they get your pronouns wrong is to politely let them know – be it face to face or via email/phone call. Be clear and concise in your approach.

They’ll likely be apologetic and proceed to use the correct pronouns. If, however, they continue to use the wrong pronouns, you should speak to your manager, another manager that you trust, or a member of the HR department in order to get this remedied at the earliest opportunity.

How can I ensure I’m using colleagues’ personal pronouns correctly if they’ve made theirs known?

It’s important to exercise awareness when using gender pronouns in the workplace.

Adopting a habit of referring to others using a combination of their name and they/them is a more neutral approach and leaves less space for error. Where an error is made, it’s extremely important to take responsibility for it; to apologise to your colleague and to correct it going forward.

What can I do if my employer doesn’t let me communicate my pronouns?

The use of personal pronouns is an important part of an individual’s gender identity. Both gender reassignment and sexual orientation are protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010, which exists to protect everyone in the UK from discrimination. So, it may be the case that you’re able to take legal action against your employer for refusing to let you communicate your pronouns, depending on your individual circumstances.

As this is dependent on a number of potential factors, it’s important to speak to an employment lawyer in the first instance to find out if you have a case and what your next steps are.

You only have a set amount of time in which to bring a discrimination case, so it’s important not to delay so that you can get the justice you deserve.

How Slater and Gordon can help

If you need us, we’re here for you. We’re one of the UK’s largest consumer law firms and our team are experts in all elements of employment law, so you can trust that you’re in safe hands.

If you’d like to speak with one of the team, simply get in touch on 0330 041 5869, or, if you prefer, you can contact us via our online form or web chat.

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