A new policy supporting transgender staff members at one of New Zealand's biggest supermarket chains has been hailed as a "spectacular" step forward by LGBTQ advocates.
Countdown today announced its transgender transitioning policy, promising trans employees support over correct name and pronoun use, and the right to use whichever toilets and changing rooms matched their gender identity.
The policy also included the right to use any available leave including sick leave for medical treatments needed while transitioning.
Personal medical information did not need to be disclosed.
Countdown's corporate affairs manager James Walker said it was important to have a proactive and clear policy for the company's transgender team members.
"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," he said.
There were at least two Countdown staffers currently transitioning in Auckland and Walker said he expected the proportion of trans people among the company's 18,000 employees to more or less match the wider population.
A service for team leaders to learn about the practicalities of supporting trans team members would also be available, Walker said.
"A lot of the feedback we received from managers and team mates was worrying about using the right language with transitioning team members, or not knowing how to approach conversations or questions.
"We have several coaches who have extensive experience in helping people through the gender transitioning process, and can assist our leaders with potential conversations they might have with their teams."
Agender NZ president Tracee Nelley called the policy "spectacular", saying it gave Countdown employees incredible support, backup and protection within their workplace.
Agender is a support organisation for trans people and their families and Nelley helped Countdown in drawing up the policy.
"I think it is one of the most amazing steps forward for a large scale business in this country," she said.
"Purely because of what we've had transgender people experience for so many years; people don't want to know, they're ostracised in their workplaces, they're discriminated against horrendously."
She hoped other companies would follow Countdown's lead.
Green MP Jan Logie, who last year congratulated Countdown on becoming one of the first Kiwi companies to introduce domestic violence leave provisions, also welcomed the move.
"Transition can be a time of vulnerability where discrimination can be heightened so it is important that there are clear messages that people will be safe and supported," she said.
"It is really great to see Countdown, as a large employer, taking a stand against discrimination, and ensuring the human rights of staff are respected."
The Countdown Transgender Transitioning Policy has been introduced across all Countdown supermarkets, distribution centres, processing plants and support offices.
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.