Countdown supermarkets have garnered praise from LGBT support organisations after releasing a new policy to support employees transitioning between genders.
The policy, which has been introduced at all Countdown supermarkets, distribution centres, processing plants, and support offices allows for transitioning team members to take leave, using any leave entitlements they currently have, for any medical treatments while transitioning, without having to disclose personal medical details. Employees are also free to use whichever bathroom suits their gender identity, decide which pronouns they wish to be addressed by, and adopt a workplace dress code which matches their gender identity, at a time that’s right for them.
On top of this, employees have been provided with free access to confidential counselling and support through Countdown’s employee assistance programme.
Countdown’s General Manager of Corporate Affairs James Walker says that as one of the largest employers in the country, Countdown has a “Responsibility [to] ensure that we are leading our sector and are a great place to work … 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.”
Managers have been given extensive coaching on how to provide the best work environment to proactively support transitioning employees. “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.”
OUSA Queer Support Co-ordinator Hahna Briggs praised the move, saying “I think it’s a really good, positive step, especially from such a large business, to not only come out with this policy, but to do so publicly. It’s a great opportunity for them to be a role model for other businesses, large and small. In terms of the policy, the areas they’ve chosen to focus on are really good. If I were asked by a business to give my view on what kind of strategic steps they should take [to support transgender employees], my recommendations would be very similar to the steps Countdown has taken.”
When asked if there were any further steps she would like to see Countdown, or any other large companies who want to provide better support for transgender employees, take, Hahna said “I suppose one area which could be better addressed is advertising. We’d like to see companies promote more diverse images to their customers, not just in terms of gender, but in all walks of life.”