Staff unions UCU, Unison and Unite, alongside the LGBT+ staff network and LUU students’ LGBT+ society have jointly written to University of Leeds management asking them to withdraw the draft replacement for the 2017 Trans Equality Policy.
UCU, with Unison and Unite, have made clear in early consultations that the proposed replacement policy should be scrapped and any consultations on improvement should be based on the agreed 2017 policy.
RE: Draft Trans Equality Policy
Dear Members of the Equality Policy Unit, and Members of the Equality and Inclusion Board at the University of Leeds,
We write to you to provide our views on the proposed new Draft Trans Equality Policy provided for our review in January and February 2021.
In summary, this is a regressive policy: key, supportive points have been removed, and statements have been weakened. We believe it lies outside of relevant laws, including the Equality Act (inc. Public Sector Equality Duty), GDPR, and the Gender Recognition Act:
Much of the language and terms used are inconsistent and not in line with best practice (i.e. are offensive).
Much of the wording has changed from “we will do” to “we will strive to” – which in practice means the University don’t have to do anything stated within this policy, only that they have to “strive to” do them.
There are many statements which are qualified with “where applicable” and “where feasible”. There is however no indication as to who decides what is applicable and feasible, nor indeed what criteria would be considered when making this decision.
Although we have asked, we haven’t been told why the existing policy is being changed to such a negative extent; ‘updating of IT systems’ does not explain the full, retrograde policy changes and the unenforceable nature of this new non-policy.
The existing policy already fits with the University’s new Equality Policy Framework, and in fact fits far better than the proposed new policy does.
The staff and student comments on the content and wording are fundamentally the same as have been provided by the Trade Unions previously. However, these comments have been mostly ignored by the Equality Policy Unit (EPU) so far.
Trans students and staff at the University have provided the following impact statements for your consideration:
“Especially in the context of increased transphobia in Higher Education, this policy does nothing to make me feel like the University wants to be a safe environment for trans people like myself. A strategy which aspires to “proactive equality and inclusion strategies” will not be successful if the policies behind those strategies do not read like policies that intend to support the provision of basic legal protections to trans people. This instead reads like a policy intended to obfuscate those provisions and protect the University if it fails in its duties both as an employer and as a public sector body.”
“When is it not “realistic” to speak positively about trans people? This implies there are circumstances when it is acceptable to speak negatively about us.”
“I cannot object more strongly to the use of “aims/strives to” in this policy document. Either you promise you will do these things or you scrap the document entirely- saying you hope you’ll be able to do something does not protect or support trans people at all.”
“Equality training that does not include trans people is not equality training.”
“I used to think the University cared about us; I fear I’ve seen the mask slip now. Understandably, I am scared. We are all scared.”
“The current trans equality policy made me feel confident about my work situation as a trans woman. The policy as currently amended makes me fearful for anyone following in my footsteps and fearful for myself as well.“
“Having learned that this document was submitted to the Trade Unions without any input from the UoL’s trans staff or students confirms my sense that the University has treated this as little more than a box-ticking exercise.
At best, this is an appalling oversight; at worst, it is evidence of a sinister attempt to hastily push an ill-considered policy revision past the very people most affected by it, without their input or awareness – a policy revision that, in my view, attempts to ‘correct’ the previous policy’s tendency to over-promise and under-deliver by instead both under-promising and under-delivering.”
“The University would do well to apologise to its trans staff and students and to humbly reflect on the motto ‘Nothing About Us Without Us.’ “
“It is particularly disturbing that the University would seek to privately reduce its commitment to providing basic protections to trans people during LGBT* History Month, especially as it is happy to simultaneously use its connections to the trans community as positive promotional material on its public-facing websites and social media.”
Therefore, we, the undersigned, collectively submit the following statements and requests to the University of Leeds:
- We oppose the new policy and cannot endorse any part of it.
- No more comments or engagement on this new policy will be provided at this stage.
- We are instead asking the EPU to scrap the new policy and begin engagement with the LGBT+ and TNBI Networks and Trade Unions in good faith and from a place of mutual respect and understanding, based on the current (2017) policy.
- We ask that the University engage with (and act upon input from) members of the trans, non-binary, and intersex communities, including students, at all stages of review and in all meetings regarding any present or future policy changes.
- We also do not accept that IT systems cannot be updated, and/ or organisational processes implemented, to fit the 2017 policy.
We await your reply.
Ben Plumpton, on behalf of UCU
Jo Westerman, on behalf of UNITE
Nick Allen, on behalf of UNISON
Ian Holdsworth, on behalf of the UoL LGBT+ Staff Network
Chris Minas, on behalf of the LUU LGBT+ Student Society