Need Advice?

I am having a civil partnership , am I entitled to the same leave as someone getting married?

Yes, the ‘special leave’ policy which covers staff who are getting married also applies to civil partnerships

Am I entitled to carer’s leave if my partner is unwell?

Yes,  the same procedure applies irrespective of the gender of your partner.

A patient/resident has refused to be treated by a health professional he perceives is gay. I am the unit manager, what should I do?

The manager should firstly always support the staff member by emphasising to the patient that the staff member is a professional member of the team who is trained to carry out whatever tasks are required.  The patient/resident should not be able to refuse treatment from someone he perceives is gay any more than they should be able to refuse treatment from a member of staff from a black or minority ethnic community.    The staff member should not be reassigned unless it is by mutual consent. 

A staff member has reported that she finds it unacceptable that an openly lesbian member of staff talks about her life because she holds strong Christian views.

The line manager should clearly state that the lesbian or gay member of staff has the same right to talk about her/his home life as any other member of staff.  

My partner and I are in the process of adopting. We cannot be recognised for the purposes of adoption as a couple under the current legislation in Northern Ireland. However, the demands on us as a couple are the same. Does the adoption leave policy apply to me?

Yes, adoption leave applies to both opposite sex and same sex couples, whether you are married, unmarried or civilly partnered.    The leave is applied to people wishing to adopt a child and who have primary care responsibilities for that child.  The principles of the scheme are similar to the provisions within the maternity and paternity policies.  The leave also covers official meetings in the adoption process as well as time after the adoption itself. 

A colleague made homophobic comments in the tea room. I am not out but don’t want to be subjected to that in the future, what are my options?

If you feel confident enough to approach your line manager, you could ask she/he to deal with it in general terms rather than specifically draw reference to that particular incidence.   This could include organising diversity  or LGB&T specific training for the team, displaying LGB&T positive posters/literature.    You can approach your trade union representative who can speak to the line manager or HR about your concern without having to name who brought it to their attention.   Trade unions would then advocate a similar approach to above to protect your anonymity.  You can approach HR directly similarly asking for the matter to be dealt with in broad terms.

My partner is having a child, am I entitled to paternity and additional paternity leave even though I am a woman.

Yes, paternity relates to the person who is not the biological parent but has responsibility for the baby’s upbringing.   It also applies to those who are adopting. 

Paternity leave applies to the person who has responsibility for the baby’s upbringing and is either;

  • The biological father
  •  Adoptive father
  • Nominated carer
  • Partner

To qualify for additional paternity leave you must be either

  • The father of the child
  • Spouse, partner or civil partner of the mother or adopter
  • The main carer for the child for the Additional Paternity Period
  •  Responsible (apart from the mother or adopter) for the on-going care of the child

A colleague has told me that she is not against gay people but doesn’t agree with us and will pray for me. I find this offensive, what can I do?

You can address it directly with the individual.  You can raise it with your line manager and ask them to address it directly and provide team diversity training.  If you are not happy with the outcome, you can raise a grievance.      

I was interviewed for a post and believe that I didn’t get it because I am an openly gay woman. How do I put in a complaint?

You have a right to feedback on your interview.  You can submit a Freedom of Information request which will give you more information about the interview process and outcomes.  You can talk to your trade union or the Equality Commission about lodging a discrimination case.

I identify as transgender and am planning to undergo surgery abroad, the policy states that if I go abroad, I cannot count it as sick leave. Why is this?

The policy on accessing medical treatment abroad generally refers to elective cosmetic and dental treatment.  Gender reassignment treatment should not be regarded as elective or cosmetic.  It is unlawful to treat trans people  less favourably for being absent from work for gender reassignment than they would be treated if they were ill or injured.   You should contact your trade union representative to negotiate adequate paid time off, distinct from other sick leave.   Ideally time off should ideally be recorded separately from sickness absence and not used for absence management or monitoring purposes by the employer.

I am a transgender man and have started the transitioning process. What support can my employer offer in terms of protection from abuse, access to facilities etc?

Gender transitioning is often a very stressful time for a trans person. How it is handled at work can make all the difference. It is very important that the employer agrees how the process will be handled with the person concerned, right from the start. Issues to consider include:

  • Whether the member wants to stay in their current post or be redeployed
  • The expected point or phase of change of name, personal details and gender
  • Whether the member wishes to inform line managers, co-workers and service users themselves, or would prefer this to be done for them
  • What amendments will be required to records and systems
  • Whether existing policy on issues such as confidentiality, harassment and insurance address transgender equality and if not, how these will be amended
  • What training of managers and co-workers will be needed and when and by whom this will be carried out
  • The expected time scale of any medical and surgical procedures
  • What time off will be required for treatment and/or possible side effects.

There is no general need to inform co-workers, service users and the public that a worker is undergoing gender reassignment. It is necessary only where the working relationship is continuing though transition. It is usually good practice for employers to take responsibility for informing those who need to know, but the wishes of the individual should be given priority.   Education needs to cover general information about transgender people and specific information on the situation of this particular person. The right of all people to work in dignity and free from discrimination and the unacceptability of harassment must be made clear.

My same sex partner is being abusive and it is impacting on my work and time keeping. As a result I have been requested to meet my manager and HR.

Organisations have policies which support people who have been affected by domestic violence.  However, you must be prepared to disclose the information so the policy can be applied and support offered.   Your situation will be treated sensitively regardless of the gender of your partner.  Some organisations have colleagues who have trained as domestic violence liaison officers.  You can also seek support for the meeting from your trade union representative.   Being subjected  to domestic violence is a very difficult thing to deal with and even more so on your own, you should accept whatever support is available.

I am a trans female to male, but transitioned quite a few years ago and have had my documentation changed. Can the organisation find out my assigned gender at birth?

If you have had your documentation changed, then unlikely.   It has happened where  documentation relating to pensions still are in a person’s previous name or where references have been sought from someone who knew the candidate as pre transition.   It may be disclosed in a Criminal Record Check, but there is a procedure for transgender workers which  protects their confidentiality with employers while enabling the necessary checks against previous names.  You can contact the Access NI helpline on 028 90259100 or email  in confidence

The Gender Recognition Act gives anyone applying for or holding a Gender Recognition Certificate particular privacy rights.  It is a criminal offence to pass on information acquired ‘in the course of official duties’ about someone’s gender recognition, without the consent of the individual affected.  Breaches of confidentiality is treated in a serious manner and can be unlawful harassment.

A colleague who I manage who is not out has requested leave to care for a terminally ill partner. What should I tell her colleagues?

Be aware that if she had to come out to you to request the leave, that was in itself a huge step. The best approach is to ask her what she would like you to say in work to explain her absence.   But you can just be vague saying that she is on leave and not give an explanation.  You should follow up with her in terms of ongoing contact in the same manner as you would with other member of staff in a similar situation.

Am I entitled to special leave for assisted reproduction?

Leave for appointments relating to IVF treatment is generally regarded the same as any medical appointment.    This is irrespective of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.