More big companies offer transition leave to transgender staff

Pride bags in Albert Heijn. Photo: Lauren Comiteau

More big companies in the Netherlands are offering special leave to transgender staff if they are going through transition, broadcaster NOS reported on Thursday.

This week food retail group Ahold Delhaize, the Netherlands’ biggest employer with a workforce of 130,000, announced it would give people who want to change gender 33 weeks paid leave to be able to go through the transition process.

The measure is part of the company’s Life Events Framework which provides support for workers who are going through changes in their lives, such as childbirth, moving house, marriage, navigating disability, bereavement or retirement.

The new addition to the framework, which only applies to the Netherlands-based staff, is aimed at “achieving a diverse and inclusive society,” the company said.

The move has been welcomed by Transgender Network which fights for the rights of transgender people. “These companies are leading by example. This gives people the opportunity to recuperate while not losing income, and employers will be less inclined to discriminate against transgender people during the application process,” chairman Remke Verdegem told NOS.

Pay deals

Most companies currently offering transition leave in their collective pay and conditions deals, including Ikea, universities, Philips, NS, insurers and government departments, allow for a 24-week transition leave over a period of ten years.

At companies Lush and Ahold Delhaize, the provision is not included in the collective pay deal (CAO). How many people out of a total of 400,000 workers have benefitted from the measure is not known.

“We prefer the measure to be included in a CAO because then it cannot be changed so easily,” said Peter Mekers of the rainbow network at trade union federation FNV.

There are between 90,000 and 390,000 transgender persons in the Netherlands, depending on the definition used, figures from Transgender Info show.

An investigation by research bureau SEOR two years ago on behalf of the education ministry showed transgender people face discrimination on the jobs market, and experience negative reactions to their transition from employers and colleagues. That in turn causes stress and loss of motivation.

In 2017 socio-cultural think tank SCP found transgender people are often on the lower end of the income scale and are more often in debt.

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