The Minister for Women and Equalities has praised Lloyds Lloyds Banking for offering gender reassignment surgery as part of their staff private healthcare plan.
The bank announced the move earlier this month, explaining it was “essential” that it extended its cover to include gender dysphoria treatment.
The move makes the Lloyds Banking Group the first UK-owned Employer to offer access to private gender reassignment surgery, which will give more choice, and quicker access to treatment than through other means.
Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan praised the move in an interview with PinkNews.
She said: “I think it’s really important. It’s important that big companies and organisations like Lloyds are leading the way, and I congratulate them on doing so.
“I don’t think anybody enters into gender reassignment or any other kind of surgery lightly, but I think it’s really important.
“What we’ve seen is there has been a massive explosion of coverage of trans issues, and that’s to be welcomed.
“One of the things that strikes me every time I meet someone who has an interest in this is they want to be who they are.
“We have an obligation as a society to help that, and steps like Lloyds have taken are really important in recognising that.”
The surgery will be provided via Bupa to any mainland UK permanent staff member subscribed to the group’s healthcare scheme.
Karin Cook, Lloyds Banking Group Director of Operations, told PinkNews previously that staff will “be able to access healthcare much quicker than they would on any other health provision.”
She said: “They could have a wait of up to 36 months [using another health provision] but through this private provision they will be able to do it an awful lot quicker.
“We want to be inclusive to all colleagues and we felt that our current healthcare provision was excluding certain conditions which were very important to people, particularly in the support for some of the mental health issues that colleagues suffer.
“So it was essential that we were able to extend that to cover to people with gender dysphoria.”
Kimberley Bird, the Deputy Co-Chair of the Rainbow Network, added that she had a very emotional response to the change in policy.
She said: “I think as an organisation we have shown our visible commitment to the trans community.
“Personally I am proud to work for an organisation that just wants to be inclusive. Having seen and worked in the trans community for some time now I know that the offering that we’re making is groundbreaking and that, as an organisation, and as an individual, I absolutely welcome this.
“I do think other organisations will follow quite quickly and it will just change lives – that is what it is about for me.”
Speaking of her own transition, Ms Bird said the policy would have helped if it had been available to her.
She said: “I think it would have given me some additional structure, and would have given me some additional options that weren’t available to me at the time. It certainly would have cost me less money to go through the transition because I’ve paid for some of the items myself – especially as I did this some time ago now, some stuff was not available on the NHS at the time.”
Asked whether the provision was maybe a response to sometimes long waiting times on the NHS for gender reassignment, and sometimes criticised policies for changing gender, Ms Bird added: “Any private healthcare provision is there as an alternative – we are not saying that one is necessarily better than the other. This just provides a choice and it can in some cases speed up the provision of healthcare because they don’t have the same waiting list. It doesn’t mean the care is better – it is having a choice.”
“People can do this at their own pace whereas previously they were constrained by the NHS in terms of its waiting list and its times and its process. By having that flexibility that the private medical cover provides, it is better for us as an organisation but it is also much better for the individual as well.”
Ms Bird said she “would be surprised” if other businesses didn’t follow Lloyds’ lead, saying that because private healthcare provider Bupa has changed its offering, it will make it easier for it to become standard.
She said: “It should now be much easier for other companies to follow and we genuinely hope they will.”
Ms Cook continued: “This signals the groups desire to be ever more inclusive to everybody. This will help a number of colleagues internally and their families, but it will also promote our brand feel, probably both internally and externally as an inclusive employer.”
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“I think things are evolving for our brand, but I genuinely feel that what we are doing externally, the signals we are sending should start to attract more LGBT graduates, for example. We are looking at talent, who genuinely want to work for us.
Lloyds Banking Group also recently announced that it will streamline the process by which genders are recorded on its bank accounts.
This will allow customers to choose whether the account displays male or female, and to change the gender displayed instantly and without requiring customers to prove their legal gender.
Kimberley Bird and Karin Cook at the Lloyds Banking Group event announcing the change in policy
Bank accounts and credit cards will also allow customers to hold both a male and a female card, if they do not identify solely with one binary gender.
Lloyds Banking Group will be the only UK-owned company to offer the provision, while some others, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch which is US-owned, do offer employees private healthcare including gender reassignment surgery.
PinkNews founder and CEO Benjamin Cohen responded to the announcement, saying: “This is a groundbreaking announcement by a major UK employer. It will change the lives of many of its trans employees who currently are constrained by the timescales of other provisions, and sometimes lengthy waiting lists.”
Note: Lloyds sponsored the PinkNews Awards 2015