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Category Human Resources
Type Guideline
Approved byDirector Human Resources, May 2017
Date Guideline Took Effect 5 May 2017
Last approved revision29 September 2023
Sponsor Director of Human Resources
Responsible officer Head of Organisational Development

Please note that compliance with University Guidelines is expected in normal circumstances, and any deviation from Guidelines – which should only be in exceptional circumstances – needs to be justifiable.


This guide provides practical information about how gender transitioning of staff can be supported at the University of Otago. The University is committed to supporting any employee who is transitioning.

Organisational scope

The guidelines apply to staff at the University of Otago.

It will be useful for any staff member who is thinking of (or is) gender transitioning; has supervisory responsibility for a person who is transitioning; or is working in a support services area and may be required to support a person who is transitioning, their manager or team.

We encourage you to read this guide to familiarise yourself with the University's processes relevant to gender transitioning and how gender transitioning is supported in the workplace.


An umbrella term for people whose gender is different from their “assigned” sex at birth – as written on their initial birth certificate.
Transgender can be shortened to “trans”.
Can refer to one's own internal sense of being a man or woman, or an identity other than male or female. Gender is expressed externally – through clothing, behaviour, body characteristics and so on.
Gender transitioning (or Transitioning)
Steps taken by trans people to live as their gender. These steps may be social and/or medical. For example, a trans person may change their name and use pronouns that match their gender and/or dress in clothing that matches their gender. Sometimes transitioning involves undergoing medical treatment to change one's body to match one's gender through hormone therapy and gender reassignment surgeries (sometimes referred to as gender affirming surgeries). Transitioning is not the same as gender reassignment surgery. Not all transgender people choose to undergo a medical treatment.


1. If you are transitioning

  1. If you are transitioning when you commence employment with the University, or decide to transition during the term of your employment, there are a number of things to consider. We encourage you to prepare a transitioning at work plan (see Section 4).  The University is committed to supporting any employee who is transitioning, and support is available to work through the list of considerations below.
  2. Think about what information you will like to share with people at work (your manager, colleagues, students, clients), when you would like to share it, and how you would like to share it. Equally, consider what information you would prefer to keep private. Disclosure should happen on your terms.
  3. Identify if there is anything that could have an impact on your employment, such as assistance you might require, the amount of leave you might need to take.
  4. To ensure a smooth transition we encourage you to arrange a meeting with your manager to discuss your transition at work plan. You are welcome to be accompanied by a support person, union representative, whānau member, HR or Equity representative.
  5. The concept of gender transitioning may be new to some people and they might need time to educate themselves. This guide contains a list of external resources that might be of help to them.
  6. You can access the Employee Assistance Programme which is a free and confidential counselling service to help you during the process).

2. If a member of your team is transitioning

  1. If one of your staff members has disclosed that they are transitioning (or intend to transition in the future) your responsibility as their manager (and the employer's representative) is to support their transitioning at work. This includes addressing any issues that could affect the workplace. You may be asked to assist with communication to staff, clients or students.
  2. The concept of gender transitioning might be new to you, so please take appropriate steps to educate yourself about gender transitioning and what it means to be transgender:
    1. Allow the staff member to tell you about their individual experience.
    2. Refer to the External Resources section at the end of this guide for some recommended reading.
    3. Contact the Equity Office who can organise one-on-one training with the OUSA Queer Support Co-ordinator.
  3. The aim is to create an environment of support and respect and to prevent and/or appropriately deal with any issues. Many people have had a little or no experience with trans people. Lead by example to set the correct tone in the workplace. Be respectful, avoid making assumptions about the person, create a comfortable atmosphere, use the correct names and pronouns, and advise colleagues about using the correct names and pronouns.
  4. The staff member is encouraged to organise a meeting with their manager (you) to discuss their transition at work plan (please see Section 4 for what a transition plan can contain). Please ensure the staff member is aware they can be accompanied by a support person, union representative, whānau member, HR or Equity representative during this meeting.
  5. Maintaining confidentiality is critical, so avoid disclosing your staff member's transgender status prematurely and without permission. Be open-minded and demonstrate understanding. The transition plan will help you to determine how best to communicate the staff member's transition to their colleagues, clients and/or students.
  6. You should not ask the staff member to provide you with a Medical Certificate, or any other similar documentation about their transitioning, unless it is required under the Sick Leave Policy.

3. Meeting your legal and University obligations

  1. The Human Rights Act 1993 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex. This includes a prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of gender and gender transitioning. The same prohibition is also in the Employment Relations Act 2000. Discrimination applies to almost all aspects of employment including job advertising, career progression and remuneration. It also applies to unpaid workers and independent contractors.
  2. Both employers and employees are obliged to exercise a duty of good faith, which includes being responsive and communicative and actively dealing with any issues that affect their employment relationship.
  3. All employees have the right to express their gender without fear of consequences. The University expects students and staff to display ethical behaviour at all times, to all members of its community. Breaches of ethical behaviour include discrimination on the grounds of gender transitioning and personal harassment and bullying. Refer to the University's Ethical Behaviour Policy.
  4. The University's core values encompass “respecting and valuing others”, “equity in employment” and “support for full and equal participation and outcomes for all groups in society”. Refer to the University of Otago Strategic Direction to 2020.

4. Developing a transitioning at work plan

  1. As indicated previously in these guidelines, developing a 'transitioning at work plan' is a good first step in working through the process of transitioning while employed at the University. Below is a list of suggested topics that you might consider addressing in your plan.
  2. Communication:
    1. Who is going to be informed? For example colleagues, clients, students, collaborators.
    2. How they are going to be informed? For example by email or at a meeting. Will there be one announcement, or several?
    3. What information is going to be disclosed? This needs to be very clearly agreed to by the transitioning staff member.
    4. What information is to be kept confidential? This could be to just the staff member, or just the staff member and the manager.
    5. Who is going to make the announcement? For example the staff member, their manager, their HR representative.
    6. When will any announcement take place and how will it be phrased? The person who is transitioning must always be consulted before an announcement is made.
    7. How does the staff member want to manage any ongoing communication? For example, at different stages of their transition, or in relation to different work tasks/cycles (e.g. at the commencement of each semester)?
  3. Timeframes. It would be useful to document the dates or timeframes around when the staff member will:
    1. Assume their gender at work (e.g. be known by their new name, referred to by new pronouns, etc.)
    2. Adopt a workplace dress code to match their gender
    3. Start to use facilities such as restrooms and changing rooms which match their gender
    4. Need to take time off work for medical treatments relating to their transition, if necessary, or to attend to any other matters directly associated with their transition.
  4. University Records that will need to be updated (see Section 5).
  5. Any other matters that need addressing, such as additional support required by the staff member and/or immediate team members.

5. Updating University records

  1. At the appropriate time during a staff member's transition, they are encouraged to update relevant University records. This section provides details on how to do so. (Note that this relates to staff records only. Students should seek advice from OUSA Queer Support.)
  2. Gender, Title and Preferred Name can be changed at any time (and without any evidence) by contacting Payroll Services. Gender options are Female, Male, Gender Diverse.
  3. Your Legal Name can be changed through Payroll Services by completing an IR330 form, and supplying evidence of your legal name change. You can download the IR330 form on the How to update your details webpage. Name in the University HR records will have to match your legal name in certain situations (e.g. when applying for an ACC payment due to work related accident). When you update your name in the HR system other university systems might get updated automatically (e.g. Ask IT or Library systems).
  4. You can apply for a new University ID card if it doesn't show the correct name/title or photo. Please find out how to apply for a new ID card.
  5. To update other places such as email address, university webpages where your name and/or photo appears – contact Information Technology Services with any email related enquiries and Web Services with any webpage enquiries.

Related policies, procedures and forms

Contact for further information

If you need further support, information or assistance with transitioning while employed at the University of Otago, contact:

Equity Office

Joe Llewellyn
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Adviser
Tel +64 3 479 5113

Denise Lindsay
Head of Organisational Development
Tel +64 3 479 5431

HR Divisional Managers and Advisers

Each Division of the University has a dedicated HR Manager or Adviser. Please see the HR “Our people” webpage for details of the HR Manager or Adviser in your area:

Our people – Divisional HR support


Aileen Eckhoff
HR Payroll Manager
Tel +64 3 479 8248

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