The New Core online staff system is set to launch in June but will only allow legal names to be displayed, meaning that transgender staff members could be outed by the database
A representative from Unison has expressed concerns to Redbrick that the system will reveal information such as a transgender people’s birth names, potentially revealing protected characteristics such as their biological sex. Referring to this rather than a trans person’s preferred name is also known as ‘deadnaming’ and could cause distress to current or future transgender staff. This may also be classed as harassment in the workplace.
New Core is set to go live in June 2019 and will change the way that Finance, HR, and Payroll systems are carried out at the University of Birmingham. All staff will be able to search for their colleagues, including students who also work for the University. Legal names will be visible on the dashboard when a staff member logs in, the staff directory, and to line managers.
The representative from Unison suggested that this may be a breach of people’s personal information: ‘literally anyone who works in the University can search this directory,’ which Unison claim could be ‘a data breach but also quite cruel to those staff members.’
Finn Humphris, Trans Officer for the Guild of Students, stated to Redbrick that: ‘Although an individual’s legal name is required for tax purposes at the point of processing payment to allow identification with HMRC’s records, there is no need for this information to be accessible to anyone not processing payroll. It will likely result in staff being outed and/or having their deadname known without their consent. Not only is this disrespectful to trans and non-binary people’s autonomy, it places people at risk of transphobic harassment and backlash. Any system that allows for ‘legal names’ cannot be considered to take the rights and needs of the community into account. At best, the University moving to such a system is a harmful oversight.’
In a statement to Redbrick, the Rainbow Network (whose aim is to support and improve working conditions for the University’s LGBT staff and PhD students) said: ‘Since we initially informed the University of this potential issue facing trans staff, we have continued to provide advice and guidance on how to mitigate the situation and protect their rights and anonymity, as well as meeting with affected staff to offer support. In all circumstances our top priority remains the wellbeing of our members and LGBTQ staff and PhD students across the University.’
An official statement from Unison expressed their ‘deep disappointment’ regarding the University leadership’s oversight. ‘The expectation that staff should bend to fit New Core, rather than correct this error, is indicative of the leadership’s attitude to individuals unlike themselves. The University’s Charter and ideals are important to students and staff alike and it is disheartening to see these principles eroded by those currently in power.’
When contacted, a spokesperson for the University said: ‘We believe our diversity is a source of strength that underpins the exchange of ideas, innovation and debate at the heart of our academic mission. As such, we remain committed to promoting equality, diversity and fairness irrespective of age, disability, gender, pregnancy or marital status, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation or gender identity.’
They went on to state that ‘the New Core team are investigating options for future development’ and are in ‘ongoing contact with those staff who may be affected to provide additional assurance and continue to engage with the University’s Rainbow Network to resolve the issue.’