We take a look inside Origin Energy’s gender affirming support
If there’s one organisation that understands energy, it’s Origin. As well as being one of Australia’s largest energy companies with more than four million customers, the company is acutely aware of what it takes to create and maintain positive energy in the workplace. Jon Briskin, Origin Energy’s Executive General Manager puts it plain and simple. “We know that diverse workplaces create good energy,” he says. And the best way to promote that diversity? By supporting and encouraging employees to bring their whole selves to work.
In order to cultivate a culture where employees are comfortable in doing just that, Origin has implemented a range of policies, procedures and targets around diversity. “We have targets for gender equality, policies and assistance for working parents, our stretch Reconciliation Action Plan and Indigenous Employee Network, and our passionate Pride@Origin committee,” says Jon. With Pride@Origin initiatives that support the LGBTIQA+ communities, Origin has always focused on education and awareness. Most recently, however, the organisation has taken an important step forward by implementing gender affirming support.
As one of only a handful of Australian companies offering paid gender affirming leave, Origin employees are able to take six weeks of fully paid leave or 12 weeks at half pay when medically affirming their gender. Testament to Origin’s culture of inclusion, respect and understanding, the support guides the legal, social and medical aspects of a gender affirming experience, including Origin-wide education and awareness training for managers to support team members, as well as streamlined processes to change employee records, ensuring they are mindful of sensitivities around gender affirmation.
Origin’s gender affirming support was spearheaded by the Pride@Origin and diversity and inclusion committees, which are sponsored at the highest levels of the organisation. A key member of this team has been Dyllyn Tierney, from the organisation’s People & Culture division. “In the past 12 months, I have been part of a project team that has delivered a digital introduction learning program for Origin employees, providing foundational knowledge and awareness to diverse genders, sexes and sexualities,” Dyllyn says. “I also provided subject matter expertise as Origin developed and delivered a robust and supportive guide for anyone affirming their gender at work, providing tools for their managers and colleagues so they feel empowered to support each other. I have also led learning and awareness sessions to support the launch of the Gender Affirming support to engage and educate our people.”
Dyllyn’s expertise and insights come not only from her role as Diversity & Inclusion Coordinator, but from her lived experience. Acknowledging that everyone’s experience is individual and unique, Dyllyn – who was assigned male at birth – affirmed her gender socially, legally, and medically “It hasn’t been easy,” she says. “But nothing is easy that requires authenticity and realness. It takes courage, resilience and self-acceptance every day to show up and be yourself.”
And while being yourself at work should be a given, it is rarely that simple for those identifying as LGBTIQA+. As a proponent of policy change as a first step toward equality, Dyllyn encourages leaders to ensure explicit statements are included in policy, “Survey data tells us LGBTIQA+ people will naturally edit themselves out of policies, network groups or workplace benefits and entitlements when it’s not explicitly stated they are included,” she says. “So it’s important that organisations provide explicit statements on inclusion for people of diverse genders, sexes and sexualities within all policies.”
Origin CEO, Frank Calabria, reiterated the organisation’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in a team update saying, “I am proud that we have made positive changes to support our LGBTIQA+ communities by ensuring we have the systems and processes in place to truly support diverse genders, sexes and sexualities. I’m also proud of the steps we are taking to build a culture of inclusion, respect and understanding at Origin.” As well as the policy changes, Origin has also introduced a range of initiatives to build awareness and understanding of how all employees can support LGBTIQA+ communities, including online learning programs, a Pride Ally Network for those wanting to show more active support, a series of virtual learning sessions to explore the LGBTIQA+ acronym, and support through the company’s people and culture portal for all trans and gender diverse employees.
This support is critical, says Dyllyn, who is particularly focused on the period post-surgery. “Healing is the most critical part of any surgical recovery can impact the outcomes of the surgery if not addressed appropriately,” says Dyllyn. “This also includes mental health, as post-surgery depression is silent, and a topic that is rarely discussed, it can impact an individual dramatically, with similarities to postnatal depression. It needs to be treated by a medical professional and team members need to know they are supported.”
For individuals seeking to understand how they might be able to show their support to the LGBTIQA+ communities – particularly in the workplace – Dyllyn says, “Don’t be afraid to ask questions about experiences you don’t know. We are all on a learning journey. So enrich yourself by connecting with people of diverse experiences and learn from one another. Trust me, you’ll benefit from it more than you realise.” Hear, hear.