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Virgin Media O2 will fund sex change treatment for trans and non-binary staff

The Independent logo The Independent 15/04/2022 Charlie Duffield
Virgin Media O2 will pay for gender transition treatment for transgender and non-binary employees  - AFP via Getty Images © AFP via Getty Images

Virgin Media O2 will pay for gender transition treatment for transgender and non-binary employees

- AFP via Getty Images

Virgin Media O2’s new diversity, equality and inclusion strategy is set to include gender transition treatment as a work perk for staff.

The telecommuicatons and broadband company, which was formed when O2 and Virgin Media merged together last year, said the policy would help the company “better represent the diverse communities it serves across the UK”.

In a statement, the company clarified that it would pay for gender transition treatment for transgender and non-binary employees, enabling them to access medical care, support and advice.

The move is designed to improve “support and allyship to people from marginalised communities”.

Philipp Wohland, chief people officer, said: “Virgin Media O2 is a great place to work and we’re committed to creating a culture where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

More broadly, by 2027 the company is aiming for 15 per cent of its senior leadership team, and 25 per cent of the wider organisation to derive from “minoritised ethnic groups”.

Video: 'Women should have spaces dedicated to them' (Sky News)

This figure mirrors a study from the Office for National Statistics in 2019, which identified 15.2 per cent of the UK population as non-white.

The media brand is also intending to achieve equal representation for men and women in the company’ senior leadership team, propelling forward progress for gender parity and it’s definition includes “all gender identities and expressions” across the entire organisation.

However, it remains unclear how much the gender transition pledge will cost, and the company doesn’t know the number of staff, out of a total workforce of 18,000 people, who are non-binary or transgender.

Wohland added: : “Our purpose is to upgrade the UK; that’s not just through our leading products and services, it’s also by the type of company we want to be and the role we play in society.”

Yet Virgin Media has come under fire for its customer service, with Ofcom finding, in 2021, that the company’s customers faced an average wait of nearly eight minutes to speak to an operator - the longest of any telecoms company.

Furthermore, earlier this year, customers reportedly waited more than 20 minutes to speak to staff member, only for calls to be cut off once connected.

Virgin Media has also raised prices for customers, with an increase of almost £60 per year on average, and households reaching the end of their contracts reporting price rises of nearly 50 per cent.

Virgin Media O2 joins the likes of Linklaters law firm, and City of London law firm Herbet Smith Freehills, who are amongst the British companies to have introduced similar policies funding gender transition surgery in recent years.

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