Cohesin is an evolutionarily conserved protein complex that plays a role in many biological processes: it ensures faithful chromosome segregation, regulates gene expression and preserves genome stability. In mammalian cells, the mitotic cohesin complex consists of two structural maintenance of chromosome proteins, SMC1A and SMC3, the kleisin protein RAD21 and a fourth subunit either STAG1 or STAG2. Meiotic paralogs in mammals were reported for SMC1A, RAD21 and STAG1/STAG2 and are called SMC1B, REC8 and STAG3 respectively. It is believed that SMC1B is only a meiotic-specific cohesin member, required for sister chromatid pairing and for preventing telomere shortening. Here we show that SMC1B is also expressed in somatic mammalian cells and is a member of a mitotic cohesin complex. In addition, SMC1B safeguards genome stability following irradiation whereas its ablation has no effect on chromosome segregation. Finally, unexpectedly SMC1B depletion impairs gene transcription, particularly at genes mapping to clusters such as HOX and PCDHB. Genome-wide analyses show that cluster genes changing in expression are enriched for cohesin-SMC1B binding.