Gender reassignment is one of the protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010. The legislation protects people who are transsexual or transgender, which is when a person’s gender identity is different from the gender assigned to them when they were born. There is no requirement that the person has undergone any specific treatment or surgery to change from their birth sex to their preferred gender to be protected by the legislation. They can be at any stage of the transition process from proposing to reassign their gender, to undergoing treatment to reassign their gender, to having completed it.
At present, people who identify as non-binary are not specifically covered by the Equality Act, but they could be covered for claims of direct discrimination by perception and the subject could be tested in the courts in future.
Claims for discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment may arise if an organisation does not respect an employee’s decision to reassign their gender by refusing to use their chosen new name or personal pronouns. Other examples of discrimination could include moving a transitioning employee from a customer facing position against their wishes, publicly ‘outing’ them or harassing them.
ACAS have produced a guide to gender reassignment in the workplace including advice on how you can support employees who are transitioning.
There have been a number of cases where Tribunals have considered the extent to which a person’s right to express their views on issues such as sexual orientation and gender identity are capable of protection as a religious belief under the Equality Act 2010. Most recently, an Employment Tribunal found against Dr Mackereth, a Christian, who claimed discrimination alleging that he was dismissed after he refused to address transgender patients by their chosen pronoun, because he believed that God only created men and women and that a person could not choose their gender. The Tribunal concluded that, while the doctor’s Christianity was a protected characteristic, his objection to transgenderism was incompatible with human dignity and conflicted with the fundamental human rights of others, so his views were not protected religious beliefs. Therefore, his claims of discrimination failed.
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In giving comment and advice in the article, we do not assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. If you have specific views which you wish to discuss, we would be pleased to assist you.