Gender Reassignment and Discrimination

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An employee who is treated unfairly, or less favourably than another on the grounds of gender reassignment is being unlawfully discriminated against.

Defined simply as any process by which a person changes their gender presentation (i.e. the way in which they appear to others), this means that a man who decides to live life as a woman, without any medical procedures, is still covered under the protection of the Act.

Employers should make effort to prevent and eliminate any discrimination based on gender identity and reassignment in all aspects of the employment they offer, including recruitment, selection for promotion and combating bullying or harassment.

Employees – managing the transition

Naturally undergoing a gender reassignment process while at work can be difficult, but there are some steps that can be taken to help ensure a smooth transition:

1. Ensure that your employer knows about any time off you will need to take for any medical appointments and procedures. This is crucial as if you are treated less favourably for these absences than you would for any other absences, then you have grounds for a discrimination claim

2. Be sure to inform anyone who needs to be informed of your situation. The HR department can help here

3. Your records will need to be updated in accordance with your new identity; again the HR department will be able to sort this out, so be sure to contact them as early as possible so they are in a position to do so

Employers – supporting staff

The employer should make every available effort to ensure that any employees who are undergoing, or have undergone, a gender reassignment process feel comfortable at work, and that there is no possibility for any discrimination against them. A strong part of this is often confidentiality. This could include destroying any records of the employee's previous identity, unless they need to be retained for some legitimate reason.

Other points of good practice include:

  • keeping a good level of communication with the relevant employee in order to keep up to date with their needs or worries. This might include discussing with them how they want the information on their gender reassignment to be passed on to colleagues
  • communicating with other staff to ensure that they are aware that any discrimination or harassment based on gender reassignment is unacceptable and unlawful
  • offering diversity training to staff, particularly managers 

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