It is unlawful to discriminate against workers because of gender reassignment. Employers should ensure they have policies in place which are designed to prevent discrimination in:
- recruitment and selection
- determining pay
- training and development
- selection for promotion
- discipline and grievances
- countering bullying and harassment
- taking time off work.
Gender reassignment is a personal, social, and sometimes medical, process by which a person's gender presentation (the way they appear to others) is changed. Anyone who proposes to, starts or has completed a process to change his or her gender is protected from discrimination under the Equality Act. An individual does not need to be undergoing medical supervision to be protected. So, for example, a woman who decides to live as a man without undergoing any medical procedures would be covered.
It is discrimination to treat transsexual people less favourably for being absent from work because they propose to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment than they would be treated if they were absent because they were ill or injured, or if they were absent for some other reason.
The Equality Act 2010 protects employees from discrimination in the following areas:
- direct discrimination: treating someone less favourably than other employees because of their gender reassignment, whether actual or perceived, or because they associate with someone who intends to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone gender reassignment
- indirect discrimination: can occur where there is a policy, practice or procedure that applies to all workers, but particularly disadvantages people who intend to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment. An example might be a policy or procedure that forces individuals to disclose their gender reassignment. Indirect discrimination can only be justified if it is a proportionate means of achieving a legitimate aim
- harassment: when unwanted conduct related to gender reassignment has the purpose or effect of violating a person's dignity or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading or humiliating environment
- victimisation: unfair treatment of an employee who has made or supported a complaint about gender reassignment discrimination.
Questions and answers
What can I do if I think I've been discriminated against?
If you feel you've been discriminated against, you'll be able to bring a claim to an Employment Tribunal. However, it's best to talk to your employer first to try to sort out the matter informally, in order to minimise the negative effects on all parties involved.
Through the Acas Helpline (08457 47 47 47) you can get advice on specific problems, and explore alternatives to an Employment Tribunal claim, such as mediation or Pre-Claim Conciliation, where appropriate.
I'm intending to undergo gender reassignment. How should I manage my transition at work?
Your organisation should have a procedure in place for Human Resources managers to help them support members of staff who are making a gender transition. Ask for a confidential contact within HR who can help you manage your transition at work.
Make sure that you consider the following:
- Telling people about your situation. Make a list of the people who need to be informed. You may wish to speak to them personally, or you may prefer to ask HR or your line manager to communicate with them
- Medical appointment and absences. Make sure your employer knows when you will need to take time off work. Remember that it is discrimination for your employer to treat you less favourably if you are absent from work for a reason related to gender reassignment than you would be treated if you were absent because you are ill or injured, or if you were absent for some other reason
- Changing everything into your new identity. You will need to change your name on your email address, company directories, records and work pass. Speak to HR an early stage about how this should be managed.
How can employers best support transsexual people at work?
You can support an employee through:
- Good Communication - Through the company Equality/Diversity programme and policy, ensure that there are clear statements about the acceptability and support for differing forms of gender identity and expression. Make it clear to staff, clients and customers that discrimination, harassment and victimisation because of gender reassignment are unlawful.
- Support for individuals undergoing gender transitions - Discuss with the transsexual person how they would prefer information about their transition to be communicated to colleagues. Some transsexual people may feel comfortable talking about their transition with colleagues, but others may prefer not to.
- Confidentiality - At a point agreed with the individual, all personal records should be changed to reflect the acquired name and gender. Access to personal records which indicate a person's previous gender should be retained only if necessary, and otherwise deleted or destroyed.
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