Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. This means that transgender men and women are protected against discrimination at work.
Gender reassignment is defined as someone who is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning his or her sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex. It is not necessary for the individual to be under medical supervision or undergoing surgery.
The definition covers a woman who has decided to live permanently as a man, but has not and will not undergo any surgical or medical procedures or treatments.
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Avoiding gender reassignment discrimination in the workplace
Gender reassignment discrimination is perhaps the least talked about or understood form of discrimination in the workplace.
Yet gender reassignment issues are now breaking through thanks to the coverage of high-profile names, such as Caitlyn Jenner and Chelsea Manning.
And at home, evidence suggests that more young people than ever are being referred to the NHS because of transgender issues, with the rate quadrupling in five years.
Gender reassignment protection
Employers should know that the Equality Act 2010 protects anyone who proposes to start, starts or has completed a process to change his or her gender from discrimination.
This includes someone who is not currently undergoing medical supervision, or a transgender individual who decides they do not want to have any medical procedures.
Gender reassignment discrimination can come in four forms: direct and indirect discrimination, harassment and victimisation.
Any time off an individual needs because of gender reassignment issues, such as counselling, advice or surgery is protected under the Equality Act.
Employers have to be careful not to treat individuals less favourably because of such time off. For example, if the absences are counted as sick leave, then it could be discriminatory if they led to disciplinary procedures or affected an individual's selection for promotion, bonuses or redundancy.
Trust, communication, sensitivity
An inclusive workplace, in which managers lead by example on equality and diversity issues, will help to create a supportive environment for all forms of gender identity and expression.
Good communication with individuals will help employers handle their changing needs with sensitivity, understand how they'd like to be addressed by their colleagues, and how and when they would like to discuss their transition with them.
Building trust requires confidentiality. When agreed, all records should be updated to the new name and gender, and old ones should be retained only if necessary or deleted.
Acas publications and services
Acas has published Equality and discrimination: understand the basics [352kb] outlining what employers should do to comply with equality, as well as a guide about Discrimination: what to do if it happens [335kb]. Prevent discrimination: support equality [405kb] explains how they can promote workplace diversity.
Acas experts can visit your organisation and help you with issues related to bullying, harassment and discrimination, as well as your equality and diversity policy. See Equality and diversity: how Acas can help for more details.
Practical training is also available on Discrimination, Equality, diversity and the Equality Act 2010, Discipline and grievance, and Skills for supervisors.
For free, impartial advice and guidance visit Acas Helpline Online.
Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.