Equality is a fundamental right for all people, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, or other such characteristics. Discrimination of all kinds should not be tolerated within and outside of a working environment. The transgender community is known to face significant bias due to their identity. It is vital that we all work together to prevent such intolerances.
To prevent discriminatory behaviour, it is important to have a better understanding of transgender people and the community. Transgender is an inclusive term for people whose identity is different from the gender they were assigned at birth. Someone who is transgender may have considered or have undergone gender reassignment, however, the change is not necessarily physical. Gender reassignment is the procedure of transitioning to the opposite gender, this includes a mental process and is not limited to a medical procedure.
There are two fundamental pieces of legislation that provide legal protection for transgender people. Firstly, the Equality Act 2010 (‘the 2010 Act’) was introduced to put an end to all forms of discrimination. The 2010 Act refers specifically to unlawful discrimination throughout the course of employment including the hiring process and the procedure for dismissing an employee. The 2010 Act protects certain minority characteristics, gender reassignment is included as one of these nine characteristics.
Unlawful discrimination is not exclusive to direct discrimination, it has a broad interpretation that includes indirect discrimination and harassment, as well as victimisation. There are many forms of indirect harassment or discrimination such as bias by association or perception. An example of this would be where a person is treated unfairly because they are assumed to be transgender, however, are not in fact. This assumption may be based on that person’s association with the transgender community. Regardless of the reasoning, it is unlawful to disadvantage a person based on the reality of their identity or one’s assumption of their identity. Furthermore, displaying unbiased towards a person for their reliance on the provisions of the 2010 Act is defined as victimisation and should not be tolerated.
The second crucial piece of legislation is the Gender Recognition Act 2004 (‘the 2004 Act’) which enables transgender persons to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate which confirms their gender has been legally changed. Once a Gender Recognition Certificate has been obtained, quite often a substitute birth certificate is also acquired.
There are steps that can be taken by employers to ensure that their transgender employees are comfortable at work. Firstly, it is important to keep all employee information confidential, including a person’s gender. This protects employees who are not comfortable sharing their gender reassignment journey with their colleagues. Furthermore, employers should allow their employees to express their identity through their clothing. This does not necessarily negate the requirement for a professional dress code, however, specifying the type of clothing a gender should wear is ill-advised. Moreover, the employee should feel comfortable using the washroom they identify with without judgement from their peers. Small changes can assist in creating a positive workplace environment for all employees.
Please contact Kay Stewart or John Szepietowski firstname.lastname@example.org at Audley Chaucer for details on the matter or any other legal topic www.audleychaucer.com