Transgender equality: time to act

Transgender equality: time to act


Author: Michael Briggs

Applies to: England, Wales and Scotland

A recent report on transgender equality from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee confirms that transgender people continue to suffer prejudice in and out of the workplace.


Reports confirms that transgender people experience high levels of transphobia, and inequality generally, on a daily basis. Stark examples that have hit the headlines recently including the deaths of two transgender women in prison custody, and the case of a transwoman who was placed in a men's prison. This has called into question how transgender people are treated by the prison service and the NHS. It is also suggested that to alleviate some of the difficulties encountered by transgender people generally, passports and driving licences should not be required to state whether the holder is male or female.

Following the commissioning of a report on Transgender Equality from the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee (the report), it is has been confirmed that:

  • although Britain has made significant progress in recognising gay, lesbian and bisexual rights, prejudice remains in respect of transgender people
  • around half of young transgender people, and a third of transgender adults, attempt suicide; and
  • legislation in the area of 'transgender' and 'gender recognition' is out of date.

Recommendations from the report, particular to the workplace, include:

  • improving legislation to allow for greater dignity and personal autonomy within the gender transition process. The current 'medicalised' approach to transitioning males to females, or vice versa, in accordance with the Gender Recognition Act 2004, is considered to be outdated and should be replaced with a form of 'self-declaration'
  • extending the definition of 'protected characteristics' under the Equality Act 2010 to include 'gender identity' or 'gender expression', and not just limit protection to transsexual people or those proposing to undergo, who are undergoing or who have undergone a process of gender reassignment
  • ensuring that allegations of transphobia are taken seriously and, in particular, as seriously as any other cases of discrimination, harassment, victimisation or other misconduct
  • recognising transgender issues within equal opportunities policies and any equality-awareness training
  • having policies and procedures in place which relate to and assist transitioning employees. These will also benefit those managing the process on behalf of the employer

Previously, we looked at how to best manage situations involving transitioning men and women in the workplace, and explained an employer's obligations towards their employees throughout the gender transition process.

What remains clear from the Report, and our previous article is that employers should ensure that they foster an open, inclusive and supportive environment free from discrimination and be ready to deal with any such 'transgender' situation with dignity and respect. Lack of knowledge and understanding is not a valid excuse, and employers should take an active role in enforcing a zero tolerance approach to transphobia behaviour.

About the Author

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Michael Briggs

Senior Associate

0370 086 5066

Michael is an experienced employment lawyer who provides practical, commercial and results-driven advice to a wide range of clients in respect of disciplinary matters, redundancy & reorganisation, absence and performance issues, employment contracts & handbooks and executive appointment & exits. Michael also defends employment tribunal claims.

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