Labour Research February 2012

Law Queries

Gender change

Q. A member recently mentioned to the team that they are thinking of changing their gender. They endured a bit of teasing, but even after making it clear they don’t like the unsympathetic response, one person in particular has not stopped joking about it. What is the legal position?

A. Even though your member has not undergone any medically-assisted changes, they are already protected under the law. That is because simply being a person who is proposing to change their gender, is sufficient to engage the Equality Act 2010.

Section 7(1) of the Act outlaws treating someone less favourably because they have proposed undergoing, are undergoing, or have undergone a process (or part process) to reassign their gender by changing their physiological or other attributes.

Your member is also protected from suffering harassment by section 26(1) of the Act. Harassment is defined here as unwanted conduct which violates your member’s dignity, or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment for your member (provided it could reasonably be considered to have that effect).

Their first step should be to raise a grievance and if they want to pursue a tribunal claim they will need to submit their application within no more than three months of the date of the relevant behaviour.