Are transgender employees protected from discrimination?
Gender reassignment is one of the protected characteristics under the Equality Act 2010. Direct and indirect discrimination because of gender reassignment and harassment related to gender reassignment are unlawful. Employees are also protected from less favourable treatment connected with absences because of gender reassignment.
The Act protects people who are "proposing to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning their sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex". The process for reassignment does not necessarily have to involve medical treatment. The Act uses the term "transsexual" to refer to someone who meets this definition and is protected from discrimination under the Act.
The term "transgender" is broader that the term transsexual and includes people who do not identify with the gender that was assigned to them at birth but who do not intend to transition from one gender to another. Some transgender people identify as "non-binary", ie they do not regard their gender identity as exclusively male or female. There has not yet been case law on whether or not the Equality Act 2010 covers the wider definition of transgender people. Regardless of the technical definition under the Act, employers should avoid discrimination against all transgender people and promote an inclusive workplace.