Guide

Prevent discrimination and value diversity

Gender reassignment discrimination

The Sex Discrimination (NI) Order 1976 makes it unlawful to discriminate against a job seeker or employee on the grounds that they have undergone, are undergoing or intend to undergo gender reassignment.

'Gender reassignment' means a process which is undertaken under medical supervision for the purpose of reassigning a person's sex by changing physiological or other characteristics of sex, and includes any part of such a process.

If an employee is absent from work as a result of undergoing gender reassignment, it's also unlawful to treat that employee less favourably because of those absences than you would treat another employee who is off sick for another reason and similar period.

Someone undergoing gender reassignment (a 'trans person') is likely at some stage in the process to be living, or to begin living, as a member of the opposite sex. Inevitably this may entail a wish on their part to use the appropriate toilet or changing room facilities of their acquired sex.

As an employer, you will therefore need to make arrangements for this. It would be best to begin that process by discussing with the individual when they wish to change from using one set of facilities to the other and obtain their views about how they would like the issue to be handled. This will probably be during the 'social gender' transition, when they present as members of the adopted sex even though they may not have completed the gender reassignment process.

Other employees may object to sharing facilities in these circumstances. While the trans person must also take account of colleagues' and clients' sensibilities, you should remind objectors that a failure to treat others with dignity and respect could be seen as a breach of your equality policy and could amount to a disciplinary issue. For advice on managing the situation where an individual is undergoing gender reassignment, you can call the Equality Commission Employer Helpline on Tel 028 90 890 888.

Once a trans person's gender reassignment has progressed far enough, they can eventually apply for a gender recognition certificate (GRC).

Once they have a GRC, they will be issued with a new birth certificate in the acquired gender. Where a full GRC is issued, the person’s gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender (so that, if the acquired gender is the male gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a man and, if it is the female gender, the person’s sex becomes that of a woman). This would mean that you would have to treat a male-to-female trans person with a GRC as a woman and, for example, change your personnel records to reflect this.

A person who has undergone gender reassignment while already married must divorce to gain a GRC. They and their partner will then be able to register a civil partnership to regain the legal status of their relationship.