23rd March 2017

Gender identity is defined as a personal conception of oneself as male or female (or rarely, both or neither). This concept is intimately related to the concept of gender role, which is defined as the outward manifestations of personality that reflects the individual’s gender identity.

The writer has recently attended a conference where they were informed that the social media networking site, Facebook, offer 51 different gender options to present to their friends on their Facebook profile. Before, Facebook only offered two options, male or female but with the ever-changing landscape of a socio-cultural population they have introduced more options to cover everyone.

Under the Equality Act 2010, Gender Reassignment is one of the nine “protected characteristics.” However, does it remain fit for purpose?

Gender Reassignment

Gender reassignment is a personal, social, and sometimes medical process by which a person's gender appears to others to have changed. Anyone who proposes to, starts or has completed a process to change their gender is protected from discrimination under the Equality Act. A person does not need to be undergoing medical supervision to be protected. So, for example, a woman who decides to live as a man without undergoing any medical procedures would be covered.

Renaming the Protected Characteristic

Recommendations have been made in the House of Commons for the renaming of Gender Reassignment to be known as “Gender Identity” to widen the protected group that currently covers transgender people. The current legislation is thought to be outdated and not fit for purpose.

Gender Identity (Protected Characteristic) Bill 2016-2017

This Bill was presented to Parliament on 1 December 2016. It is a  Bill to make Gender Identity a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 in place of gender reassignment and to make associated provision for transgender and other persons; and for connected purposes.

The Future of Gender Identity?

It is not foreseeable whether the effects of this piece of legislation would create positive or negative effects in an employment law environment. We cannot be sure whether it would muddy the waters of Discrimination Law or whether it will open the floodgates of Tribunal claims all because an employer does not recognise a certain Gender Identity. It will be interesting to see it in practice.

For more information, or for general information on employment law, please contact our Employment Team on 01463 221727.

Munro Noble discuss the gender identity act 2010