Legal protection

The Equality Act 2010 lists gender reassignment as one of the ‘protected characteristics’ on the grounds of which people are protected against unlawful discrimination, harassment and victimisation. This applies in education, employment and the provision of goods and services.

It is not necessary for an individual to be under medical supervision, or to undertake reassignment surgery, to benefit from the legal protection, which commences from the point at which they first state their intention to transition. Employers have a responsibility to protect their employees from harassment and bullying, including in relation to gender reassignment.

It is unlawful to discriminate against someone because they are perceived to be transgender, whether or not the perception is accurate. It is also unlawful to discriminate against someone because of their association with a transgender person (for example as a family member, friend, partner, etc).

As a public authority, the University also has equality duties to:

  • Eliminate discrimination, harassment, victimisation and any other conduct that is prohibited by or under the Equality Act;
  • Advance equality of opportunity between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it; and to
  • Foster good relations between persons who share a relevant protected characteristic and persons who do not share it.

Some trans people may also be protected as having the protected characteristic of disability.

Where an individual has been diagnosed as having ‘gender dysphoria’ or ‘gender identity disorder’ and the condition has a substantial and long-term adverse impact on their ability to carry out normal day-to-day activities, they will also be protected under the disability discrimination provisions of the act EHRC, 2014, Section 2.28


The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows individuals who have undergone gender reassignment to obtain a Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC). This means that they are legally recognised for all purposes in their confirmed gender. It is a criminal offence under this legislation to disclose information relating to the individual’s gender history obtained in an official capacity (i.e. as part of a person’s work role).

To obtain the GRC an individual must provide evidence to satisfy the Gender Recognition Panel that they are at least 18 years of age, have or have had gender dysphoria, have fully lived in their confirmed gender for at least two years, and intend to live permanently in their confirmed gender.  Obtaining a GRC means that a person is:

  • entitled to be issued with a new birth certificate reflecting their changed gender;
  • legally recognised as belonging to their confirmed gender ‘for all purposes’ including the criminal law;
  • entitled to state benefits and occupational pension schemes on the basis of their acquired gender.

It is illegal to ask to see a Gender Recognition Certificate. If the University needs proof of legal sex, university and college officers should request a birth certificate or passport.