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Legal Framework

This section provides a brief overview of the legal framework surrounding trans and gender-diverse students, in which the University as a higher education institution sits. This is not a comprehensive and complete list and laws are subject to change, so it recommended to look at these in full if you are interested.

The Equality Act 2010

‘Gender reassignment’ is one of the nine protected characteristics within the Equality Act 2010 and is also included in the Public Sector Equality Duty.

This Act provides protection from direct and indirect discriminations, discrimination by association, discrimination by perception, discrimination in cases of related absence from work, and all forms of harassment and victimisation.

Those protected by the Act include:

  • Actual and prospective employees.
  • Ex-employees.
  • Apprentices.
  • Some self-employed workers.
  • Contract workers.
  • People seeking or undertaking vocational training.

‘Gender reassignment’ protects a person from discrimination who has proposed, starts or completed a process to change their sex. The Act also provides protection to:

  • Trans people who are not under medical supervision.
  • People who experience discrimination because they are perceived to be trans people.
  • People from discrimination by association because of gender reassignment i.e. family members, partners etc.

Institutions are required to consider trans issues in the development of their Gender Equality Scheme objectives and to consider the impact of policies and procedures on trans staff and students. Institutions are also required to consult staff and students on their work to promote gender equality and tackle discrimination against trans people. It is also recommended that institutions contact trans advocacy groups.

Gender Recognition Act 2004

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows binary-gendered trans people (who are able to satisfy the requirements) to apply for full legal recognition of their gender. Following a successful application, the person receives a Gender Recognition Certificate that means that the law regards the trans person as being of their gender.

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 is currently undergoing a reform. A consultation ran from the 3rd July 2018 to the 22nd October 2018 and over 50,000 people responded. This consultation ran as very few trans people chose to legally change their gender due to the current process being seen as ‘too bureaucratic, expensive and intrusive’. If you would like to know more about this, the details of the reform can be found here.

Gender Recognition Certificate (GRC)

Issued under the Gender Recognition Act 2004 by the gender recognition panel. A holder of a full GRC is legally recognised in his or her acquired gender for most purposes. It is illegal to ask a trans person for their GRC.

A person must satisfy all the criteria set out in the Act. The Act requires that the applicant has, or has had, gender dysphoria, has lived in their acquired gender for two years prior to the application, and intends to live permanently in their acquired gender.

Disability Discrimination Act 1995

This Act may not apply to all trans and gender-diverse students, but is mentioned here as there is an increased prevalence of anxiety and depression among trans and gender-diverse students. Gender dysphoria in the UK is also a recognised mental health condition (although this is highly contested).

Reasonable adjustments can be made for trans and gender-diverse students by adjusting working hours or coursework deadlines, or allowing individuals to be absent during standard study hours for reasons relating to transitioning.

Data Protection Act 2018

Details relating to an employee’s or students transition or transgender status fall under a “special category of personal data” in the General Data Protection Regulation. An extra level of confidentiality is required in relation to trans people and written consent is almost always required should any information need to be disclosed to a third party.

The University also has a responsibility to ensure all personal information is up to date and accurate.

Human Rights Act 1998

This Act provides protection to trans people, principally under the right to a private life. A right to a private life includes:

  • Person’s right to express a sexual identity, to live a particular lifestyle and to choose the way they look and dress.
  • Personal information kept securely and not shared without permission of the individual.
  • No interference by a public authority with a person’s exercise of their right to a private life.