The Legal Position
This is a brief initial report on the current policies of English and Scottish local authorities with regard to trans people as employees and service users
- Local Authorities are not permitted to discriminate in employment on grounds of gender reassignment.
- Local Authorities are required to provide protection from direct discrimination on grounds of gender reassignment in the provision of goods, facilities, services or premises.
- Local Authorities are required to have gender equality schemes. This has to include measures to support trans people. The Equality and Human Rights Commission guidance recommends that this support should be extended also to all other transgender people, i.e. those who are not intending to undergo, are not undergoing or have not undergone gender reassignment under medical supervision.
Existing Research Evidence
There appear to be no recent data obtained from robust research that assesses the extent to which local authorities are meeting their legal obligations specifically with regard to trans people.
A survey of policy and practice in Scotland relating to LGBT people, published in 2006, showed that all thirty two Councils had an equality policy, of which only 9 of referred to sexual orientation – one had a separate LGBT policy, none had a specific transgender policy.
It would be surprising if the situation were better for trans people in the rest of the UK. It may be indicative of the position that, under international human rights obligations and the UK equality duties, specialised services are required for women who have experienced or are experiencing violence. Nonetheless, over 100 (one in four) local authorities in Britain have no specialised support services at all.
The findings from a preliminary assessment of individual local authorities indicates that some have policies that specifically support the needs of trans people:
- Brighton and Hove City Council: lost an employment Tribunal case, X v Brighton and Hove City Council (PDF, 23KB), in June 2007, where it was found to have discriminated against a teacher on grounds of gender reassignment. In response to that experience, it has published a Gender Equality Scheme that includes many mentions of transgender people and practical measures to support them. Also, it has consulted with The Gender Trust on a toolkit that outlines policy and best practice in the employment of trans people, which will be used by all the council’s departments.
- Plymouth City Council: has a Plymouth City Council Gender Equality Scheme (PDF, 728KB), developed in consultation with stakeholders, which includes frequent mention of transgender people. It has also published a transgender and gender reassignment policy for employees.
- Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council: has recently commissioned Press for Change to help develop two policy documents with regard to trans staff and service users.
Elsewhere, the intention to support trans people appears not to be a significant feature of local authority policies and there is little evidence of specific action to support them.
- The Greater London Authority: has a 79 page Draft Gender Equality Scheme (PDF, 700KB), that makes no mention of trans people or gender identity. It includes one mention of gender reassignment, in connection with the Sex Discrimination Act (page 67). It holds an annual consultation meeting with the trans organizations that results in no action.
- Glasgow City Council: fared well in the above EHRC survey in respect of rape crisis centres. However, its Gender Equality Scheme makes few mentions of transgender people. Moreover, its intention to produce policies and practices that eliminate discrimination against transsexual and transgender employees appears not yet to have been fulfilled.
- Royal Borough of Kingston on Thames: has an LGBT consultation group. Yet, transgender is hardly mentioned in its Equality Scheme, which covers race, disability, gender, religion, sexual orientation and age, but not gender identity. Even so, its booklet “How much do you know about the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender community” does give adequate attention to the latter subject, albeit that it fails to include many of the major trans organizations in its list of resources.
The position in Scotland is destined to improve. The Scottish Government has funded the development of a dedicated project working with local authorities on sexual orientation and transgender equality issues.
As yet, there is no comparable project in England.
GIRES recommends that all local authorities prepare specific policies to support transgender people as employees and service users. The Equal Opportunities Commission Commission published Guidance on meeting the gender duty for staff in February 2009. GIRES has published information for employers on handling transition at work. Regarding service users, the policy developed by Press for Change for Bolton City Council may be a good model.