Gender reassignment policy statement
18 July 2012
This policy was approved by the SRA's Director of Inclusion on 18 July 2012 and is in effect from that date.
In our role as regulator, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) aims to lead the way in legal services regulation and to encourage an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession. This statement sets out how we recognise and respect the rights of those who have undergone or are undergoing gender reassignment.
Background and definitions
The Equality Act 2010 and the Gender Recognition Act 2004 provide protection for anyone who is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person's sex by changing physiological or other attributes of their sex. This is known as gender reassignment which is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010 and this statement will explain how we intend to comply with our legal responsibilities. (Section 7 of the Equality Act 2010 makes discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment unlawful in employment, in the provision of vocational training and in the carrying out of public functions. For further information, please visit the Equalities and Human Rights Commission website.)
A transsexual person is someone who intends to or is undergoing or has undergone gender reassignment, so it is transsexual people who are protected by the Equality Act. A transgender person is someone who does not identify with their gender at birth—they may chose to undergo gender reassignment, or they may not.
The SRA is fully committed to promoting equality of opportunity for all and we will not tolerate discriminatory behaviour by any of our agents, including employees and contractors.
In line with our public sector equality duty, the SRA will have regard to how we can
- eliminate unlawful discrimination based on gender reassignment,
- advance equality of opportunity for those who are intending to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment,
- foster good relations between service users, stakeholders and regulated persons who are intending to undergo, are undergoing or have undergone gender reassignment.
The SRA is committed to ensuring that we do not discriminate on the grounds of gender reassignment in carrying out our regulatory work and as an employer.
The SRA will take appropriate action in relation to any form of discrimination on the basis of gender reassignment, whether by
- direct discrimination,
- indirect discrimination,
- third party harassment, or
We will also take action where there is discrimination against someone who
- is perceived to be undergoing gender reassignment, or
- Associates with someone who is undergoing gender reassignment.
As a regulator, we strive to treat all our service users, stakeholders and those we regulate fairly and we will keep any information we obtain related to the gender reassignment of an individual in the strictest confidence in accordance with our legal obligations.
Although we include a category for transgender in our diversity monitoring for solicitors on the roll, we provide an option for people who prefer not to say. An individual will not be required to disclose information about their gender history unless there is good reason for this information to be supplied.
Where a service user or a regulated person decides that they wish to live permanently as a member of the opposite sex, the SRA may agree with them the date from which their name and (if appropriate) gender, is changed on all relevant records, including the solicitors roll and their practising certificate. The name will usually be changed from the date that the individual's name has been changed by deed poll and the gender from the date of the gender recognition certificate.
The Gender Recognition Act 2004 gives legal recognition to transsexual people in their acquired gender.
If an application to the Gender Recognition Panel is successful, the transsexual person's gender becomes for all purposes the acquired gender and they will receive a full gender recognition certificate (GRC). The GRC allows for the creation of a modified birth certificate reflecting the holder's new gender.
In prescribed circumstances the Gender Recognition Act 2004 prohibits disclosure of the fact that someone has applied for a GRC or disclosure of someone's gender prior to the acquisition of the GRC. Such disclosure constitutes a criminal offence liable to a fine.
These privacy provisions apply in most circumstances where the information is received by someone acting in an official capacity, for example, as a member of staff at the SRA. It should generally be assumed that the law might apply, whenever an employee or individual working in any capacity for the SRA is dealing with a service user or stakeholder. There are however exceptions to the privacy provisions which are set out in the Gender Recognition (Disclosure of Information) Order 2005. The SRA Legal and Enforcement Directorate should be consulted before considering whether or not those exceptions can apply.
Unlawful disclosure can happen not only by word of mouth communication but also where there has been uncontrolled access to paper or computer files. A transsexual person may consent to the information being disclosed, but such consent must be explicit and it must not be assumed.
Consequently, staff must comply with the privacy provisions in every part of their work in the organisation including
- our contact and communications with the person concerned—this may be the solicitor who we are engaging with, the individual who has reported that solicitor or any other third person referred to in the matter under consideration,
- how post and emails are received and sent,
- how our information is recorded electronically and manually,
- how our records are protected, and
- how advice is sought internally.
Whenever a member of staff becomes aware that the person they are dealing with is a transsexual person, they must have regard for the privacy provisions and seek specific legal advice to ensure that the Gender Recognition Act and the Equality Act are complied with.