Ask the Lawyer: Can my boss stop me from taking off time for gender reassignment surgery?
PinkNews brings you the first in a series of features which sees your real questions answered by leading lawyers at Simpson Millar.
They asked: “I have recently come out as trans and I am starting the medical gender reassignment process via the NHS. What rights do I have to take time out of work for hospital appointments and eventually for reassignment surgery?
“My boss says that I should make appointments for out of office hours but this doesn’t seem to be possible. Does she have to let me take the time off or can she refuse? It’s making me very stressed because I can’t afford to do this privately, which is the only way I’d be able to properly choose my own appointment times.”
A Simpson Millar lawyer answers, saying: “Gender reassignment is one of the protected characteristics referred to in the Equality Act 2010, which means that it’s unlawful for employers to treat unfavourably, people who are ‘proposing to undergo, undergoing or have undergone a process (or part of a process) of reassigning their sex’.Your boss will be acting unlawfully if she denies your request for time off to attend medical appointments or surgery associated with your gender reassignment where she would otherwise have permitted you to take time off, e.g. if you were sick or injured. Insisting that you arrange appointments outside of working hours is unrealistic as appointment times are scheduled to suit doctors and consultants as opposed to businesses. If, as you say, out-of-hours appointments are not possible and you are denied time off, you have the option of pursuing a discrimination claim against your employer in the Employment Tribunal.
“A diverse, inclusive workplace is better for business, not least because people perform better when they can be themselves. Good employers will ensure that guidance on gender reassignment is made available to all staff and that company policies and practices support those in the gender reassignment process.
“Such adversity is intolerable in the workplace, and your employer’s actions should not jeopardise one of the most important journeys of your life. For a greater understanding of your rights and advice on all the available options open to you, feel free to contact me or one of my Employment Law specialist colleagues on 0800 260 5005.”
Have a legal question you want the team at Simpson Millar to answer?
Unfortunately, we will not be able to answer all questions that are sent in and Simpson Millar is only able to give advice that relates to the law in England and Wales.
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