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Gender legislation

Discrimination on grounds of gender is prohibited in relation to education and training, employment and provision of goods, facilities and services and on grounds of transgender identity in relation to employment and training, and in the provision of goods, facilities and services. The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 (SDA) makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sex; because someone is married; on the grounds of gender reassignment; or on grounds of pregnancy or maternity.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was amended in 1999 and 2006 to extend some of it’s protections on grounds of transgender identity . This makes it unlawful to discriminate on grounds of gender reassignment, but only in the areas of employment and vocational training and provision of goods, facilities and services.

In employment and vocational training, the Sex Discrimination Act protects people who are discriminated against because they:
• intend to undergo gender reassignment
• are currently undergoing gender reassignment
• have already undergone gender reassignment

Anyone who is treated less favourably by an employer or vocational training body on any of these grounds compared with someone for whom no gender reassignment grounds exist will have a claim under the Sex Discrimination Act.

The Sex Discrimination Act 1975 was further amended in 2006 to include a statutory duty to promote gender equality. The Gender Equality Duty requires all public authorities to
“(a) to eliminate unlawful discrimination and harassment, and
(b) to promote equality of opportunity between men and women”
The duty is aimed at tackling systemic discrimination, and ensuring that public authorities build gender equality into everything that they do.
The SDA 1975 (as amended) also gives the Secretary of State (in relation to cross-border public bodies only) or in Scotland the Scottish Ministers, the power to introduce regulations on public authorities known as the specific duty. Key to the specific duty is the requirement to produce a Gender Equality Scheme. A number of bodies in Scotland are designated as being required to produce a specific scheme.

The Equal Pay Act 1970 makes it unlawful to discriminate on the grounds of sex in relation to pay and other contractual matters. In addition much of the law concerning parental rights is found in the Employment Rights Act 1996.

There are also many pieces of secondary legislation in this area covering issues such as:
• Maternity, paternity and adoption leave and pay
• Flexible working
• Health and safety (particularly with regards to pregnant women, those who have recently given birth, and those who are breastfeeding).

The Gender Recognition Act 2004 allows a transsexual person who has lived in their self-identified gender for at least two years, and who has a diagnosis of gender dysphoria (transsexualism), to obtain legal recognition of their gender for all purposes.

Updates: Sex Discrimination (Amendment of Legislation) Regulations 2008

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