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Using preferred pronouns for transgender individuals

In the case of Mackereth v The Department for Work and Pensions and another, the Claimant was a doctor who refused to use transgender individuals’ preferred pronouns and titles as he claimed it went against his Christian beliefs.  This was notwithstanding the fact that his employer’s gender reassignment policy stated that employees “should always address the customer in their presented sex” and that the customer should be “referred to in their presented gender at all times”.

When he refused, the Claimant was told that he could not work directly with customers and was subsequently dismissed. He was told that misgendering customers could be considered as harassment under the Equality Act. The Claimant issued a number of claims in the Employment Tribunal including that he had been discriminated against because of his Christian beliefs.  His claims were unsuccessful.

This was notwithstanding the fact that his employer’s gender reassignment policy stated that employees “should always address the customer in their presented sex” and that the customer should be “referred to in their presented gender at all times”.

The Tribunal held that refusing to refer to a transgender person by their preferred pronoun and title would be in breach of the Equality Act and potentially the Gender Recognition Act. The Tribunal panel unanimously concluded that a “lack of belief in, and conscientious objection to, transgenderism is incompatible with human dignity and conflicts with the fundamental rights of others”.

This case emphasises the importance of providing clear guidance and training on equality and diversity in the workplace and the conduct that could contravene the Equality Act.

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