Workplace discrimination against transsexuals has been outlawed in the UK for the first time, as the Government moves to catch up with European law.
The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations, which have gone through Parliament this month and come into force in May, aim to prevent discrimination against those who have had sex change operations in all areas of employment and training.
Employment specialist Jane Mann of Fox Williams says the Government has been forced to act because of a European Court of Justice case against Cornwall County Council which ruled that the dismissal of someone undergoing gender reassignment was contrary to the Equal Treatment Directive.
The move comes as Jack Straw raises the possibility that transsexuals might be able to marry and change the gender on their birth certificates.
Transsexual groups have given the regulations a luke-warm welcome, believing they do not go far enough.
Police and Customs are exempt because their work involves body-searching the public.
Mann says that gay men and women still do not have protection from discrimination and the pressure will now be on the Government to extend the same rights to them.
“It's quite extraordinary that transsexuals now enjoy better legal protection than homosexuals and lesbians,” she says.