In April 1996 the European Court of Justice ruled that it was contrary to the EU’s Equal Treatment Directive to dismiss an individual on the grounds of gender reassignment. This landmark judgment resulted from the case of P v S Cornwall County Council, which had been assisted legally by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC). As a result, industrial tribunals interpreted the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act 1975 as ‘protecting transsexuals, or those undergoing gender reassignment, against discrimination in employment’ (EOC, 1997 Annual Report, p.35).

The Sex Discrimination (Gender Reassignment) Regulations 1999 went on to amend the Sex Discrimination Act in the light of the ECJ ruling to explicitly protect transsexual people from discrimination in employment. The regulations came into force on 1 May 1999. The remit of the EOC was extended to ensure it included the promotion of equality of opportunity for all those intending to, undergoing or having undergone gender reassignment.