It is lawful to undergo gender re-assignment (sex change) surgery. Treatment is generally funded by the National Health Service however the practice varies depending upon the policies of the particular health authority.
The right to gender reassignment treatment has been held to constitute an aspect of private life within Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and discrimination against transsexuals is contrary to EC law, in the form of the Equal Treatment Directive. The Gender Reassignment Regulations 1999 which amended the Sex Discrimination Act 1995 prohibiting discrimination in employment and vocational training, as well as in the provision of goods, facilities and services. In addition public authorities are under a general equality duty to have due regard to the elimination of discrimination and harassment against transsexuals.
In 2002, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the UK’s refusal to recognise the reassigned sex of a transsexual person and the denial of the right to marry was a breach of both Articles 8 (right to family life) and 12 (right to marry) of the Convention (Goodwin v UK). The government introduced legislation to give effect to this judgment in the form of the Gender Recognition Act 2004.
There is nothing in the law to stop anyone dressing in clothes traditionally worn by members of the opposite sex. Sometimes, however, transvestites have been arrested for ‘insulting behaviour’ and in theory they could in some circumstances be convicted of this offence, but such situations are very rare. Transvestite employees may be restricted in what they wear at work. Employers are entitled to have in place dress policies, and failure to comply with this policy could lead to disciplinary action against that employee. In the case of Kara v London Borough of Hackney (1996) the Employment Appeals Tribunal held that it was not unlawful for a male employee to be threatened with disciplinary proceedings for wearing at work what was conventionally regarded as female wear.